Gas $ Floods Congress

Area lawmakers receive $458,000

Morgantown Dominion Post
1 January 2012
By David Beard

The fracking industry has poured nearly $300 million into Congress since 2001 — including lobbying and campaign contributions. Four members of West Virginia’s federal delegation, including its two freshmen, rank in the top 100 for industry contributions.

A report by the political advocacy group Common Cause — “Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets In Congress” — says that “companies now engaged in fracking” contributed $20.5 million to current members of Congress from 2001 through June 2011, and spent $276 million on lobbying during that period.

“These investments in public policy victories have allowed the industry to ‘systematically exempt themselves from most major environmental laws,’” Common Cause Executive Director Barry Kaufman said, quoting an environmental organization called the Environmental Working Group.

The spending comes from “upstream” fracking interests — companies engaged in exploration and production.

The fifth West Virginia lawmaker came in at 113 among the 535 senators and representatives.

The Dominion Post contacted all five members, submitting links to the report, excerpts and a list of questions. Three responded. Their answers appear in a separate story.

Here’s how they ranked, based on a Common Cause review of their Federal Election Commission finance reports:

No. 33: Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R, $144,603; $112,205 from Political Action Committees, $32,398 from individuals associated with the industry. Capito took office in 2001. She serves on the Financial Services Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

No. 61: Sen. Joe Manchin, D, $97,395; $26,498 from PACs, $70,897 from individuals. Manchin took office in November 2010. He is on three committees, including Energy and Natural Resources and its Subcommittee on Energy.

No. 64: Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D, $93,150; $51,500 from PACs, $41,650 from individuals. Rockefeller took office in 1985. He serves on five committees and chairs one — Commerce, Science and Transportation.

No. 91: Rep. David McKinley, R, $66,550; $49,000 from PACs, $17,550 from individuals. McKinley took office in January 2011. He sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and its Subcommittee on Energy and Power.

No. 113: Rep. Nick Rahall, D, $56,850; $34,500 from PACs, $22,350 from individuals. Rahall took office in 1977. He previously chaired the Natural Resources Committee and is ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The top-ranked member is Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, with $514,945 in contributions. The top Democrat comes in at No. 4 — Sen. Mary Landrieu, Louisiana, with $367,925.

Down at No. 437 is Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., with a lowly $200. All the rest tied at No. 438 with no contributions from the upstream fracking industry.

Common Cause is concerned that the expected economic benefits from the shale gas industry — the Marcellus and Utica in this region and other formations elsewhere across the country — will outweigh any environmental concerns.

“The EPA is scheduled to publish new, preliminary findings about the potential dangers of fracking in 2012,” the report says. “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.”

The report alleges that industry spending is targeting supporters of the federal FRAC Act — Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act — which would abolish the so-called Halliburton Loophole that exempts the oil and gas industry from the Safe Drinking Water Act, according to the senators that sponsored it. The FRAC Act would require the oil and gas industry to disclose the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing processes.

West Virginia’s new fracking regulation requires all companies operating in the state to disclose their frack fluid additives. And many companies are already doing so voluntarily at, a chemical disclosure registry operated by FracFocus, managed by the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.

The study alleges that fracking money helped influence the 2005 vote that created the Halliburton Loophole. Capito and Rockefeller voted for it, Rahall voted against it.

During the time span of the Common Cause study, spending has increased dramatically. The report says contributions increased from a total $2 million in 2001-’02 to $6.8 million in 2009-’10. Lobbying money increased from $29.1 million in 2001 to a peak of $144.3 million in 2009, dipping to $110.2 million in 2010.

Dollars in West Virginia

Common Cause published separate reports focused on the fracking laws and federal lawmakers in Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, but not West Virginia, although four of its lawmakers fall within the top 100.

Study co-author Alex Kaplan told The Dominion Post that the study was limited to upstream money.

It didn’t look at contributions from midstream or downstream sources — the companies involved in piping and distributing natural gas.

For a limited glimpse at what downstream and midstream companies, and individuals associated with them, are spending on West Virginia’s delegation, The Dominion Post looked at their two most recent FEC financial reports — July and October 2011.

The review, not intended to be definitive, included companies with a known or apparent interest in the natural gas industry — including utilities with natural gas plants and several law firms known to represent the industry — and their employees.

Here are the numbers:

Capito, $10,700. Total contributions for that period — individual and PAC — were $460,331.

Manchin, $83,000. Total for the period: $1,028,480.

Rockefeller, $3,500. Total for the period, $301,500.

McKinley, $27,350. Total for the period, $470,465.

Rahall, $11,500. Total for the period, $247,062.