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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets" by Common Cause (excerpts)

Pennsylvania has often been described as the “Wild West” of campaign financing. Ours is one of only eleven states that do not limit campaign contributions, and the state’s online campaign contribution database is not fully searchable or sortable, so that a search for contributions from a particular interest that might take minutes in another state could take hundreds of hours in Pennsylvania. As a result of these two failures—failure to limit campaign contributions, and failure to make this information truly accessible—big political donors wield extraordinary influence over the political process in Pennsylvania, even as they face relatively little scrutiny as compared to many other states. 

The natural gas industry gave $2.85 million to political candidates in Pennsylvania between 2001 and March 2010, and it spent $4.2 million on lobbying since Pennsylvania began requiring lobbyist reporting in 2007.

Drillers have a clear favorite in the 2010 gubernatorial race—Republican Tom Corbett, recipient of $361,207, with 93% of these contributions coming since January 2008. Among the candidates on the Democratic side, Dan Onorato was the top recipient with $59,300, followed by Jack Wagner with $44,550. Joe Hoeffel received a single contribution of $2,000 from the industry in 2004 while running for the U.S. Senate, but has received nothing since. Democratic candidate State Sen. Anthony Williams received no contributions from the industry, as did Republican candidate State Rep. Sam Rohrer. 

However, of the 2.1 million acres of Pennsylvania state forest land, 692,000 acres have already been leased to production companies for natural gas drilling (1.6 million acres of state forest lie above 22% of the state’s share of the Marcellus Shale). 

Fracking fluid is typically made up of roughly 90% fresh water, 9% proppant (most often sand), and 0.5-1% chemicals for purposes ranging from inhibiting the growth of organisms (biocides), reducing friction and surface tension, and increasing viscosity (gelling agents). As fracking a horizontal well typically uses 5 million gallons of fluid (and 4.5 million gallons of fresh water), it can be expected that between 25,000 and 50,000 gallons of assorted chemicals are used for each well. 

Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) recently emphasized the importance of federal regulation, stating, “We have to do this the right way this time. It's so fundamental to the lives of Pennsylvania families…People need to know what's being injected into the ground to release natural gas. That's one reason we need to pass the FRAC Act.”48 The FRAC Act, pending legislation introduced in both the House and the Senate, would require drillers to disclose the full content of their fracking fluid and amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to include federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing. 

Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets: The Campaign Contributions; Lobbying Expenditures of the Natural Gas Industry in Pennsylvania )

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