Propane and Heating Oil Dealers Out-Gunned By Natural Gas Lobbyists

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has been implicated in the contamination of groundwater sources with toxic chemicals used to extract natural gas. The natural gas industry has spent more than $10 million lobbying lawmakers in the last two years. (image: crisisera.blogspot.com)

Natural gas lobbying interests spent more than $10 million trying to influence Washington lawmakers during 2009 and 2010, figures reported to US Congress reveal.

In comparison, the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) spent less than a quarter of that amount ($2 million) and heating oil dealers spent even less, the New England Fuel Institute (NEFI) says.

The figures have sparked fears propane and heating oil dealers are being “outmanned” and “outspent” by the natural gas industry.

The lobbying expenditure was reported to Congress under the Lobbying Disclosure Act. It comes amid widespread controversy over gas industry hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” – a process by which chemically-laced fracking solutions are blasted into the ground to extract natural gas.

Recent studies have discovered high radiation levels, chemical carcinogens and other toxins in drinking water sources near drilling sites across the US. And a Duke University study into fracking contamination has just revealed potentially hazardous concentrations of methane in water wells within half a mile of some gas drilling sites.

The alarming findings have sparked calls for new regulations to protect human health and safeguard the environment. But the natural gas industry has opposed further regulation, arguing that state oversight is sufficient and that new limits could undermine production.

Natural gas is the most widely used home heating fuel in the US. The debate over fracking is likely to have led to increased lobbying efforts on the part of the natural gas industry.

Only last month it emerged that powerful Wall Street financial interests have spent nearly $30 million this year alone lobbing Washington on new regulations that could reign in speculative trading. Many commentators blame speculation for artificially driving up the price of oil.

NEFI president Michael Trunzo said apart from the amount spent on lobbying, natural gas interest groups had also employed more than 50 lobbyists compared to just 12 for the heating oil sector. It was unclear how many lobbyists were employed by the NPGA.

The NPGA is a national trade association representing all sectors of the US propane industry. It has more than 3200 members, from small businesses to large corporations. Its mission is to advance safety in the propane industry and to achieve public policies that favor production, distribution and increased use of propane gas.

Propane is used widely to power homes not connected to the national grid. It is also used as a clean-burning alternative vehicle fuel and is a popular cooking gas.