WASHINGTON (AP) — The main trade group for natural gas utilities spent $290,000 lobbying Congress about pipeline safety, natural gas drilling rules and clean energy proposals in the first quarter, according to a disclosure report.
The American Gas Association spent 28 percent more than the $210,000 it spent in the fourth quarter of last year, and 14 percent more than the $250,000 it spent in the first quarter of 2010.
AGA, based in Washington, represents utilities that deliver natural gas to 64 million residential, commercial and industrial natural gas customers.
Pipeline safety has become a concern in recent months after a series of fatal accidents. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has launched a national pipeline safety initiative.
In addition, a natural gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has unlocked vast reserves of natural gas in recent years and led to low natural gas prices and expanded use of the fuel, but it has raised environmental concerns.
Drillers inject a slurry of sand, water, and hazardous chemicals deep into rock holding natural gas to create cracks through which gas can escape. The process has raised concerns that the fluid could seep into drinking water either when injected into the well or after it returns to the surface.
In late March, a bill called the FRAC Act was reintroduced in Congress. It would force drillers to reveal the chemicals included in their fracturing fluids and remove fracking's exemption from clean water regulations.
According to the disclosure report, filed April 20 with the House clerk's office, AGA also lobbied the government about ways to expand uses of natural gas. A proposal by President Obama would include natural gas as one of several energy sources that would count toward a goal of using clean energy to produce 80 percent of the nation's electricity by 2035.
Policymakers are also considering expanding incentives to increase the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel.
About 20 percent of the nation's electricity is now generated using natural gas. Slightly more than half of U.S. homes use natural gas for heat. Less than one percent of the natural gas consumed in the U.S. last year was used as a vehicle fuel.
Lobbyists are required to disclose activities that could influence members of the executive and legislative branches of government under a federal law enacted in 1995.