Fracking Industry Sponsors Lunch to Woo State Legislators
As state legislators from around the country meet in Chicago today, their schedule includes a lunch sponsored by the American Natural Gas Association, with speakers expected to present an all-too rosy picture of the gas drilling boom. Noting the absence of an opposing view on the weeklong agenda of the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), Environment America cautioned legislators about the destructive impacts of high-volume hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).
“Not every legislator is swallowing the fracking happy meal being served at lunch today,” observed John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment America, a federation of state-based, citizen supported organizations. “Some are now looking at the facts and choosing clean drinking water over dirty gas drilling.”
Proposals to rein in fracking are gaining ground in the states. Environment America noted the courage of several legislators who have worked to confront the threat of fracking—including:
- New Jersey—Sens. Bob Gordon and Jen Beck, whose bill banning fracking waste was overwhelmingly approved in both chambers and now sits with Gov. Chris Christie.
- North Carolina—Rep. Pricey Harrison, who has been a leader in the fight to keep North Carolina free from fracking.
- New York—Speaker Sheldon Silver, Assemblyman Robert Sweeney and Sen. Tony Avella for their numerous efforts to keep all of New York frack-free.
- Illinois—Reps. Karen May and Naomi Jakobbson, sponsor of a fracking moratorium bill which passed the House Environmental Health Committee this spring.
In addition, this year Colorado legislators rebuffed efforts to strip local authority over fracking, and the Vermont legislature banned fracking altogether. A new moratorium bill has been introduced in California as well.
“With fracking exempt from several national environmental laws, state legislators are on the frontlines of the dirty drilling debate,” Rumpler observed. “No wonder the oil and gas industry is serving them lunch.”
Environment America urged legislators to look at the actual damage done by fracking, especially to drinking water. For example, fracking wastewater—often laced with benzene, heavy metals and even radioactive material—has contaminated drinking water sources from Pennsylvania to New Mexico. In addition, fracking operations have turned forest acres into industrial zones, made families sick with air pollution and threatened public safety with wellhead explosions and earthquake risks.
As the legislators gather in Chicago, the fracking debate looms large in Illinois.
“Today, legislators are hearing glib and glowing talk of gas,” cautioned Max Muller, advocate for Environment Illinois. “But the damage done by fracking in other states is appalling. For our drinking water alone, we should keep Illinois free from fracking.”