Journalism in the Public Interest

Opponents to Fracking Disclosure Take Big Money From Industry

The Interior Department wades into controversy as it mulls whether to require drilling companies to disclose the chemicals they use to frack wells drilled on public lands.


(Photo by Abrahm Lustgarten/ProPublica)

Jan. 20: This post has been corrected.

Congress isn’t going to regulate hydraulic fracturing any time soon. But the Department of Interior might. For starters, Interior is mulling whether it should require drilling companies to disclose the chemicals they use to frack wells drilled on public lands, and already the suggestion has earned Interior Secretary Ken Salazar an earful.

On January 5, a bipartisan group of 32 members of Congress, who belong to the Natural Gas Caucus, sent Salazar a letter imploring him to resist a hasty decision because more regulations would “increase energy costs for consumers, suppress job creation in a promising energy sector, and hinder our nation’s ability to become more energy independent.”

A week later, 46 House Democrats followed up by signing a letter to Salazar urging him to at least adopt the disclosure requirement because, as Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., said, “communities across America have seen their water contaminated by the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process.”

"The public has a right to know what toxins might be going into the ground near their communities, and what might be leaking into their drinking water," said the letter, which was sent by the three initial sponsors of now-stalled legislation to regulate fracturing, Hinchey, Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo.

In the context of today’s roiling political and energy debates, it’s not at all clear who will win. But if money is an indicator, the anti-regulatory group has the upper hand.

A back-of-the-envelope analysis of campaign finance dollars contributed to the members of Congress who are speaking out on the issue shows that the Natural Gas Caucus received 19 times more money from the oil and gas industry between 2009 and 2010 than the group who signed Rep. Hinchey’s letter. According to data from Open Secrets, the 32 members against disclosure received $1,742,572. The average contribution from the oil and gas sector to individuals from that group was $54,455. Oklahoma Democrat Dan Boren, who co-chairs the caucus, personally received more than $202,000, including almost $15,000 from Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest natural gas producers in the United States.

By comparison, the Hinchey-DeGette-Polis group—which has 14 more people than the Natural Gas Caucus—received $91,212 from the industry. The average contribution to those members was $1,982, 1/27th the amount donated to members of the Natural Gas Caucus.

Requiring disclosure of the chemicals used to drill on federal lands would affect only a small proportion of gas wells drilled in the country each year—roughly 11 percent, by the Department of Interior’s estimates. In 2009, 19,000 new gas wells were drilled, adding to the 493,000 gas wells already producing in the United States. According to Hinchey’s office, disclosure on federal lands would set an important precedent, because that information would become part of the public record and, when combined with state-based disclosure rules, “would provide a great deal of useful information for those concerned with the risks these chemicals may pose.”

Traditionally, the exact recipes of chemicals used in the fracturing process have been kept secret by the companies to protect their competitive advantage, and the fracturing process itself is exempt from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The disclosure issue has become a rallying point against natural gas development in the United States because scientists have repeatedly said that they can’t thoroughly examine water contamination cases for links to drilling because they don’t know what to test for.

At least four states have already mandated some degree of disclosure of fracking chemicals: Wyoming, New York, Pennsylvania and Colorado. If federal lands are added to those states, then public disclosure of fracking chemicals would be required on roughly 40 percent of the gas wells in the United States. (It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact percentage because federal statistics don’t distinguish between oil and gas wells.)

The resistance to disclosure mandates on federal lands contradicts the public position of many of the oil and gas companies involved. Chesapeake Energy, the company that contributed so heavily to Rep. Boren, has repeatedly stated that it supports more transparency and believes the chemicals used in fracturing should be disclosed.

Nicholas Kusnetz contributed to this report.

Correction (Jan. 14): The original version of this story represented a statement made by Rep. Maurice Hinchey about the letter he sent to the Department of Interior as a quotation from the letter itself. The story has been revised to make the distinction between his statement, and the letter. Also, in the data table below, the contribution amounts for Rep. Boren and Rep. Murphy had been switched.

Campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, 2009-2010

Source: Open Secrets

To the: Natural Gas Caucus

Dan Boren (D-OK)
Co-Chair, Natural Gas Caucus
Tim Murphy (R-PA)
Co-Chair, Natural Gas Caucus
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)$57,500
Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO)$0
John Shadegg (R-AZ)$12,400
Lee Terry (R-NE)$52,650
Dan Burton (R-IN)$2,600
Frank Lucas (R-OK)$48,350
Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)    $19,500
Jim Costa (D-CA)$59,900
Christopher Lee (R-NY)$16,650
Jason Altmire (D-PA)$10,450
Kevin Brady (R-TX)$91,400
John Fleming (R-LA)$121,650
John Sullivan (R-OK)$124,800
Bill Shuster (R-PA)$25,000
Sue Myrick (R-NC)$21,000
Rob Bishop (R-UT)$17,750
Glenn Thompson (R-PA)$55,072
Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)$89,550
Mark Critz (D-PA)$0
Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)$7,000
Thaddeus McCotter(R-MI)$3,000
Denny Rehberg (R-MT)$35,550
Mike Conaway (R-TX)$132,100
Tom Cole (R-OK)$80,500
Gene Green (D-TX)$83,600
Wally Herger (R-CA)$7,000
Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)$49,900
Mike Coffman (R-CO)$44,250
Ralph Hall (R-TX)$48,750
Mike Ross (D-AR)$125,850

Campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, 2009-2010

Source: Open Secrets

To the: Hinchey-DeGette-Polis group

Maurice D. Hinchey (D-NY)$0
Diana DeGette (D-CO)$2,750
Jared Polis (D-CO)$0
Gary Ackerman (D-NY)$5,800
Barbara Lee (D-CA)$3,250
Howard L. Berman (D-CA)$0
Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)$6,062
Lois Capps (D-CA)$0
William Lacy Clay (D-MO)$0
Steve Cohen (D-TN)$0
Gerald Connolly (D-VA)$4,500
Keith Ellison (D-MN)$1,750
Eliot L. Engel (D-NY)$0
Sam Farr (D-CA)$0
Barney Frank (D-MA)$0
Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)$2,500
Mazie Hirono (D-HI)$4,000
Rush D. Holt (D-NJ)$0
Michael M. Honda (D-CA)$1,000
Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH)$0
James R. Langevin (D-RI)$0
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)$2,500
Nita M. Lowey (D-NY)$7,700
Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY)$9,500
Betty McCollum (D-MN)$0
Mike Thompson (D-MS)$5,250
James P. Moran (D-VA)$1,500
Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)$15,100
John W. Olver (D-MA)$3,000
William L. Owens (D-NY)$0
John P. Sarbanes (D-MD)$4,050
Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL)$0
Jose Serrano (D-NY)$0
Jackie Speier (D-CA)$0
Fortney Pete Stark (D-CA)$0
Paul Tonko (D-NY)$4,000
Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)$6,000
Lynn C. Woolsey (D-CA)$0
Mike Quigley (D-IL)$0
Chellie Pingree (D-ME)$0
Jay Inslee (D-WA)$0
Bob Filner (D-CA)$0
Dale E. Kildee (D-MI)$0
Donna F. Edwards (D-MD)$1,000
Steven R. Rothman (D-NJ)$0
Adam Smith (D-WA)$0

Correction (Jan. 20): This story originally listed Rep. Donna Edwards as a democrat from Texas. She is, in fact, from Maryland.

I would like everyone to watch my informative puppet show movie Puppetgas: and then visit for all the facts we have collected in 3 years that brings us to the conclusion that there is no safe or clean way to obtain or use natural gas by current unconventional means.

The financial records accompanying this article pretty much tell the whole story, and it can be summed up in one sentence: Politicians and industry are willing to poison people and the planet because they love money more than life itself.

If only those politicians who continue to take contributions from the gas and oil industry and support hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells had to bath in and drink the contaminated water created by this process.  Maybe then they’d think twice about putting profits before people.  This is truly the poisoning of America.  When will America wake up and put a stop to this?

Is this really the best representation we Americans can get? 

First of all, our elected reps willingly sell us out for peanuts. 

And then, the ones that don’t sell us out are so impotent, that the best they can do is to pretty please ask big oil to tell us what chemicals they are using to poison the water supply.

Why should one industry be different than another. Most of you with investments don’t want the government to regulate the investment companies. Do You? How many of you don’t want any reguls\ations on the big banks that have just been given billions of taxpayer dollars? The bankers and wall street brokers can do what they want as long as you can gain from it but you want the government to guarentee you safe water.

Nikkie Love Shefler

Jan. 15, 2011, 10:38 a.m.

This is why campaign finance reform is so critical. With officials receiving contributions of this magnitude from companies, government is just a formality. We may as well save time and hand our legislation over to the cooperate sector directly.

The best politicians money can buy.

  Oh, and don’t forget the oil and gas industry also has the best college/university consultants money can buy.

  Stan Scobie, Binghamton, NY

As I have said for years the 2 single events that have occured with in the past 50 years that have un-done this country.

