By Josh Kurtz
By agreeing to ban hydraulic fracturing in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and the General Assembly aren’t just making significant state policy – they’re going against the wishes of one of the top donors in state politics.
That’s the take on the pending fracking ban from the National Institute on Money in State Politics. In a short report issued on Thursday, the institute, which is based in Helena, Mont., noted that the energy and natural resources sector contributed about $4.5 million to state political candidates and committees between 2003 and 2014. The figure trended upward in the last three election cycles, the institute found.
Fracking has hardly been the only issue debated in Annapolis that has impacted the energy sector in recent years. Utility company mergers, renewable energy standards, offshore wind, and a proposed liquefied natural gas plant in the Chesapeake Bay have also dominated the debate.
“Some donors in the energy and natural resources sector do not have a vested interest in fracking, but many of the leading contributors would be impacted by the move,” the institute report said. “Constellation Energy Group, who spent more than $70,000 in 2013 to lobby unsuccessfully against a fracking ban in New York, gave $629,826 to candidates and committees in Maryland, making it by far that sector’s largest contributor.
“Energy giant Dominion, currently building a $3.8 billion natural gas plant in Maryland that has been targeted by fracking opponents, came in second with $323,350 in contributions. Of the top-ten energy donors, Constellation Energy and Dominion combined make up 41 percent of the contributions, and five gas and electric utilities make up another 37 percent.”
Even if the fracking ban represents a defeat for the energy sector in Maryland, don’t expect industry contributions to diminish with the 2018 election cycle in full swing.