Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has released findings on the amount of influence the fracking industry has on members of Congress. According to “Natural Cash: How The Fracking Industry Fuels Congress,” contributions from fracking companies and industry trade associations to House and Senate candidates from states and districts where fracking occurs rose by 231 percent between the 2004 and 2012 election cycles.
As the dangers and consequences of fracking continue to emerge, the fracking industry faces more opposition from politicians and the public. In response, the industry has increased their campaign contributions to congress members to unprecedented levels. According to CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan, “Like many industries under increasing scrutiny, the fracking industry has responded by ratcheting up campaign donations to help make new friends in Congress.”
Of 535 Congress members, only 67 individuals, or 12.5 percent of congress members, have not received any contributions from the fracking industry. Of those 67, only 5 are Republicans. Further, Republican congressional candidates received nearly 80 percent of fracking industry contributions. Of 94 current fracking districts in the US, only 19 are represented by Democrats.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) – the former chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce – receives by far the largest amount of money from the fracking industry than any other current member of Congress. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) receives the second largest amount, Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) the third, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) the fourth, and Sen. John Boehner (R-OH) the fifth.
Also on the top 10 list are Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). In return for the industry’s generosity, the legislators have attempted to push laws to deregulate fracking and fight those who oppose the practice. CREW found that the strongest congressional advocates of limiting federal regulation of fracking reside in districts and states that house fracking operations and have received support from the industry.
The 231 percent increase in industry contributions to Congress members from districts and states that are home to fracking activities is almost twice the increase in contributions to congressional candidates in non-fracking districts and states. Contributions from the industry to all congressional candidates increased by 180 percent between the 2004 and 2012 election cycles. Senate candidates in states that house fracking operations saw a 461 percent increase in campaign contributions during that same time period. According to CREW,
The fracking industry’s campaign contributions have shaped the debate over federal oversight of fracking, and have risen as the congressional debate over fracking has intensified. The industry’s influence has contributed to stalling legislation, slowing the evaluation of environmental and other impacts of fracking, and distorting the debate over sensible steps the federal government could take to regulate it.
Just this week, the House passed a bill to eliminate federal fracking regulations in states that already have their own regulations in place. Twelve Democrats voted in favor of the legislation and two Republicans voted against it. The problem with removing government oversight of fracking operations is that states’ regulations vary extensively. Some states have very lax, or no, rules regarding the fracking process, which has led to the contamination of water supplies and land and adverse health effects in people and animals across the United States.
TOP 10 CONGRESSIONAL RECIPIENTS OF FRACKING INDUSTRY CONTRIBUTIONS:
1. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX): chair emeritus of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce; sponsored the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which exempted fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act; received $509,447.
2. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY): Senate Minority Leader; one of four sponsors of a 2012 bill that would have blocked federal regulation of fracking, much like H.R. 2728, which was passed by the house on Wednesday; received $384,700.
3. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM): criticized the government’s efforts to monitor fracking operations; urged the Energy Secretary to approve expanded exports of liquefied natural gas; said proposed federal rules for fracking on public lands were unnecessary and excessive; received $379,700.
4. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK): ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; believes states should have control of regulating fracking, not the government; received $315,450.
5. Sen. John Boehner (R-OH): House Speaker; top congressional recipient of oil and gas industry contributions in Ohio; received $314,700.
6. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX): spoke out against the FRAC Act; co-sponsored Sen. Inhofe’s 2012 Fracturing Regulations Are Effective in State Hands Act; received $312,400.
7. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY): ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Public Lands and Forests; opposes federal regulation of fracking; received $303,900.
8. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): first-term senator and eighth highest congressional recipient of fracking industry contributions; said in an April 2013 speech that he will fight opposition to fracking; received $294,950.
9. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA): strong supporter of fracking; signed two letters to the Environmental Protection Agency expressing concern about whether the EPA can overrule state regulations; received $285,000.
10. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO): Vice Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference; received $266,416.