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Majority of Texans support local control of fracking, UT poll shows

Fifty eight percent of those polled nationwide say cities should be able to ban hydraulic fracturing, even if state law otherwise permits it, according to a poll by the University of Texas at Austin.
Fifty eight percent of those polled nationwide say cities should be able to ban hydraulic fracturing, even if state law otherwise permits it, according to a poll by the University of Texas at Austin. Star-Telegram archives

A majority of Texans believe cities should be able to ban hydraulic fracturing even if state law otherwise permits it, according to a recent poll conducted by the University of Texas at Austin.

In Texas, 57 percent of those surveyed agree that cities should be able to block hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and nationally 58 percent support giving cities that authority, according to the UT Energy Poll released Tuesday.

Continued support for local control comes after Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 40 earlier this year reasserting the state’s control over oil and gas drilling and limiting a city’s regulatory powers. Lawmakers passed the bill after Denton became the first city in Texas to ban hydraulic fracturing.

Tammy Vajda, an activist who opposed drilling in Flower Mound, was not surprised by the poll’s results. She said earlier that state lawmakers threw cities “in front of a freight train and let oil and gas run over us.”

“I think every city should be able to address gas drilling however they want within their borders,” Vajda said. “I think it is a crime that they have taken that authority away from us.”

Ed Ireland, executive director of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, an industry group, blamed negative press coverage for coloring people’s opinions about hydraulic fracturing. He said that when it is explained that it’s the only way to extract some oil and gas and keep prices down, public opinion changes.

“I think the question is not being asked properly,” Ireland said. “A lot of these polls are skewed to the negative side.”

The poll also found that nearly half of the respondents, 48 percent, are familiar with hydraulic fracturing compared to 44 percent a year ago. Among that group, 43 percent support it and 41 percent oppose it.

The UT Energy Poll also found that 76 percent of Americans believe climate change is occurring, up from 68 percent a year ago. It also found growing support for environmental protection among Democrats and millennials.

The poll results revealed sharp political divisions. Among Democrats, 90 percent say climate change is occurring, with only 3 percent saying nothing is changing. On the other side, 59 percent of Republicans believe in climate change — up from 47 percent six months ago — with 29 percent saying nothing is happening to the environment.

“Political ideology continues to be the single greatest determinant of Americans’ views on climate change,” said UT Energy Poll Director Sheril Kirshenbaum. “Party affiliation also colors other controversial energy topics, including efforts to reduce coal-fired power and levy a tax on carbon.”

Fifty-two percent of those surveyed say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports reducing coal as an energy source, up from 43 percent earlier this year. Sixty-two of Democrats support that policy, compared to 40 percent of Republicans.

    Thirty-seven percent are more likely to vote for a candidate who favors imposition of a carbon tax, up from 28 percent six months ago.

    The poll, which is in its fifth year, surveyed 2,019 residents from Sept. 1 to Sept. 15 and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

    Max B. Baker: 817-390-7714, @MaxbakerBB

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