Tumblelog by Soup.io
Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

July 07 2011

18:07

Gas Industry Spent "Staggering" Amount Lobbying in Pennsylvania Last Year

The gas industry spent $3.5 million last year attempting to convince Pennsylvania lawmakers of the benefits of drilling the state’s deposits of unconventional gas. According to lobbying disclosure reports filed with the Department of State, the lobbying blitz to influence public policy was orchestrated by a collection of 22 companies, the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA).

Rep. Greg Vitali of Havertown described the disclosed amounts as “staggering,” adding that, “it isn’t the type of spending you would find from fledgling companies.”

The Times-Tribune reports the figures as follows:

- Marcellus Shale Coalition: $1.1 million

 

- Range Resources Appalachia: $392,000

- Chesapeake Energy: $382,000

- Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association: $247,000

- East Resources Management: $225,000

- Chief Oil and Gas: $186,000

- Alpha Natural Resources: $160,000

- Dominion Transmission: $146,000

- Exco Resources: $130,000

- BG North America: $124,000

- EQT Corp.: $105,000

- Talisman Energy: $85,000

- Equitable Gas Co.: $78,000

- Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania: $75,000

- Consol Energy: $75,000

- CNX Gas Corp.: $59,000

- Exxon Mobil: $55,000

- Cabot Oil and Gas: $50,000

- Pennsylvania General Energy: $48,000

- XTO Energy: $41,000

- National Fuel Gas: $36,000

- NiSource: $36,000

The dramatic rise of the gas industry in Pennsylvania along with its increasing lobbying presence has put tremendous pressure on state lawmakers, who are charged with both facilitating the drilling boom and protecting the public from the health and environmental threats associated with drilling. Pennsylvania is home to some of the worst unconventional gas production disasters in the country, many stemming from the industry's use of the controversial hydraulic fracturing (fracking) method. 

On paper, 2010 was full of promise for those who felt oversight of the gas industry was inadequate. Throughout the year, numerous bills were proposed to tighten accountability of gas drilling activities, ranging from water protection issues, pipeline safety standards and drilling bans in state forests. Both the House and State voiced the need for industry severance taxes and the Department of Environmental Protection introduced more thorough standards regarding drilling pollutants, well construction and frack fluid chemical disclosure.

But despite the flurry of legislative proposals, very little was actually accomplished. Only two of the weaker proposed bills were passed into law, one designed to increase access to well production data and the other regarding roll-back taxes for landowners. The proposed severance tax was overshadowed by a less strict impact fee, which was further deferred until this fall.

The increasing lobbying activity in Pennsylvania demonstrates the industry’s continued efforts to expand unconventional drilling, despite growing public concern over the inherent risks of dirty fracked gas. The oil and gas industry is focusing its efforts primarily on confusing the public and influencing politicians, not on making their operations safe for public health and the environment.

“The legislative and regulatory issues facing our industry are countless,” says Marcellus Shale Coalition Vice President David Callahan. “While Marcellus development is still in its relative infancy, we recognize that common-sense policies – at all levels of government – are imperative.”

Coalition groups like the Marcellus Shale Coalition represent a variety of industry players, from continental drillers and national pipeline operators to multinationals such as ExxonMobil. 

Doubling up on efforts to influence policy, coalition members also exercise their own lobbying muscle. Range Resources, Chesapeake Energy and ExxonMobil each fund a private lobbying arm and, in the case of the latter two, full-scale public relations campaigns designed to influence public opinion regarding the benefits of unconventional gas

Gas industry lobbying in Pennsylvania has already created some troubling political alliances, like that between Gov. Tom Corbett and former energy executive C. Alan Walker, blurring the lines between public and private interests. 

At this stage there is little end to the spending spree in sight. Lobbying in the state is set to increase throughout 2011, with the MSC, Range Resources and PIOGA already spending a combined $557,000 between January and March of this year. Shell Oil Co., which only registering to lobby in Pennsylvania on January 3rd, spent $92,000 in the same period.

