Survey shows support for tax swap with fossil fuels, income taxes

Survey shows support for tax swap with fossil fuels, income taxes.

In Albany, a Decision on Natural Gas Drilling Suddenly Seems Less Certain –

In Albany, a Decision on Natural Gas Drilling Suddenly Seems Less Certain –

Brown ordered firing of regulator who took hard line on oil firms – Page 2 –

Brown ordered firing of regulator who took hard line on oil firms – Page 2 –

State Democrats Table Votes On Hydrofracking Ban, Millionaires’ Tax At Testy Meeting | Politics on the Hudson

State Democrats Table Votes On Hydrofracking Ban, Millionaires’ Tax At Testy Meeting | Politics on the Hudson.

Election showed fracking’s key role in region

Election showed fracking’s key role in region.


In First Web Ad, DePasquale Talks Drilling | StateImpact Pennsylvania

In First Web Ad, DePasquale Talks Drilling | StateImpact Pennsylvania.

Natural gas industry spent $3.5M on lobbying in 2010

News – The Times-Tribune.

Natural gas industry spent $3.5M on lobbying in 2010

By Robert Swift (Harrisburg Bureau Chief)
Published: July 3, 2011

HARRISBURG – The natural gas industry spent more than $3.5 million last year to lobby lawmakers and state officials on a range of issues concerning Marcellus Shale gas extraction.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, a broad-based industry trade association; the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, and 22 companies report this combined spending in quarterly reports filed with the Department of State.

The lobbying disclosure reports document the industry’s growing presence at the statehouse and reflect the ways that public debate over development of the deep pockets of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation – its economic potential, environmental protection risks and impact on local governments – casts a wide net over state public policymaking.

Industry lobbyists were active during a high-stakes year when both the House and Senate officially declared their intent to pass a state severance tax on natural gas production with former Gov. Ed Rendell’s backing, but nothing happened.

The Department of Environmental Protection implemented new regulations last year to limit pollutants in drilling wastewater, strengthen well construction standards and require more disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process.

The Senate convened closed-door working groups, which included industry representatives, last year to shape plans for a local impact fee to offset the costs of drilling as an alternative to a severance tax. Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, R-25, Jefferson County, introduced an impact fee bill, and other impact fee bills have surfaced in the House. But House and Senate Republican leaders have now put off action until the fall.

While the Marcellus drilling boom led to a slew of bills dealing with matters ranging from greater protection for water supplies, a moratorium on natural gas drilling in state forests and state safety inspections of gas pipelines, only two became law in 2010. These are narrowly drawn measures to provide more public access to well production data and make landowners who lease land for natural gas drilling subject to roll-back taxes only for the well site under the state Clean and Green program.

The gas industry hasn’t been monolithic in its approach to the issues facing it. For example, some large Marcellus drillers were more quietly accepting of a modest severance tax last fall while the PIOGA – representing many traditional shallow well drillers – was outspoken in criticism of it.

The industry itself is diverse, ranging from continental drillers, diversifying oil giants such as Exxon Mobil, gas distribution utilities like National Fuel Gas and pipeline companies such as Columbia Gas Transmission all hiring lobbyists in Harrisburg.

The gas industry’s lobbying activities during 2010 bear comparison with that of another nascent Pennsylvania industry also under heavy state regulation: the slots casinos.

Eleven casinos spent more than $1 million on lobbying in 2009, a crucial year leading up to passage of a law giving them more business by legalizing table games such as blackjack and poker. A proposal to bring on potential competition to casinos by legalizing video lottery machines in taverns and social clubs was blocked in the Legislature the same year.

Tallying gas industry spending, the Marcellus Shale Coalition founded in 2008 led the pack in 2010 spending at $1.1 million.

The other top five spenders are Range Resources-Appalachia, $392,000; Chesapeake Energy, $382,000; PIOGA, $247,000; East Resources Management, $225,000; and Chief Oil and Gas, $186,000.

The total spent on lobbying by all interests in Harrisburg last year was $92 million.

The gas lobbying continues this year in a Republican-controlled statehouse. MSC spent $407,000 from January through March, according to Department of State reports. Range Resources spent $136,000 and PIOGA $14,000 in the same period.

That the MSC is the top spender is not surprising.

The coalition has about 200 full and associate members and is continually adding more, said Mark Holman, a partner with Ridge Policy Group, the coalition’s lobbyist. The membership includes a diverse list of companies specializing in gas exploration and production, engineering, construction, pipelines, water treatment and hydraulic fracturing.

A number of MSC members like Range Resources and Chesapeake Energy also run their own lobbying operations.

“Our industry is fully committed to transparency not only in our operational activities, but across the board, including our government advocacy, engagement and outreach efforts,” said MSC Vice President David Callahan in a statement. “The legislative and regulatory issues facing our industry are countless. And while Marcellus development is still in its relative infancy, we recognize that common-sense policies – at all levels of government – are imperative.”

And the gas industry’s lobbying ranks are multiplying.

