Sunday, April 10, 2011

Gas Money & Policy

No two ways about it: the guy with the most money gets heard in Albany (or Harrisburg or DC or….) and now Common Cause/NY has the numbers to prove it. On Thursday, Common Cause released a new report showing that gas industry and special interest groups outspent environmental groups by 4 to one on issues relating to drilling and hydrofracking. Those lobbying against the moratorium bills shelled out $2.87 million, while those supporting the NY moratorium spent around $725,650.

“This underscores the need for the public to monitor the states; decision-making process,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY. Furthermore, she added, “it raises serious questions about our elected officials’ ability to remain independent and impartial.”

Common Cause decided to focus their study on the lobbying efforts aimed at the two bills calling for a moratorium on fracking. Over the past couple years they have noted a “precipitous rise in industry lobbying”. Chesapeake Appalachia, the nation’s second largest producer of gas, was the biggest advocate of fracking, spending $1.1 million last year. By comparison the largest environmental group, Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment, spent $159,230 last year.

Not only does the gas industry have vast resources at their disposal, they focus their spending on gas extraction legislation. In contrast, the environmental groups lobby on a diversity of issues. So the voice of the Lorax pretty much gets drowned out by the heavy trucks of the industry.

from Common Cause/NY
Industry lobbying by the numbers
Money spent by just four groups: Chesapeake, Fortuna, the Williams companies and IOGA-NY)
  • 2005 – just over $200,000
  • 2006 – just under $200,000
  • 2007 – just under $200,000
  • 2008 – just under $400,000
  • 2009 – about $1.2 million
  • 2010 – about $1.5 million
from Common Cause/NY
A couple years ago Assemblyman Gary Finch (Dist. 123) dropped in on a citizen discussion of gas at the Spencer Grange. Although the citizens seemed to know enough to discuss such things as “closed-loop systems” and the costs versus benefits of various compulsory integration options, it was imminently clear that our elected official was not up to speed on the issue. He had barely cracked open the book and was still negotiating the table of contents…

But that hadn’t stopped him from opening his door to gas industry lobbyists. Apparently our elected official forgot exactly who was shelling out hard-earned sheckles (we’re not rich, here) to pay his salary, for he said: the gas industry lobbyists are in Albany every day. If you want your voices heard, you need to come to Albany too. (Gary – remind us why we are paying you to “represent” us?)  
Our state’s policies regarding hydrofracking and industrialized drilling will have a profound impact on our future. How do we ensure that they keep the people’s interest at heart?

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