The United States of Oil and Gas Interests?
By Kate Fried
Lawmakers worked overtime this week to justify the passage of a trio of bills in the House of Representatives that if passed, would increase fracking. With public opinion on fracking shifting from “huh?” to “meh,” Congress remains clumsily out of step with the people whose interests they were elected to serve.
Of course, this isn’t so surprising, given the latest set of revelations that the oil and gas industry is bankrolling many members of Congress. According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), oil and gas industry contributions to Congress rose 180 percent, to $12 million, in the last election cycle.
While the bills passed in the House this week weren’t introduced by any of the top ten recipients of oil and gas industry contributions, it’s not hard to imagine that that these sponsors may have recently had visions of checks from Chevron or Chesapeake Energy dancing in their heads.
How else does one explain H.R. 1965, a giveaway to the oil and gas industry that would prioritize fracking and other fossil fuel extraction on public lands over other uses? Sure, its sponsor, Utah Republican Rob Bishop, chairman of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulations, claimed he was just doing it for the kids. “If you care about kids, you have to provide this kind of resource for the Western states,” said Bishop. (Replace “kids” with “oil and gas industry profits,” and Bishop’s sound byte sounds a bit more plausible.)
Congress also approved a bill sponsored by Representative Bill Flores of Texas, the Protecting States’ Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act. It’s not difficult to imagine why this particular bill might favor the oil and gas industry—its name says it all. It would, in effect, strip the federal government of control over oil and gas drilling on federal land (i.e.: it’s own land) and give it to states that can’t adequately protect our public lands from fracking.
Finally, the House passed the Natural Gas Permitting Reform Act, which would undermine the government’s ability to effectively review potential fracked gas projects. As we reported earlier, this bill is a clear power grab by the oil and gas industry to build out infrastructure in order to expand its market overseas.
Ironically, President Obama has vowed to veto all three bills. No matter where the bucks come from, in the case, it’s pretty apparent where they stop.