1. formation of Political Action Committees

2. public employee unions

A quick question - How much drilling occurs in forests or grasslands managed by the U.S Forest Service, and will Agriculture Secretary Vilsack mirror any decisions made by Interior Secretary Salazar?

your article says one thing about about the money dan boren was given while the chart says another…

Another thing I cannot get disclosure on is if Carrizo adds radioactive tracers to their fracking sand to see if the detonations reached their zone.  They did dislose that they do NOT use Lamnipipe (for a less radioactive flowback).  I understand it is a common industry practice to add radioactive tracers…can anybody comment on this?  They are fracking very close to my sons school.  The Haliburton employees wear respirators (painter’s mask) to protect them, but the students outside do not get to wear these and I have asked our city council in an environmental rap video during the city council meeting to have a supply of these masks for the students…it is at the end of this video..

Bob Schmetzer

Jan. 15, 2011, 9:50 p.m.

The Supreme court said corporations are people. The power of the people belong to the individual ,not groups.These groups can be foreign investors. If the Taliban or Al Queda said they could poison an aquifer or municipal water authority, the National Guard would be called out to protect it. If these same people poisoned the aquifer by owning a major oil and gas drilling company, it would be OK , because they were investors. Where is the military when you need them?

Not only the Senators and congressmen take protection monies from oil and gas companies.  In Wyoming, many in the Judiciary are heavily invested in energy companies and do NOT recuse themselves in matters of litigation.Any suits against the industry are directed to these judges, and any challenge to their CONFLICT OF INTEREST, circles the wagons to protect the guilty. EPA and DEQ are complicit in that protection, and the hiding of evidence that would certainly bring public ire. Under the RCRA program, the public gets the privelege of paying ALL costs for govt. investigation of accidents, as well as the medical damages incurred by the affected populace. ALL records of costs get classified and disappear from view. The perpetrator skates, It’s a freebie…...... Oh happy day, aren’t we lucky

Ridiculious!!! Poison us you greedy bastards, that’s all it is a about is $$$ In your pocket…. Selfish politicians!! I am once again disgusted!!

Richard Whitley

Jan. 16, 2011, 6:36 p.m.

In answer to John Linko’s questions the Bureau of Land Management in the Department of Interior manages the subsurface mineral estate on all federal lands including the National Forests. The Secretary of Interior’s decision will impact National Forests. The Forest Service makes the decisions on surface management but BLM ultimately decides on operational issues related to drilling practices and subsurface management.  These issues are normally negotiated between the two agencies but it is not required..

Annie Lenihan

Jan. 17, 2011, 7:31 a.m.

In Flower Mound Texas, where there has been extensive damage by oil and gas, the politicians against gas drilling have been elected by a wide margin. Keep this list. Vote the politicians who want to poison us out.

Chenango County, NY

“Traditionally, the exact recipes of chemicals used in the fracturing process have been kept secret by the companies to protect their competitive advantage, and the fracturing process itself is exempt from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.”

This sounds like the same issue as the use of the disbursants in the Gulf: just take your governments word for it, it’s safe, even though we will not make them disclose the ingredients.

According to David Hawkings at ROLL CALL, This morning Pres. Obama signed an executive order telling all agencies to look for Federal Health and Safety regulations that are TOO BURDENSOME on businesses and that might be ROLLED BACK or REPEALED. Current practise of compartmentalizing different factions of the rules and regulations has led to inneffective, if not criminal lack of oversight and enforcement by EPA, DEQ, RCRA NRC, ETC.  This practise by FDA,USDA and others has allowed a breakdown in public protections that is unscionable. Inquiry invariably results in, “Our office doesn’t handle that part”, the referral says “that isn’t our purview”, the next says, “you can try this office” , eventually you come full circle,as ignorant as when you started. No one is held responsible for the action or lack thereof. Unanimous remedy from all agencies is, “You’‘ll just have to change the law.” IF the goal of this latest development is to consolidate the rules and regulations under one agency with stringent accountability measures in place, it has promise.  However, considering the calibre of state legislators and the end runs around existing laws these businesses have enjoyed; and due to unpunished judicial misconduct, sex and drug parties, payoffs, and backroom consent decrees with regulators, shifting costs to the victim/ taxpayers,(Medicare/Medicaid)  this step could quite conceivably give them Carte Blanche exemptions. Virtually NO rules to reign them in, no accountability whatever,  and ever increasing profit margins.

Dan if I know

Jan. 19, 2011, 4:18 a.m.

There is little mistake about the intent of what has and is happening with polluting Americas water supply and air, and poisoning our people.  It sickens me to think about where this industry and politicians are taking our country. If there is any question in your mind of the truth, see the documentary GasLand produced by Josh Fox.

