Poll Shows Support for Keeping Energy Development Dollars Local
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. - In western states including Colorado, party lines practically disappear in a new poll about balancing renewable-energy development with protection for public lands.
Nearly three out of four voters in 11 states favor producing wind and solar power on federal lands. An even bigger majority agrees it should be done responsibly, says Chase Huntley, clean-energy policy director for The Wilderness Society, which commissioned the poll.
"The view of most Western voters - more than seven out of 10 - is that wind and solar make sense on public lands. But overwhelmingly, nearly eight out of 10 believe revenues from development should be returned to local communities and to the land, as with other forms of energy development."
Systems are in place to funnel some rents or royalties from oil and gas, coal and even mineral development on federal land to local governments - but not solar or wind.
Pending legislation to change that has bipartisan support from Colorado's congressional delegation.
Three bills in Congress - HR 5991, HR 6154 and S 1775 - would allow money now going to the feds to be used by counties and states instead, to be used for boosting conservation and recreation.
In Summit County, where more than half the economy is based on recreation and tourism, County Commissioner Dan Gibbs says it would be an important change.
"I really believe that these three bills pending in the House and Senate - to me, they look really common-sense, how local severance money might trickle down to communities to offset those impacts, just like what the oil and gas industry have right now."
If money were set aside for conservation, the pollsters also asked how it should be used - for parks and refuges, restoring fish and wildlife habitat, or creating new hunting and fishing areas. Support ranged from 72 percent to 85 percent, and pollster Christine Matthews of Bellweather Research says politics didn't appear to play a role.
"There's no daylight whatsoever between Democrats, independents and Republicans on creating new fishing and hunting areas to replace those impacted. Whatever damage is done, they feel strongly that they want that to be corrected; they want it to be fixed."
The poll of almost 2,000 voters was taken jointly during the first week in August by two polling firms, one Republican and one Democrat. Poll information is online at wilderness.org.