PolluterWatch Blog

When Frackers Write the Laws, Everyone Loses

Andrew Cuomo

When the oil and gas industry gets to write the rules supposed to govern them, public health and the public good are left by the wayside. Unfortunately that is exactly what is happening with the regulation of hydraulic fracturing in New York and other states.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration has been accused of conspiring with the fracking industry to develop regulations that limit the states ability to oversee fracking.

Documents recently uncovered by Environmental Working Group show that industry representatives were given drafts of the state’s proposed regulations before they were released to the public.  Industry representatives then used the privileged information to lobby against commonsense rules, like testing for radioactivity in waste-water.

In other states, like Ohio, fracking laws written by corporate front groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have already been passed.

Currently, the major federal environmental laws regulating hazardous waste, air pollution and water pollution all have significant loopholes and exemptions for fracking. This is because the fracking industry has fought hard to keep regulation at the state level, where it is easier to influence and harder to enforce. As a recent report by the OMB Watch illustrates, state laws, many of which may have been written by the fracking industry, have failed to protect public health.

For more on the environmental, public health, and community impacts of fracking, see Greenpeace’s recently updated fracking page.

We don’t want the oil and gas industry writing the laws that are supposed to regulate them.

Here's why:

The fracking industry does not have the health of the public in mind. As Josh Fox’s latest video discusses, the oil and gas industry continues to publicly deny that fracking leads to poisoned water wells, though internal industry documents show that they have acknowledged and attempted to address the problem (unsuccessfully). The industry has even deployed military personnel and tactics against Pennsylvanians, which one company executive referred to as “insurgents.” Frackers want cheap access to the hydrocarbons in the shale, which means externalizing environmental, public health, and community impacts.

The frackers don’t care about American jobs, the economy, or “energy independence.” One of the most popular talking points used by the oil and gas industry is summed up by the bumper sticker “drill here, drill now, pay less.” The idea being if we allow oil and gas corporations to exploit our land and water to extract fossil fuels, it will benefit the average citizen by lowering energy prices, reducing independence of “foreign” energy supplies, etc.  This is completely false, as Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil will tell you. Companies involved in fracking want to increase the price of natural gas by exporting it out of the country.  They want to sell it on an open market, to the highest bidder, no matter who that is.

The fracking industry’s short-sightedness hurts everyone involved, including themselves. When the fracking boom took off a few years ago, the oil and gas industry treated it like a gold rush. Companies like Chesapeake Energy put every dime they had into acquiring land and drilling wells, while taking out massive loans to finance the expansion. The frackers produced so much gas that gas prices dropped through the floor, to historically low prices. Right now, these companies are losing money and can’t even afford complete the wells they have already drilled. In Pennsylvania there are 5,000 wells awaiting completion, sitting idle, as their well casings deteriorate. Like the bankers responsible for the financial collapse, the fracking industry’s ravenous approach to drilling created a bubble, which the public will pay for with toxic water and a landscape ravaged by heavy industry.

Aubrey McClendon, Rex Tillerson

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