Fracking Proponents in Congress Get Big Bucks from Oil, Natural Gas Industry

The members of a Congressional group that opposes more regulation of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have received a great deal of financial support from the oil and natural gas industry. According to a ProPublica investigation, between 2009 and 2010, lawmakers in the Congressional Natural Gas Caucus received 19 times more money from those interests than another group of lawmakers that supports more fracking regulation.

As we reported previously, the Congressional Natural Gas Caucus is made up of 32 lawmakers – both Democrats and Republicans. Earlier this month, the group wrote to Interior secretary Ken Salazar requesting his department abandon a plan to require drillers on federal lands to disclose the contents o the fluids they use in fracking, at technique that involves injecting water, sand, and a cocktail of chemicals at high pressure into rock formations to release gas deposits. The group holds the position that fracking is safe, and claims that the Interior Department’s plan will increase energy prices.

In answer to that letter, another group of 46 Democratic lawmakers led by Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., sent their own letter to Salazar voicing support for the Interior Department’s plans.

“The public has a right to know what toxins might be going into the ground near their communities, and what might be leaking into their drinking water,” the letter said.

According to ProPublica, between 2009 and 2010, the 32 lawmakers in the Natural Gas Caucus received $1,742,572 from oil and gas interest. The average contribution from the oil and gas sector to individuals from that group was $54,455. Oklahoma Democrat Dan Boren, who co-chairs the caucus, personally received more than $202,000, including almost $15,000 from Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest natural gas producers in the U.S.

By contrast, lawmakers in Hinchey’s group received only $91,212 from the industry, ProPublica said. That’s especially striking considering fact that the pro-regulation group boasts 14 more member than the Natural Gas Caucus.

According to an earlier report from the Houston Chronicle, fracking is used in nine out of 10 wells on public lands, but the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees 250 million acres of public lands and 48,000 drilling leases, has not updated regulations for fracturing in years. Four states, Wyoming, New York, Pennsylvania and Colorado, already require drillers to disclose the make-up of their fracking fluids. According to ProPublica, should the Interior Department stick to its guns and require drillers on federal lands to do the same, public disclosure of fracking chemicals would be required on roughly 40 percent of the gas wells in the U.S.

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