Exxon Contributes $86,000 To ALEC, Which Then Helps Promote Weak Fracking Regulations

By Jessica Goad

As the New York Times reported last month, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing corporate front group, has been behind various efforts to enact watered down state regulations for the natural gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

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The Times noted that ALEC’s model legislation being shopped to state legislators was sponsored by Exxon Mobil. And now, new documents show how Exxon’s donations to ALEC match up with the timing of the development of fracking legislation.

According to Exxon’s 2011 corporate giving report, ALEC was listed as the recipient of $86,500:

American Legislative Exchange Council, Washington, D.C.

– General Support: 74,000

ALEC States and Nation Policy Summit: 12,500

The “ALEC States and Nation Policy Summit,” to which Exxon gave $12,500, took place in Scottsdale, Arizona, in December 2011. And according to both the Times and an ALEC blog, the hydraulic fracturing disclosure language was approved by the organization as a model bill in December 2011.

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At issue is whether natural gas companies should be required to inform the public about the type of chemicals being pumped underground to facilitate the extraction of gas. Some of those chemicals are known or suspected carcinogens. At first glance Exxon and ALEC’s sponsorship of fracking disclosure laws seems commendable; however, a closer glance reveals that the legislation actually contains serious loopholes for companies wanting to protect “trade secrets.”

Ohio is “in the final stages” of enacting regulations address hydraulic fracturing chemical disclosure. But as Connor Gibson at Nation of Change notes:

At least 33 of the 45 Ohio legislators who co-sponsored SB 315 are ALEC members, and language from portions of the state Senate bill is similar to ALEC’s “Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition Act.”

Exxon is the largest producer of natural gas in the country, a position solidified after its purchase of natural gas company XTO in 2010.