On Friday, May 6, 2011, the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee will hold a field hearing in Bakersfield, California entitled Pathways to Energy Independence: Hydraulic Fracturing and Other New Technologies. The hearing’s witness list includes several representatives from the oil and gas industries.
Rep. Issa: Favoring Special Interests Over the People’s Interests
- In December, Rep. Darrell Issa sent a now-infamous letter  to over 150 corporate lobbyists and industry groups asking them to recommend hearings for the Oversight Committee, and specifically, to identify federal policies and regulations they would like to see eliminated.
- Big Oil interests responded , seeking to roll back EPA regulations and streamline the permitting process for both offshore and onshore drilling.
- According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Energy and Natural Resources sector has provided Rep. Issa with more than $300,000 in campaign funds throughout his career, and as a result, it appears that their influence leads to policy recommendations that do not necessarily have the public interest in mind.
- Issa has targeted EPA regulations in a series of hearings since taking the reigns of the Oversight Committee. His witness lists have consistently been filled by personal friends and campaign contributors whose industries would benefit from fewer environmental safeguards.
Hydrofracking: Bad for People, Bad for the Planet
- Hydraulic Fracturing (Hydrofracking) is a process that releases natural gas from underground rock formations by forcing fluid ( a mixture of water, sand, and toxic chemicals) through a well drilled deep into the earth . Fracking has not been properly studied by the Environmental Protection Agency.
- One to five million gallons of water is needed for each fracturing event, along with 5-25,000 gallons of the undisclosed, toxic chemical mixture.
- Energy companies won’t disclose which chemicals are used in the process, claiming proprietary secrets. However, byproducts such as arsenic, copper, vanadium, benzene, heavy metals and radioactive material have been known to contaminate ground water and decrease air quality near fracking sites. Dangerous organic compounds are either burned off or vented directly into the air.
- The “Halliburton Loophole ,” which exempts fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act, was enacted at the behest of former Vice President Dick Cheney. This provision also stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to regulate fracking.
- Fracking creates a large carbon footprint, and the procedure will eventually produce more greenhouse gases  than burning coal. Significant deforestation occurs from the necessary clear-cutting and road building to prepare fracking sites.
- Poisoned rivers and aquifers resulting in reports of unusual health problems and wildlife die-offs have been reported in WY, CO, WV, TX, PA , LA, OH, and NY.
Witnesses: Representing the Wish List of Special-Interest Contributors
- William Whitsitt  is Devon Energy’s chief lobbyist. Larry Nichols, Chairman and CEO of Devon Energy , has personally donated $380,000 to Republican candidates throughout his lifetime. Devon Energy’s PAC has donated an additional $300,000 to Republican candidates in the 2010 cycle, with $11,000 going directly to Issa’s committee.
- Tupper Hull is the VP Strategic Communications for the Western States Petroleum Association , whose members include energy corporations such as Chevron , ConocoPhillips , ExxonMobil , Occidental  and Valero . This group of companies’ combined campaign donations to Issa tops $77,000 over the course of his career. McCarthy received over $100,000 in contributions  from the oil and gas industry in the 2010 campaign cycle alone.
- Steve Layton is President of E and B Natural Resources , a subsidiary of the New-York based Galesi Group. The group’s principal, Francesco Galesi , is a reliable Republican donor.
- Rock Zierman  is CEO of the California Independent Petroleum Association, whose top federal issue is fracking. Although they are technically nonpartisan and nonprofit, they donate almost exclusively to the GOP, including , since 2006, contributions of $16,000 to McCarthy and $4,000 to the final witness on the list, Assemblywoman Shannon Grove  of the 32nd District of California. Grove has donated $9,500  to Rep. McCarthy over the course of his career.
- The Independent Petroleum Association of America  responded to Issa’s inquiry to corporate lobbyists, and indicated their interest in rolling back EPA regulations and streamlining the permit acquisition process.
- The IPAA receives funding from a wide range of major oil companies, several of which are represented on the hearing’s witness list and have made substantial financial contributions to Darrell Issa and other members of the Oversight Committee, including fellow Californian and House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy, whom Issa designated to organize the California hearings.
Listen to PFAW's teleconference on the hydrofracking hearing below
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