NEW YORK, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The natural gas industry, hoping for New York approval of hydrofracking, has donated $1.34 million to state politicians and their parties, a study shows.
The donations span the last four years as lawmakers and state officials debated allowing the controversial hydraulic fracturing drilling process in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation in upstate New York, Common Cause New York said in its report released Tuesday.
"Hydraulic fracturing has raised environmental questions, and now financial ones, about the influence of the natural gas industry over state lawmakers and public policy," Common Cause Executive Director Susan Lerner told the New York Daily News.
"New Yorkers need to be assured that such a controversial issue will be decided based on merit, not money," she said.
Common Cause said most of the gas industry donations, nearly 75 percent, went to candidates for state legislature, both Republicans and Democrats.
A spokesman for the Independent Oil and Gas Association defended the donations as necessary to compete against a well-funded lobbying effort by environmentalists and anti-fracking groups.
The process is safe and can provide a much-needed energy source to the nation, spokesman James Smith said, while also providing an economic boost for struggling upstate communities.
Fracking opponents say they have concerns it will pollute local water sources and damage the surrounding environment.