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Poll: Obama backers want more fracking rules, but national support eroding

Fracking injects a high-pressure combination of sand, chemicals and water into tight rock formations to unlock hard-to-reach gas deposits. It has been credited with revitalizing the U.S. gas industry and providing cheap energy. 

The Obama administration has applauded states’ abilities to regulate fracking, though it is currently looking into imposing coordinated federal rules on the practice.

Interior Department’s draft rules would require drillers on public lands to disclose what chemicals they use during fracking. Drillers would also need to verify well integrity to prevent fracking fluids from escaping into nearby water, and manage so-called flowback water.

The method has alarmed environmentalists who claim it pollutes groundwater and can cause seismic activity, however.

The natural-gas industry says fracking is safe, and that the links environmentalists make to the method are faulty.

On the campaign trail, the fossil fuel industry has dwarfed environmental groups’ spending. The oil-and-gas industry, an ally of Republicans, has pumped millions into a national advertising campaign promoting expanded drilling for fossil fuels.

Spearheaded by the American Petroleum Institute (API), the industry has amplified its airtime — especially in swing states — in the months leading up to the election. API and Republican lawmakers say increasing drilling will open up sources of cheap energy that would aid an economic recovery. 

Democrats, and Obama, have recently begun to embrace natural gas, though many still have reservations about fracking and want to see more regulations.

The Bloomberg poll was conducted before the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a study this week that found contaminants in a Wyoming town’s groundwater that have been previously linked to fracking.

That town, Pavillion, Wyo., ignited environmental concerns last year when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found similar elements in groundwater. The ensuing report became the first time the government made a connection between fracking and groundwater pollution.

The natural-gas industry said EPA’s initial assessment was misguided, and that the USGS study did not fully support EPA’s results.

The poll was conducted by Des Moines, Iowa-based Selzer & Co. It has a 3.1 percent margin of error.

— This story was updated at 5:09 p.m.