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Energy companies are the new big spenders in New York State. Their goal? To make sure people understand ‘fracking’ isn’t as bad as it sounds.
A new story in The New York Times details the industry’s push to influence politicians and regulators. New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo is in the last throes of trying to decide where and whether to allow hydrofracking, and so far drilling companies have dropped $3.2 million on lobbying the government alone since the beginning of 2010. And that’s not even counting hundreds of thousand of dollars in campaign contributions and broad advertising campaigns.
The controversial natural gas extraction process that involves shooting sand, water and chemicals is dangerous and harmful to water supplies, according to environmentalists, who are making their own push on the issue with far less money. States like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, and North Carolina have also seen a huge influx of industry cash as companies try to influence whether and how states allow the form of natural gas extraction.
“I know that the temperature is high,” said Gov. Cuomo recently, according to the Times. “We have a process. Let’s get the facts. Let the science and the facts make the determination, not emotion and not politics.”
But some have criticized New York’s Democratic governor, saying that allowing just 90 days for public discussion on proposals for drilling is an attempt to actually circumvent real scientific scrutiny and push through an approval to start drilling.
Meanwhile the issue is heating up in other and at the federal level. The Associated Press reports that Colorado municipalities are debating whether to make companies disclose the chemicals they are using (some have resisted, saying it’s a “trade secret”). And just this week, the Environmental Protection Agency said it would consider similar requirements at the federal level.
But many still fear a long and protracted political ground war over the issue, with environmental issues and large amounts of money from natural gas companies splitting communities and pitting residents against one another. A recent in-depth episode of Public Radio International’s “This American Life” tackled both huge influx of money and the local impact from fracking, profiling the community of Mt. Pleasant, Penn., where a natural gas company leased 95 percent of the township’s land for drilling. New York’s communities may soon have similar stories to tell.