James Thompson

Jan. 21, 2011, 4:51 p.m.

President Obama should Arrest these Politicians who are taking money to prevent the Oil and Gas Drilling Industry from telling the truth about the Toxic Drilling Muds they are Using, and try them for corruption!

Money aside, the oil and gas industry has done a poor job of addressing this issue. If people can start their drinking water on fire, those folks and the surrounding countryside need fixing. That has nothing to do with fracking or the chemicals used during drilling, completions, or gas/oil production. Focusing on this single chemical issue does not address the big picture about drilling for oil and gas. It has little to do with fracking, although that it is part of it.

If there was something to concentrate on it would be overall lifetime well integrity from top to bottom, containment (and proper treatment) of all produced water for the complete life of the well, and continuously transparent maintenance and treatment records for all wells, producing or not. In fact, many states have regs in place to specifically address that exact issue, most do not quite go quite far enough but it is a start.

This focus on chemicals injected well below any water tables misrepresents the problems. If you have “produced water”, the naturally occurring water in the gas or oil formation, containing ZERO added frac/drilling/well maintenance chemicals, contaminating your potable water—-then your water contains significant concentrations of salt, metals, hydrocarbons and a host of carcinogenic aromatic compounds, along with a variety of other deep ground constituents. The water that comes out of an oil and gas well, regardless of any chemicals added during its life, is NOT potable water! On the surface, uncontrolled releases, improper containment, poor water treatment, old tanks, and open ponds all pose significant hazards.

For those that continue to want disclosure, perhaps they have missed the list. Halliburton published and is maintaining a list of the chemicals right here…

Ignorance is bliss.  Daspot’s reply is the most intelligent post I’ve seen regarding this topic. Prior to replying, do a little homework.

With gas prices predicted at $4.00 per gallon by spring there will be more oil companies eager to drill for oil using hydraulic fracturing.  There has been some disclosure on the chemicals being used previously.  Visit:

Daspot,schnets,... I thought Halliburton was refusing to disclose, claiming propietary concerns.  Or is that just in certain areas?  I did peruse the site above, but question their forthrightness. The last I heard they were willing to resort to court action to even exclude EPA.
One of my concerns has long been, the weakening of rock stata and the possibility of not only rupturing water wells, but with the massive number of wells being fracked, will this not increase the possibility of eathquake hazard? It seemed no one was considering that aspect, I thought I was alone in that area, until I just watched the James Northrup video, at the Damascus Citizens site. Certainly am glad to know I’m not alone, and not just a whacked out alarmist with no factual basis. This too, SHOULD be a consideration. With the close proximity to Yellowstone, and it’s increased activity over the last 15 years, argument that nothing has happened yet, so it probably won’t, would be of little value,.... after the fact. How far the fracturing parameters extend is not an exact science. that can go unquestioned. Just how much weakening needs to happen before an unforeseen event is triggered? When it does, will any of these companies curtail activities, or will the blame be deflected so they can carry on with no thought of consequences or repercussions? Or just maybe, it will be too late to ask that question.
  Another point of reference, and includes the plan to resume in situ uranium mining in Wy. and S.D., once an aquifer is contaminated, they don’t have the technology to remediate it, despite lofty claims to the contrary, and promises all around. Clean water is not an infinitely renewable commodity tthat we can afford to squander.

There is an answer to corporate control of the government we rightfully own.  take a few minutes to visit:

and help us all take our place in history.

Why is this still a conversation? Even when the facts are delivered; eg. this article in the Denver Post clearly outlines the misrepresentations that continue to circulate in such films as Gasland:, no one is accepting the truth that natural gas is America’s way forward for energy independence.

Well, I hope the money that was taken will cover the lawsuits filed on behalf of the lives that have been ruined because of hydraulic fracturing.  According to the New York Times diesel fluid was used by the oil companies.

If you’re in favor of hydraulic fracking—how would you feel if your land was drilled?  Would you drink the water afterward? 


This article is part of an ongoing investigation:

Fracking: Gas Drilling’s Environmental Threat

The promise of abundant natural gas is colliding with fears about water contamination.

The Story So Far

The country’s push to find clean domestic energy has zeroed in on natural gas, but cases of water contamination have raised serious questions about the primary drilling method being used. Vast deposits of natural gas, large enough to supply the country for decades, have brought a drilling boom stretching across 31 states. The drilling technique being used, called hydraulic fracturing, shoots water, sand and toxic chemicals into the ground to break up rock and release the gas.

More »

Get Updates

Our Hottest Stories