Image Credit: MarcellusMoney.org

March 21 2011

20:30

Gas Industry Working Overtime to Smother Revived FRAC Act Efforts To Rein In Hydraulic Fracturing

Last week, US Senators Robert Casey (D-PA) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) reintroduced legislation to the Senate that would close the oversight gap that the gas industry has taken full advantage of since 2005. The “Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act,” commonly known as the FRAC Act, would close the Halliburton Loophole in Dick Cheney’s infamous 2005 Energy Policy Act, which exempted hydraulic fracturing from the auspices of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

Hydraulic fracturing is used in 90% of all unconventional natural gas wells in the U.S. and involves the injection of millions of gallons of water, sand and dangerous chemicals into the ground. The bill would also require that the natural gas industry publicly disclose the chemicals they use to drill for unconventional gas. These chemicals, including potent cancer-causing agents, are protected as industry trade secrets.

The FRAC Act was originally introduced as a set of twin bills to the House and Senate in 2009 but died in the last session of Congress. According to new supporter Senator Frank Lautenberg, the FRAC Act will give the EPA the necessary backing to, at the very least, properly investigate and assess the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing.

The industry’s aggressive lobbying campaign against the FRAC Act is part of a larger agenda to limit federal oversight of gas drilling. The legal void created by the Energy Policy Act in 2005 essentially crippled the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ability to properly monitor the boom in gas fracking activity, especially the potentially serious threat to drinking water supplies. A long history of industry pressure on EPA scientists is also present on this issue, leading to the narrowing of scope in the EPA’s investigations and the elimination of critical findings when it comes to certain fracking threats. <!--break-->

As a result of the Halliburton Loophole, the states are left to monitor the gas industry's rapidly evolving drilling practices themselves, with few federal standards in place to safeguard public health and water supplies.  A growing number of communities impacted by the gas industry’s fracking practices consider this reliance on state agencies a risky gamble.  In many states, the state oil and gas commission handles both the oversight and promotion of the industry, and as one recent report noted, “the primary mission of these agencies has been to facilitate natural gas extraction and increase revenues for the states.”  

The gas industry has responded to the proposed legislation with a misleading advertising and lobbying campaign, attempting to pressure lawmakers to keep oversight at the state level and limit federal participation. 

Industry-sponsored reports have praised the regulatory oversight of state commissions, and lobby groups have suggested that federal engagement would be bad for the environment.

Among the favorite scare tactics employed by the gas industry is the suggestion that federal involvement would mean millions in lost state revenue, further unemployment and compromised energy security. Industry lobbying efforts have so far succeeded in stalling any momentum towards the implementation of much-needed federal standards for fracking.

But as the recent New York Times’ “Drilling Down” series on gas drilling shows, the industry is in serious need of more thorough federal oversight.  According to these reports, the states are failing to monitor radioactive drilling wastes, much less ensure their proper disposal. As a result, the Times notes how the wastes can end up back in streams and rivers that source the drinking water supply. A single gas well can produce over a million gallons of radioactive waste water contaminated with cancer-causing agents, posing a threat to drinking water and health if not properly handled and disposed. 

The FRAC Act is one crucial step in the long journey to proper accountability for all risky practices in the gas industry. But powerful gas industry lobbying forces will work to derail it. In fact, they already are. 

Lee Fuller, executive director of Energy in Depth, the most vocal industry front group, was quick to attack the reintroduction of the FRAC Act, saying the bill is based on “fundamentally incorrect information.” EID insists that hydraulic fracturing was never regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), so the legislative attempt to “restore” this regulation is misguided. Yet the process was always regulated by the Underground Injection Control (UIC) program of the SDWA until language inserted into the 2005 Energy Policy Act excluded the underground injection of fluids for the sake of oil and gas extraction.  

This isn’t the only EID claim intended to confuse the public, as DeSmogBlog recently revealed

While Energy In Depth suggests that hydraulic fracturing has “become a victim of its own success,” the citizens whose water supplies and health have been put in jeopardy would beg to differ. 

The industry is still parroting the same refrain: that ‘no proven instances of water contamination have been directly linked to hydraulic fracturing.’ Yet with mounting instances of water contamination occurring across America, all this statement reflects is the near impossibility of bringing this cavalier industry to account. 

Congress must work quickly to pass the FRAC Act and to safeguard the public from the gas industry’s fracking mess.

 

Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.
(PRO)
No Soup for you

Don't be the product, buy the product!

close
YES, I want to SOUP ●UP for ...