The gas companies that want to drill in the Marcellus Shale all know, just like other businesses, that they must spend money in order to make money. In 2008 they contributed a total of $36 million to candidates in national elections, and spent $133 million on lobbying. In 2009 they spent a whopping $169 million on Washington lobbying, ranking just third among industrial sectors.
The gas in the Marcellus Shale has been there for millions of years. It isn't going to leak away. The gas companies are major financial players backed by money from all over the world. They aren't going to go away, either.
Because gas extraction can cause pollution, more environmental regulations are likely to be put in place. This is to say nothing of a possible severance tax to help cover the infrastructure costs incurred by our communities, and increased bonding requirements to make sure that taxpayers are not left holding the bag when the companies eventually close down their wells and depart.
Between January 1, 2008 and April 30, 2010, four prominent gas company political action committees - Range Resources Energy PAC, Dominion PAC, National Fuel Gas PAC, and CONSOL Energy PAC - contributed a total of $154,400 to various candidates. We're talking about candidates for the governor's office, state legislators, even judicial candidates.
Individuals connected with these corporations contributed even more. No one knows yet how much the gas companies are spending for lobbying in Pennsylvania.
The oil and gas industry has traditionally enjoyed sweeping exemptions from federal environmental laws. The most famous is the "Halliburton Loophole," exempting fracking operations from the Safe Drinking Water Act. This was put in place in 2005 when Dick Cheney, former CEO of Halliburton, was Vice President.
Most of the environmental oversight of gas drilling operations is up to the states. We may expect that the gas companies, their PAC's and their executives will be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on candidates for state offices, plus additional money on public relations campaigns to convince citizens that regulation and taxes should be held to a minimum.
We should remember that these are not local companies, and they will be here only as long as it takes them to get the gas out of the ground - at most 20 or 30 years. The Marcellus Shale gas can be a boon for our region, but only if we keep our heads on our shoulders, and understand the corporations with whom we're dealing.
Arno Vosk MD
Submitted by Virtual Newsroom