Shell Oil Co. registered to lobby on Jan. 3 and reported spending $92,000 on lobbying from January through March.

Lobbying spending by the natural gas industry has ramped up quickly in just a few years, said Alex Kaplan of Pennsylvania Common Cause, who has done reports on lobbying spending and campaign contributions by the natural gas industry. The companies have been most active in the quarters when a severance tax has been considered as part of the state budget debate, he added.

“I expect to see more and more companies registering as lobbyists,” said Mr. Kaplan.

The flip side of the lobbying effort is campaign contributions to statewide and legislative candidates.

The natural gas industry contributed more than $7 million to these candidates from 2000 through 2010, according to an analysis by Common Cause PA and the Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania.

The natural gas industry has decided it’s better to spend money on lobbying and campaign contributions than to pay a severance tax, said Rep. Greg Vitali, R-166, Havertown, sponsor of a severance tax bill.

“That $3.5 million figure is staggering,” he added. “It isn’t the type of spending you would find from fledgling companies.”

The 2006 state lobby disclosure law requires corporations and trade associations that spent more than $2,500 in any quarter to register, broadly categorize how the money is spent including for office expanses and salaries and identify general issues they lobby on.

One category covers spending on gifts, lodging, transportation and hospitality. Yet a firm only has to identify individuals who received gifts worth $250 or more in one year and provide individual names when payments or reimbursements for lodging, transportation and hospitality for state officials, state employees and their families exceed $650 in one year. Many firms that lobby stay under these thresholds.

In 2010, Consol Gas Co. reported a $1,000 donation to the legal defense fund for Rep. William DeWeese, D-50, Waynesburg, facing criminal charges relating to the state attorney general’s Bonusgate investigation.

Alpha Natural Resources reported reimbursement to Reps. Jim Christiana, R-15, Monaca; Brian Ellis, R-11, Lyndora; Carl Metzgar, R-69, Somerset ; Mike Vereb, R-150, Collegeville and Paul Costa, D-34, Turtle Creek; and to Dave Thomas, an aide to House Speaker Sam Smith, R-66, Punxsutawney, according to reports.

Columbia Gas Transmission reported donations to senior citizen fairs held by Sen. Tim Solobay, D-46, Canonsburg, during his tenure as a House member; and Reps. Jesse White, D-46, Cecil, and Will Tallman, R-193, Hanover.

Contact the writer: rswift@timesshamrock.com2010 natural gas lobbying expenses

- Marcellus Shale Coalition: $1.1 million

- Range Resources Appalachia: $392,000

- Chesapeake Energy: $382,000

- Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association: $247,000

- East Resources Management: $225,000

- Chief Oil and Gas: $186,000

- Alpha Natural Resources: $160,000

- Dominion Transmission: $146,000

- Exco Resources: $130,000

- BG North America: $124,000

- EQT Corp.: $105,000

- Talisman Energy: $85,000

- Equitable Gas Co.: $78,000

- Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania: $75,000

- Consol Energy: $75,000

- CNX Gas Corp.: $59,000

- Exxon Mobil: $55,000

- Cabot Oil and Gas: $50,000

- Pennsylvania General Energy: $48,000

- XTO Energy: $41,000

- National Fuel Gas: $36,000

- NiSource: $36,000

- Anadarko Petroleum: $21,000

Newsvine – The Fracking Unknown

Newsvine – The Fracking Unknown.

The Fracking Unknown


There are many things the citizens of New York State don’t know about the Fracking for NG (natural gas) which is about to over-run the south central part of NYS known as the Southern Tier. But there is one thing which we do know; Governor Andrew Cuomo doesn’t think he can be elected President of the United States in 2016 if he is opposed by Big Oil & Gas. So he is bowing to the power of Big O & G by lifting the current ban on Fracking. Cuomo must feel that the huge amount of money America’s biggest dollar industry will throw against him will defeat him as it did Al Gore in 2000; if he stands in the way of their Fracking in the Southern Tier of New York State.

In 2000 Big O & G took George W. Bush, an unimpressive Governor of Texas, who was considered a political light weight and pretty much of a joke; and made him POTUS with their hundreds of millions of dollars. They conveniently provided him with Vice-President Dick Cheney, formerly the head of Halliburton the country’s largest G & O service company. After Cheney’s secret meetings with O &G executives, with Cheney in charge of American energy policy, Big O & G had the Republican Congress pass the 2005 changes to Clean Air and Safe Drinking Water Acts; exempting the O & G industry from key section and severely limiting the EPA’s investigative and enforcement powers. About a year later they announced the High Volume Slick Water Hydraulic Fracturing technique commonly known as Fracking. Big O & G needed the 2005 exemptions because Fracking uses millions of gallons of water mix with Fracking fluid which contains dozens of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals. This Fracking fluid is injected in horizontal shafts running through the shale beds in order to crack open the rock and allow NG to be pumped out, along with some of the Fracking fluid. A lot of the Fracking fluid remains in the ground; where it can flows to anywhere. The drilled vertical shafts which connect up to a dozen or more horizontal shafts run up and through the drinking water aquifers above the shale beds. Any leak or accident in the vertical shafts can contaminate the aquifer with Fracking fluid or methane (NG) which they pass through. When and if this contamination is detected the cost and/or technology to clean the water could be beyond our abilities.

