Capital New York
December 6, 2013
ALBANY—If the fracking industry is losing ground to opponents in New York, it’s not for lack of spending on lobbyists.
According to state disclosure records, the American Petroleum Institute spent at least $503,903 on lobbying and activites including educational outreach in the first half of this year. Constellation Energy spent $71,089, Exxon spent $62,167 and Shell spent $30,000, records show.
That far outweighs spending by opposition groups: Environmental Advocates spent $29,277 and Frack Action spent $13,817.
Yet momentum on the issue has shifted decisively in the opponents’ direction.
Oil and gas development executives found New York, where Governor Andrew Cuomo has held up a decision on whether to approve fracking, to be last among all states with fossil fuel deposits in terms of investor interest, according to a recent survey by the Frasier Institute, a conservative Canadian think-tank.
Internationally, executives found New York less desirable for investment than East Timor, Uganda and Niger.
The state’s principal industry group is financially struggling and has shed its lobbying and public relations firms in Albany to stay afloat after losing 20 percent of its members. The group, the Independent Oil and Gas Association, does not have the grassroots organizing resources to compete against the anti-fracking activists, its executive director Brad Gill said.
“It’s a lot easier to sell an emotional message to the public, they’re pissed off every time they fill up at the pump,” he said.
A recent Siena College poll showed a growing number of New Yorkers want fracking banned here.
And earlier this year, a Norwegian company that leased 130,000 acres across the state for fracking declared bankruptcy and laid off its remaining staff.
Despite the momentum environmental groups now appear to have, the expansion of fracking in New York will come down to politics, Gill said. And that can be hard to predict.
Cuomo has promised a decision before Election Day next year. President Obama has been a booster of fracking, which grew tremendously across the country since he took office. Hillary Clinton, widely viewed as the Democratic presidential contender in 2016, recently praised the country’s growing domestic oil and gas production at a speech in Clinton County.
But anti-fracking environmentalists say it’s different here, and that their organizing and publicity efforts—aided by celebrities and “Gasland”—have changed the equation in a way that makes spending less relevant.
“This industry was able to buy their way into every other state in the nation before anybody figured out what was going on,” said Katherine Nadeau, policy director at Environmental Advocates, a prominent lobbying firm. “Because of the people of New York, we turned the model on its head.”