As the politics surrounding fracking become increasingly heated, this page will cover developments throughout New York State, but also in other areas of the United States and other countries (Canada, the UK, Bulgaria) in which political developments provide insights into what is occurring — and predicted to occur — in New York, especially in the Southern Tier, targeted for fracked gas drilling (see February 2013 update below).
The Oxford Visionaries will also announce and analyze events in New York City and other areas targeted for installation of pipelines and compressor stations.
Article by Carol Zion (excerpts)
Who’s To Blame?
You might ask how something so ecologically damaging and hazardous to human and animal health is taking place on large scales across the U.S. with little objection. As ever, lobbying has played its part well. The Guardian’s energy editor, Terry Macalister, says: ‘In 20 years, I’ve never come across such heavy lobbying than I have for shale gas. It’s a pity renewables can’t get that financial muscle.’
In 2005, Dick Cheney, who was Halliburton’s CEO prior to his stint as Vice President, fought for and achieved a clause that has become known as The Halliburton Loophole. This loophole specifically exempts fracking from regulations by the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, and Environmental Protection Agency regulations. In addition to this, corporations do not have to disclose specific information about fracking sites or processes, which means that there is no assessment of potential risks relating to the process or the areas that are chosen to be fracked.
Public pressure relating to the safety of drinking water has come from a group of Americans who argue that full disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process should be mandatory, since the energy companies claim that they are safe. The EPA is currently undertaking a large-scale study of the industry, but the full report will not be available until 2014. In the meantime, energy companies continue to frack and endanger our planet.
But also, it is worth mentioning here that in many ways humans are responsible for the Ecocide caused by fracking, for our dependence on gas, and for supporting these companies with our dollars. Some people state that buying foreign oil funds terrorists, however closer to home there are Eco-terrorists creating planetary harm on a vast scale, through fracking.
What Can You Do About It?
There is some good news. Due to the dangerous implications of fracking, there is widespread support for banning the process throughout the world. In 2012, Vermont became the first U.S. state to outlaw hydraulic fracturing. There is a moratorium in place on fracking in Quebec, Canada. France banned fracking in 2007 in response to public pressure. A number of protests occurred in Bulgaria after the government’s decision to grant an approval for corporate research the possibilities of shale gas extraction in the country, and the Bulgarian government banned hydraulic fracturing technology after a nationwide protest in 2012. Yoko Ono and her son Sean Lennon are part of the the anti-fracking movement in New York, and they have founded Artists Against Fracking as part of their campaign.
Fracking-Related Campaign Contributions in Southern Tier Elections (from Common Cause)
Analysis finds pro-fracking interests donated nearly $400,000 in 10 races
In the 2012 election cycle, pro-fracking interests contributed a combined total of nearly $400,000 to candidates for state legislature and county executive in New York’s Southern Tier.
Although incumbents uniformly prevailed, the natural gas industry and its boosters have attempted to frame these results as a “mandate” in support of fracking. The more likely analysis is that the trappings of entrenched incumbency, such as name recognition and an established fundraising apparatus, determined the outcome. However, in some cases pro-fracking contributions made up over 20% of the candidate’s total fundraising.
It’s unclear exactly what role fracking played in the minds of Southern Tier voters. But, by examining campaign finance records, this analysis reveals the role of the fracking industry and its boosters in relation to their preferred candidates.
Common Cause/NY’s analysis uses a broad definition of “fracking money” which includes the entire spectrum of industry interests and boosters rather than only the natural gas production sector, such as: engineering firms, construction industry organizations, unions, law firms with oil and gas practices, freight rail and trucking interests, and other member companies and entities of pro-fracking organizations like Clean Growth Now or Unshackle Upstate. All of the interests included in this dataset are either directly involved in the business of fracking and gas field development, or on the record in support of expanding natural gas production.
Fracking interests and boosters strongly supported incumbent lawmakers over challengers, regardless of party affiliation. All incumbents easily won re-election by 20 points or more.
- Broome County Executive Debbie Preston (R) ($82,428 or 22% of total) and State Senator Thomas Libous (R) ($190,700, 15% of total) received the most money from fracking-related sources, with contributions from a wide array of interests including gas industry PACs, drillers, engineers, construction unions, and asphalt and gravel companies.
- Preston’s opponent Tarik Abdelazim (D) ran an explicitly anti-fracking campaign, and Libous’ opponent John Orzel (D) was less supportive and more cautious on the issue than the incumbent. Both candidates predictably received very little support from fracking interests and boosters.
- Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D) ($16,631 or 15% of total) received significant contributions from fracking boosters including construction unions, oil & gas law firms, and the commercial trucking lobby, despite her cautious stance that neither firmly opposes or supports fracking.
- Lupardo’s opponent, Julie Lewis (R) received almost no support from fracking interests and boosters despite a strongly pro-fracking position.
- With the exception of Assemblyman Christopher Friend (R) who largely abstains from fundraising, the other incumbents in the Southern Tier state legislature all received a significant portion of their campaign contributions (between 9% and 14% of all funds raised) from fracking-related sources
NO FUNDING FOR DEC Support of Fracking Operations
DEC commissioner Martines’ statement that no new gas drilling operations will be permitted without funded DEC support indicates that the Southern Tier will remain closed to fracking operations for at least another year (see summary of hearings on the State Budget on Breaking News page). Consensus among many experienced observers confirms that plans to open five Southern Tier counties to fracking will be put on indefinite “hold” because without funding for DEC support the State will not permit any fracking initiatives in 2013.