Big O & G then went on to Frack in Texas, Arkansas, Colorado, Wyoming, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. In each place they Fracked there have been serious environmental problems. The wide range of these problems include; contamination of drinking water by methane or Fracking fluid; earthquakes and earth movement caused by the voids created and/or waste Fracking fluid injected under extreme pressure; surface infrastructure destruction; air pollution; gas explosions and a long list of other dangerous environmental, safety and health incidents.

Now Big O & G have their eyes set on the Marcellus Shale Play that underlies NYS’s Southern Tier. NYS has had a moratorium in place for over two years while it has been trying to update its 20 year old Environmental Impact Study to accommodate what is becoming known about Fracking techniques and chemicals. Unfortunately Big O& G won’t disclose the chemicals used in Fracking fluid, claiming they are “proprietary information”, despite calls for disclosure from the Federal EPA. Absent the public knowing the contents of Fracking fluid, it is impossible to test water sources for the chemicals in advance of Fracking. This enables the Frackers to use their standard “they were there before” defense when toxins or NG components are discovered in water supplies. This not being able to know the details of the dangers is the catch 22 of Fracking.

Among the other many things NYS citizens don’t know are; if as required in new DEC Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Study or SGEIS, the Fracking companies will comply with any mandatory (but not public) discloser of ingredients in their Fracking fluid to the DEC or lie as they did to the EPA in Texas. For twenty years Big O & G falsely told the EPA they were not using and dumping diesel fuel (which was banned) as part of the Fracking process. But when they were finally caught they confessed they were using it, dumping it and lying about it. Instead of paying a fine and decease from continuing the illegal use and dumping; Big O & G has used their economic influence with some Congress members to try and have the use and dumping of diesel fuel allowed by proposing more increasingly lax Clean Air and Safe Drinking Water Acts exemptions.

Another thing New Yorkers don’t know is; why Fracking is absolutely banned in the watersheds of New York City and Syracuse, which also have the Marcellus beneath, while in the Southern Tier the Fracker will be able to drill O & G industry proposed 5 to 10 thousand wells? Are the men, women and children of the Southern Tier less valuable, important or blessed than those in NYC or Syracuse? Or are there just fewer voters and mostly Republicans to boot. By banning Fracking in some water supplies the DEC and Cuomo is acknowledging the danger that Fracking poses to the water supply. What are they saying by allowing it other water supplies; that they don’t care about the health, safe or well being of some citizens of NYS? And when the greed of Big O & G puts up more money; will the rights and property of the residents of Onondaga, Delaware, Sullivan and Ulster Counties and even NYC be offered as expendable for political or career reasons?

When the first SGEIS was released by the DEC about two years ago, it would have allowed the issuing of drilling permits under the 20 year old rules; despite the fact that the DEC had only 17 inspection personnel for the proposed 5 to 10 thousand wells. In a NYS which has twisted its budget into a pretzel, cutting or limiting in almost every area of public employment to try to make it balance; how realistic is the likelihood that the necessary number of the hundreds (or even thousands) of new inspectors and other personnel will be hired and trained in order to adequately monitor the activities at 5 to 10 thousand wells? When it come to an industry which is notorious for playing fast, loose and dirty for quick profits, having the appropriate investigation, enforcement and oversight structure in place and well funded is paramount; but NYS ability and motivation is this regard is unknown.

A reasoned consideration of all the unknowns about the consequences of allowing Fracking should have lead to Cuomo extending the moratorium, if not announcing an outright ban on Fracking until at least the Federal EPA completes its comprehensive investigation and report on the dangers of Fracking, which is currently underway. However it looks like Cuomo’s political plans are in conflict with his sworn duty to protect the people of NYS; and his political aspirations have overwhelmed his moral compass. Cuomo has abandoned the vast majority of New Yorkers and have left us to defend and protect ourselves from those who would destroy our communities and way of life.

Fortunately the final chapter(s) of the struggle of the people of NYS to stop the Frackers and their allies from having their way is still unknown. We still have the right to vote and that enables us to do what we need to keep Fracking from ruining NYS. We can find fellow citizens to vote for who will respect and serve the citizens of their communities. Who, as representatives of their constituency in the State Legislature, can put into effect a moratorium or ban on Fracking, at least until we all know the results of complete and comprehensive studies. We can also replace Cuomo as Governor with someone who is only beholding to the citizens of NYS and not out to curry favor with, get contributions from and do the bidding of the likes of Big O &G and Wall Street Gangs. After a well deserved defeat in his re-election campaign, because of his turning his back on the well being of his constituents; Cuomo’s prospect of achieving his goal of becoming POTUS will be appropriately about nil. The one thing the people all across New York need to know and do know is that; if there is the will, there is a way to protect and save ourselves and our state!