Responsible Drilling Alliance

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Common Cause Report

About Common Cause Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest. Today, Common Cause is one of the most active, effective, and respected nonprofit organizations working for political change in America. Common Cause strives to strengthen our democracy by empowering our members, supporters and the general public to take action on critical policy issues. In this spirit, Common Cause serves as an independent voice for change and a watchdog against corruption and abuse of power. Together with our sister organization, the Common Cause Education Fund, we employ a powerful combination of grassroots organizing, coalition building, research, policy development, public education, lobbying and litigation to win reform at all levels of government. Executive Summary of the Report: A faction 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 or “fracking,” a rapidly expanding but poorly regulated method of tapping gas reserves. Fracking involves injecting a mix of sand, chemicals, and water into a well at high pressure in order to break up underground rock formations and free up natural gas. Pollution may occur underground, with fracking chemicals or methane directly contaminating aquifers and drinking wells, or above ground, as streams or tributaries are polluted by spills or improper wastewater disposal. Nationwide, more than 1,000 complaints of water contamination due to fracking have already been reported. Natural gas obtained from fracking and horizontal drilling in shale deposits – a combination which produces massive amounts of toxic wastewater – will rise from 16 percent of all U.S. natural gas production in 2009 to 45 percent by 2035, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Despite the pollution risks, the industry has argued that regulatory exemptions for fracking are needed to give America the opportunity to tap vast reserves of natural gas that have been previously unobtainable, generate millions of new jobs, reduce energy costs for the American consumer, and dramatically reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. This is an impressive list—suggesting a “cure-all” for some of America’s biggest domestic and foreign challenges.

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