"Toxic Spending" report investigates industry push for fracking

New technology in Oklahoma is allowing more oil to be released and could reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. CBS News

(CBS News) A new report reveals the chemical industry has spent $375 million since 2005, largely on limiting regulations of gas fracking. The controversial practice lowers the price of natural gas, which is used to build more complicated chemicals, its authors note. Fracking also utilizes chemicals to extract gas out of the ground, so the industry could stand to lose money if uses of such chemicals were restricted.

The study, entitled "Toxic Spending," was released by the nonprofit advocacy group Common Cause. It states that most of the spending went to campaign ads, lobbying, and campaign contributions. For instance, in the current elections, the industry has given $23 million to Super PACs. House Speaker John Boehner received nearly $128,000 from individuals and political action groups connected to chemical firms, many of which are reportedly impacted by fracking. Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, took in $80,100 in donations and benefitted from just over $200,000 in advertising. Rep. Gene Green, an influential member of the House subcommittee that handles chemical policy legislation, collected $50,100 and benefited from nearly $331,000 in advertising.

In an email to "CBS This Morning," Anne Kolton, a spokesperson for the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade group, disputed the report. "As one of America's most significant manufacturing industries, we have a significant interest in seeing good policies enacted that will encourage economic growth and job creation including balanced approach to regulation, a strong domestic energy policy and sound tax and trade policies, and we believe it is important to support leaders in Congress who share those priorities," she wrote. "We're proud of our efforts to highlight the good work being done in Washington to grow the economy and create jobs, particularly at a time when so much of the political discussion is negative."

In their report, Common Cause particularly takes issue with the Safe Chemicals Act, sponsored Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). The bill would strengthen the Toxic Substances Control Act, and the Environmental Protection Agency's hand in regulating chemicals. The measure passed out of a senate committee in July, which observers note is the farthest that like-minded legislation has gotten in 36 years. It was not, however, passed by the senate.

James Browning, Common Cause's regional director for state operations and a principal author of the report, says his group hopes to have helped lift the veil on the process. "By following the money, we see how and why the industry has been so successful in blocking attempts to strengthen the Toxic Substances Control Act."

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