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Wyoming Voters Say Feds Should Protect Public Lands

A new poll shows strong voter support for clean energy production and federal protections of public lands. (Energy.gov)
A new poll shows strong voter support for clean energy production and federal protections of public lands. (Energy.gov)
January 20, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wy. - Nearly 79 percent of Wyoming voters say national public lands help the state's economy, according to a new poll released by Colorado College.

The State of the Rockies Project surveyed residents in seven mountain states on key issues, including renewable energy and new environmental and safety standards for oil and gas drilling. Garett Reppenhagen, Rocky Mountain director with the Vet Voice Foundation, says while voters agree the energy sector is important for jobs, they're also concerned about how public resources are tapped.

"But they also want to see that the American public are getting royalties that are acceptable," says Reppenhagen. "And the companies that are doing these drillings are doing it properly, on public lands especially, that all the gas and excess is captured and not wasted."

Nearly eight out of 10 respondents, across party lines, say oil and gas operations should be required to update equipment to capture flaring and prevent methane leaks. Methane is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping climate-changing heat.

The poll found a clear majority of voters in western states thinks the number of new coal operations should be reduced on public lands. More than 75 percent want to see more investment in wind and solar, with key swing voters, including Latinos, millennials and moderates, showing the strongest support.

Reppenhagen says even though voters like low gas prices at the pump, they're looking toward the future.

"It's kind of the old way of getting energy," he says. "And right now it's cheap, there are subsidies involved in getting oil and gas. But a lot of that should be converted to solar and wind. Western voters agree there has to be a switch sometime and we need to start making that transition now."

Voters were nearly unanimous in how they'd like to see Congress take action in the coming year. They want more lands designated as national monuments, and they'd like to see fees oil and gas companies pay for the right to drill offshore used to conserve nature, clean water, and make sure more Americans can access outdoor recreation.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY