Democrats Celebrate Earth Day By Proposing The Strongest Anti-Fracking Bill In Congress

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Democrats are making a big deal out of Earth Day this year, attacking the special interests behind the science deniers right where they live.

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Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) know how to kick off Earth Day.  As  members of the Safe Climate Caucus, the Democrats used the day to put forth what they are calling the strongest anti-fracking bill in Congress to date — one which would ban fracking on public lands.

The bill’s purpose is “To ban hydraulic fracturing on land owned by the United States and leased to a third party, and for other purposes.”

The Protect our Public Lands Act, H.R. 1902 prohibits fracking, the use of fracking fluid, and acidization for the extraction of oil and gas on public lands for any lease issued, renewed, or readjusted. The legislation is endorsed by the Food and Water Watch, the American Sustainable Business Council, Environment America, Friends of the Earth, Center for Biological Diversity, Progressive Democrats of America.

“Our public lands are a shared national heritage, and shouldn’t be polluted, destroyed, and fracked to enrich the oil and gas industry,” said Wenonah Hauter in a statement provided by Pocan’s office. Hauter is the Executive Director of Food & Water Watch.  He further pointed out that President Obama is speaking in the Everglades today, one of many treasured places threatened by fracking, “Ironically, the President is speaking in the Everglades today, a unique and fragile ecosystem that is threatened by nearby fracking on public land. Congress must follow Congressman Pocan and Congresswoman Schakowsky’s bold leadership and ban fracking on these lands, so that future generations can enjoy these special places.”

Rep.  Pocan made the common sense suggestion that we stop fracking until we understand the effects (this should be a DUH but sadly with oil and gas interests running the country, it is not).  ”Until we fully understand the effects, the only way to avoid these risks is to halt fracking entirely. We should not allow short-term economic gain to harm our public lands, damage our communities or endanger workers.”

Pecan’s statement cited mounting evidence that fracking is harmful:

Mounting evidence shows that fracking threatens our air, water and public health. To make matters worse, reports have shown that existing fracking wells on public lands aren’t being adequately inspected, creating even more potential for disastrous accidents. Right now, about 90 percent of federally managed lands are available for oil and gas leasing, while only 10 percent are reserved for conservation, recreation, wildlife and cultural heritage.

 

ProPublica has been covering fracking since 2008. In March of this year, Abrahm Lustgarten explained in a  ProPublica article that the new rules that the Obama administration had announced to dictate how energy companies could frack on federal lands were a “significant step toward protecting drinking water resources in some of the most heavily drilled parts of the country.”

The rules mark the first time the federal government has stepped in to enact protections to limit risks posed by a technology that has been both criticized for causing environmental harm and credited with making the nation one of the leading producers of oil and gas.

Fracking involves injecting large volumes of water, sand and toxic chemicals underground with explosive force that fractures the rock and helps it release trapped hydrocarbons. It has been associated with water and air pollution almost every place that it is practiced, and become a lightning rod for environmental opposition to domestic energy production. ProPublica has been covering issues related to fracking since 2008, including the gaps in federal oversight and the government’s consideration of ways to address it.

The rules exclude drilling on private land and apply only to lands or mineral resources directly managed by the U.S. Department of Interior, including tribal lands, which make up a relative minority of all the wells drilled in the United States. They fall short of some of the most stringent fracking regulations already in place in some states, but establish a baseline of best practices and update arcane federal drilling rules almost three decades old.

Lustgarten summed it up by saying that the new rules angered pretty much everyone on both sides of the issue. They were too much and not enough.

Since the President has the authority to instruct departments under his purview, but can’t make laws  – only Congress can do that, it fell to the Democrats in Congress to introduce a bit of sanity to our legislative body. Sadly, with climate deniers running the show in Congress, we are not likely to get any movement to protect the earth for our children.

The legislation has been “referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources”, in other words, it’s been sent to the Republican dust bin of fake rules designed to keep the minority from even bringing forth legislation for votes. But it exists. And it shows us what we could be getting done if people woke up and voted.



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