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Texas Politicians Come Under Fire For Fracking Lobby Donations

According to a recent report, Rep. Joe Barton and Sen. John Cornyn were the top recipients of campaign contributions from companies involved in hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” According to the Common Cause report, “Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets,” which ranked 100 top recipients of the fracking lobby, Barton received $514,945 from Jan. 1, 2001, through June 30, 2011, while Cornyn received $417,556. Sources say the information was collected from federal election reports.

Reportedly, all four GOP members who represent portions of Tarrant County made the list. In addition to Barton, Rep. Michael Burgess of Lewisville ranked 55th, at $103,450; Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth was 68th with $87,829; and Rep. Kenny Marchant of Coppell was 99th with $64,200. Sources say Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, was 92nd with $66,270.

According to Common Cause President Bob Eagar, “[p]layers in this industry have pumped cash into Congress in the same way they pump toxic chemicals into underground rock formations to free trapped gas, and as fracking for gas releases toxic chemicals into groundwater, action of the natural gas industry has invested more than $747 million as part of a 10-year lobbying and political spending campaign to persuade federal authorities to ignore the dangers of hydraulic fracturing.”

Reportedly, Rep. Barton responded to the report, saying he is proud to support companies that develop oil and gas in Texas. Sources say Rep. Barton stated, “[I] have always been a proponent of a rational domestic energy development program. Hydraulic fracturing isn’t nearly as dangerous as this report by a liberal group would have you believe. Trust me, I know. There are gas wells near my home that have used the process. I would not have allowed it if I thought it put my family’s health or anyone else’s in danger.”

Reportedly, during part of the 10-year period, Barton was chairman and then-ranking Republican of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Sources say after failing to get House Speaker John Boehner’s support for a waiver from term limits, he is now the panel’s chairman emeritus, an honorary title.

Further, according to the report, the natural gas industry’s political expenditures are targeted to stop the FRAC Act, which would regulate fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act and require disclosure of chemicals used in the process.

Industry sources say in fracking, a mix of sand, chemicals, and water is pumped into wells at high pressure to crack underground rock formations to reach natural gas deposits. Critics of the process have warned of the dangers of pollution in drinking water.