The natural gas industry is laying out big money to convince people that hydraulic fracturing and shale gas are beneficial products, including $3.5 million in lobbying payouts in Pennsylvania and a national, public relations campaign.

A July 3, 2011, story in the Scranton Times-Tribune detailed approximately $3.5 million in spending by a variety of shale gas interests, including the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, and 20 other entities. The money paid for a vigorous lobbying campaign targeting members of the Pennsylvania state Legislature and other state officials on behalf of the natural gas industry.

Some of the expenditures, from the Times Tribune story:

At the same time, ExxonMobil has launched a new website touting the benefits of natural gas and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as it has come to be known in the parlance of our times.

From The Hill:

The site is a mix of text, animation and slide presentations touting U.S. development and defending the safety of hydraulic fracturing, which is commonly called “fracking.”

It involves high-pressure injections of water, chemicals and sand into shale rock formations, which opens cracks that enable gas to flow. Developing these so-called unconventional reserves is prompting a gas boom in a number of states.

“Water supplies are protected by proper well design and rigorous processes to ensure safe and environmentally sound operations,” states the website.

Exxon has bet big on natural gas. Last year it completed a $41 billion acquisition of XTO Energy Inc., a company that specializes in producing natural gas from shale formations.

The new website arrives at a time when environmentalists and some Democrats are pushing for new federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing.

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