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Fracking, Lobbyists and an oil company in Grand Rapids

July 30, 2012

The debate surrounding the issue of hydraulic fracking continues to be intense, with citizen and grassroots groups engaged in resistance to fracking all across the US.

At the same time, the Oil & Gas industry has been aggressively working their own strategies, which include manipulating public opinion and politicians.

According to a report by Common Cause that was published last November, the Natural Gas industry has invested $726 million in lobbying as part of a long-term campaign to influence public policy.

In addition to the money spent on lobbying, the fracking industry has given $20.5 million to current members of Congress. Other major findings from the Common Cause report are:

  • Contributions heavily favored current members of Congress who voted for the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which exempted fracking from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Current members who voted for the bill received an average of $73,433, while those who voted against the bill received an average of $10,894.
  •  Current members of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works have received a total of $1.4 million from the industry.
  • Current members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have received a total of $3.7 million from the industry. Chair Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) has received $153,917 from the industry and Committee member Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) is the single-biggest recipient of fracking money in Congress with $514,945.
  • The natural gas industry’s fight against regulation has gotten important help at the state level from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  As documented in an August 2011 Common Cause report, ALEC generates and lobbies for hundreds of model bills every year despite its status as a tax-exempt 501 (c)(3) organization. Prominent financial backers of ALEC’s activities include the American Petroleum Institute, ExxonMobil, and Koch Industries, owner of the largest network of natural gas- transmitting pipelines in the country.  
  • The natural gas industry’s political expenditures have been used to target supporters of the FRAC Act, which would regulate fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act and require disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process. For example, in 2010, the industry gave $3 million to American Crossroads which in turn spent $533,000 in an attempt to defeat FRAC Act sponsor U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY).

There are several members of Congress who have received hefty sums of money from the fracking industry since 2001. Michigan Rep. John Dingell has received $203,453, putting him at number nineteen on the top 100 Congressional recipients of fracking money. Dave Camp ($154,627) and Fred Upton ($153,917) are at numbers 30 and 31 on the top 100 list and Rep Mike Rogers lands at 51st on the list, receiving $109,146. Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow is also on the list at number 75, getting paid $81,489 from the fracking indystry.

Michigan oil and gas companies that have participated in buying political influence on the issue of fracking is led by DTE Energy, which has spent $2.8 million on lobbying at the federal level and an additional $2.2 million on Michigan State candidates and political parties between 2001 and 2010.

Here is a list of the top candidates, politicians and parties that have received funding from the fracking industry in Michigan from 2001 – 2010.

Grand Rapids Oil & Gas man pushing fracking

Third on the list of companies in Michigan that have sought to influence policy on fracking is Wolverine Oil & Gas. Their CEO, Sidney Jansma, has contributed $107,600.

Wolverine Oil & Gas is located in downtown Grand Rapids, at One Riverfront Plaza, 55 Campau, right near the blue walking bridge that connects the downtown to the GVSU campus.

Jansma, whose father started the company 60 years ago, believes whole heartedly in the process of hydraulic fracturing, a fact he stated in an MLive interview back in May. Jansma stated in that interview that he plans to drill an exploratory well near Delton in Barry County this year. Barry County is one of the areas in Michigan that was targeted by the oil and gas industry in the May DNR public land auction for future fracking.

The mission of Wolverine Oil & Gas is rather interesting and seems to provide an ideological justification for environmental destruction and profit making.

Wolverine will find and produce natural gas and oil efficiently so that God is honored, our environment is enhanced, and our employees are constructively challenged and well paid, and our owners and partners receive an excellent return on their investment.

Jansma’s religious justification for wealth also is reflected in his position as a member of the Board of Director of the Grand Rapids-based Acton Institute.

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