Vitali Report: Gas industry influence costs taxpayers money, affects public health and the environment

HARRISBURG, Feb. 10 – The natural-gas industry in Pennsylvania spent more than $7 million last year in lobbying expenses and more than $62 million in lobbing expenses since 2007 to influence the Pennsylvania Legislature, according to state Rep. Greg Vitali’s recent report: “Marcellus Money and the Pennsylvania Legislature.”

Vitali presented his findings in the state Capitol today.

“Gas industry influence has prevented such things as the enactment of a reasonable severance tax on gas drilling and the enactment of commonsense regulations to make conventional gas drilling more protective of public health and the environment,” said Vitali, D-Delaware.

Vitali’s report, which used research from Common Cause of Pennsylvania as a starting point, analyzed the most recent campaign reports, lobbying reports, and ethics statements relating to natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania.

One finding shows that there are 203 lobbyists registered as working for the natural-gas industry in Pennsylvania – equal the number of state House lawmakers.

According to the report, the natural-gas industry gave $883,181 in campaign contributions to Pennsylvania legislators and their political action committees in 2016, with Consol Energy topping the list of contributors at $136,200. Most of the money went to House and Senate Republican leadership because they control the flow of legislation in Harrisburg, Vitali said.

Pennsylvania will lose approximately $153.4 million in 2016 by not having a natural-gas severance tax, according to the state Department of Revenue.

“Commonsense regulations relating to conventional gas drilling have been stymied for the last five years due to the undue influence of the gas industry,” Vitali said. “These regulations would reduce drilling mishaps, protect water-quality standards and allow for the quicker and better clean-up of spills.”

Among the changes to current campaign finance and lobbying laws recommended by Vitali were limits on the amounts of political contributions, the banning of gifts by lobbyists and improving the search capabilities of the Pennsylvania Department of State campaign finance database.

Pennsylvania is one of just 11 states that do not set limits on campaign contributions and one of only 10 states that allow gifts from lobbyists.

The full report can be viewed at www.pahouse.com/Vitali/Marcellus_Report/.