Pro-Fracking Bills in Congress Line Up with Sharp Increase in Industry Contributions
In a stunning display of political muscle, the oil and gas industry last week won House passage of three bills that will help boost the profits of companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which allows the extraction of oil and natural gas from rock formations deep in the earth. Also last week, non-partisan Washington watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released a report showing that from 2004 to 2012 oil and gas industry donations to Congressional campaigns in states and districts where fracking is occurring climbed 231%, from about $2.1 million to $6.9 million.
The three pro-fracking bills were HR 1900, which would fast-track pipeline construction, HR 1965, which would speed up oil and gas drilling permitting on federal lands, and HR 2728, which would weaken federal fracking regulations. Although none of the bills is thought to have a chance of passing the Senate, critics decried the financial influence of the industry.
“This week, House Majority Leadership showed that they’ll sacrifice just about anything for the oil and gas industry, whether it’s the hunters and fishermen who enjoy using our public lands, parents trying to protect their children from the health impacts of fracking, even the rights of property owners along proposed gas pipeline projects,” said Earthjustice senior legislative representative Jessica Ennis. Referring to the CREW report, she added that “The reason for this loyalty? Look no further than a damning report out yesterday showing a 231% increase in industry contributions to candidates in areas of fracking activity.”
The report found a sharp partisan bias: almost 80% of fracking industry contributions to congressional candidates went to Republicans, who comprised 44 of the top 50 recipients. Contributions from the fracking industry to Republican congressional candidates from fracking districts increased 268% between 2004 and 2012, from $1.6 million to $6.1 million, while contributions to Democratic congressional candidates from fracking districts increased only 95%, from $450,000 to $850,000.
Nine of the top ten recipients of fracking industry money were Republicans, including Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), who is No. 1 on the list for taking $509,447—more than $100,000 more than any other candidate. The remaining top 9 are Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky); Rep. Steve Pearce (R-New Mexico); Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska); Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio); Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas); Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming); Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas); Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana); and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri). All have been very supportive of the fracking industry, which has relied heavily on federal subsidies to develop needed technology.
To Learn More:
Fracking-Friendly Bills Flourish as Industry Donations Skyrocket (by Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams)
Natural Cash: Fracking Contributions to Congress (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) (pdf)
Database: Fracking Industry Contributions to 113th Congress (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington)
Development of Fracking Helped by Government Funding and Tax Breaks (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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