A faction of the natural gas industry has invested more than $747 million as part of a 10-year lobbying and political spending campaign to persuade federal authorities to ignore the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a rapidly expanding but poorly regulated method of tapping gas reserves.
Fracking involves injecting a mix of sand, chemicals, and water into a well at high pressure in order to break up underground rock formations and free up natural gas. Pollution may occur underground, with fracking chemicals or methane directly contaminating aquifers and drinking wells, or above ground, as streams or tributaries are polluted by spills or improper wastewater disposal.
Despite the pollution risks, the industry has argued that regulatory exemptions for fracking are needed to give America the opportunity to tap vast reserves of natural gas that have been previously unobtainable.
The Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled to publish new, preliminary findings about the potential dangers of fracking in 2012. That gives the natural gas industry a powerful incentive to increase its political spending now in an attempt to shape public opinion and the debate over fracking in Congress, as well as affect the outcome of the 2012 Congressional elections. Doing so will be much easier after last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United. This ruling threw out a century-old ban on corporate spending around elections and empowered corporations to exert even more influence over the political process. Now money spent on campaign contributions, lobbying, and through other avenues of influence such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) can be backed by millions spent on electioneering. Read the press release.