According to a new report published by Common Cause, a nonprofit government watchdog group, Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, is one of the top 100 recipients of campaign funds from the natural gas industry.
As the study reports, natural gas interests have spent “more than $747 million during a 10-year campaign … to avoid government regulation of hydraulic ‘fracking,’ a fast-growing and environmentally risky process” that aims to tap underground gas reserves.
The toxic chemicals commonly used during fracking procedures can enter an area’s underground drinking water supply or later be dumped as wastewater into waterways around the country.
“A faction of the natural gas industry has directed more than $20 million to the campaigns of current members of Congress,” reads the report, “and put $726 million into lobbying aimed at shielding itself from oversight. ”
Mica, number 89 on the list of top contributors, received a total of $67,600 from natural gas interests. The vast majority of that ($57,500) came from PACs, while $10,100 came from individuals working for the industry.
According to the report, many of the natural gas industry’s political donations favor lawmakers, like Mica, who supported the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which exempted fracking from regulations under the Safe Drinking Act. A resolution that aims to repeal that exemption (and thus require the contents of fracking fluids to be publicly disclosed) was recently introduced in the House, by Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Co. The resolution has 63 co-sponsors, Mica not among them.
“Players in this industry have pumped cash into Congress in the same way they pump toxic chemicals into underground rock formations to free trapped gas,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar in a press release. “And as fracking for gas releases toxic chemicals into groundwater and streams, the industry’s political fracking for support is toxic to efforts for a cleaner environment and relief from our dependence on fossil fuels.”
The Environmental Protection Agency is slated to publish new findings on the potential dangers of fracking in 2012. The forthcoming report, which could shape public opinion about the practice, is likely an incentive for the industry to pump more money into campaigns before the New Year.