Hydrofracking contributions to state pols

Our first installment of Joe Friday involves contributions made to political candidates and parties by companies with a vested interest in New York State opening up the Marcellus Shale to drilling for natural gas through a controversial process called hydraulic fracturing. A Common Cause recently released a study that tracked contributions from 2007 to October 2011.

While the Buffalo metropolitan area lies just northwest of the Marcellus Shale, the contributions have a Western New York flavor.

Here are the facts:

Natural gas interests made 2,340 contributions totaling $1.34 million to candidates and political parties in New York State.

Four companies – including two that operate in Western New York, National Grid and National Fuel – account for 65 percent of the donations. Like most other large donors, their energy interests extend beyond national gas.

National Grid led the pack with $275,722 in contributions. It was followed by Con Edison ($214,232), National Fuel ($193,258) and the Independent Power Producers of New York ($192,643), a trade association of more than 100 energy firms. One other company doing business in Western New York ranked No. 7 – New York State Electric and Gas, its sister company, Rochester Gas and Electric, and its parent corporation, Iberdrola. Their combined contributions totalled $60,432.

Andrew Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaign was the biggest recipient of natural gas money, a total of $153,816. Competitive Power Venture was far and away the bigger donor with $87,816. National Grid ranked No. 2 with $30,000. No other company gave the Cuomo campaign more than $10,000.

Natural gas interests invested more heavily in Republican legislative candidates than Democrats, particularly in the Senate. Contributions totaled $584,594 for GOP candidates for the Senate and Assembly, along with party committees, compared to $368,941 for Democrats.

Sen. George Maziarz, the Newfane Republican who chairs the Senate’s Energy Committee, was the largest recipient among state legislators. Sen. Michael Razenhoffer, the Amherst Republican who serves on the Energy Committee, ranked seventh.

Natural gas interests contributed $129,005 to candidates and political parties at the county, city and town level. Former Erie County Executive Chris Collins was the biggest recipient with $22,103. No other candidate received more than $5,750, and that was Paul Clark, the West Seneca Democrat who lost his party’s primary for the county executive nomination in 2007 .

Source: January 2012 report by Common Cause New York entitled “Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets: Expenditures of the Natural Gas Industry in New York to Influence Public Policy.”

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