The Fracking Industry Has Bought Off Congress: Here Are the Worst Offenders
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Environmentalists and other well-adjusted citizens of Earth, I've got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that, thanks to illuminating documentaries like Josh Fox's Gasland and determined pressure from activists in and out of the mainstream, the toxic ravages of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, are no longer the shale gas sector's dirty secret. The bad news is that, thanks to the United States' morally bankrupt political system and its Supreme Court's reality-defying ruling on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the fracking lobby's power of the purse is greater than it has ever been.
That power was depressingly dissected in Common Cause's recent report, Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets, which explained that earnings junkies like Exxon, Koch and more have paid House and Senate politicians on select energy and commerce committees nearly $750 million over the last decade to smother regulatory oversight of the expanding fracking practice, whose complete chemical components still remain a relative mystery. It was evidently money well spent. During that lobbying stretch, the Environmental Protection Agency scientifically linked fracking with water poisoning in Wyoming, and probably isn't far from siding with the increasing ranks of those who blame fracking for earthquakes from Oklahoma to Ohio to England. And yet beyond manageable fines and stock devaluations, no one from the industry has yet to seriously face the music for groundwater contamination and worse.
For that, you can thank the industry's " Halliburton loophole," so named for former Vice-President Dick Cheney's insistence that his former company's fracking be stripped of EPA regulation. Years and billions later, money still talks and safety still walks in our peak oil century tapping, like veins, what fossil fuel deposits we have left, from natural gas to tar sands. And they do so in a decidedly nonpartisan fashion.
"The natural gas industry has spent billions on lobbying and advertising to convince Americans that natural gas is a cleaner, cheaper alternative to oil," Common Cause regional director James Browning, co-author with Alex Kaplan of Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets, told AlterNet. "They've also tried to rebut environmental concerns by pitching natural gas as a 'transition fuel' that will help America move from fossil fuels to primarily clean forms of energy by the next century.
"But while fracking's exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act is rightly called the 'Halliburton loophole' and the vast majority of our top 100 recipients of fracking money are Republicans, it's important to note the extent of the industry's influence among Democrats," he added. "In Pennsylvania, the only state without a severance tax on natural gas extraction, previous Democratic governor Ed Rendell only made an issue of imposing a tax during his last year in office, too late to make it a reality. President Obama is very pro-fracking and it's important to note that the FRAC Act languished in the Democratic 111th Congress."
Currently, the FRAC Act, which would repeal fracking's exemption from the Safe Water Drinking Act, also languishes in the 112th Congress, where it is still taking its first legislative steps while sponsored by Colorado's Democratic congresswoman Diana DeGette. DeGette and Delaware Republican Michael N. Castle coauthored the 2005 Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, an opportunity that provided former president George W. Bush with his first veto. Yet it is respective Bush Republicans like Joe Barton ($514,945) and John Cornyn ($417,556) who crown Common Cause's top 100 congressional hoarders of campaign cash from the fracking industry. As Browning explained, they're followed in fourth by Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu ($328,300), who's accompanied by House Democrats Dan Boren ($328,300), Jim Matheson ($223,79), and even Gene Green ($186,300).