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26th February 2020
Published on Thursday, February 20, 2020
by Common Dreams

Over 570 Groups Endorse Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez's Fracking Ban Act as 'Essential and Urgent Climate Action'

"The path to a Green New Deal starts with bold action to restrict the supply of fossil fuels, and that is precisely why a ban on fracking is an absolute necessity."

by Jessica Corbett, staff writer

More than 570 national, regional, and local groups signed on to a letter Thursday endorsing the first-ever national legislation that would immediately prohibit federal permits for new fracking or related infrastructure and fully ban the practice in the United States beginning in 2025.

"At a time when study after study reveals the urgent need to rapidly move away from fossil fuels and onto 100% renewable energy, we write to express our strong support for the Fracking Ban Act," declares the letter (pdf), organized by the national advocacy group Food & Water Action. "As we witness increasingly extreme impacts of the climate crisis, the federal government must act to stop the expansion of fossil fuels."

The Fracking Ban Act (S. 3247/H. 5857) was introduced in the upper chamber last month by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a top 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, and in the lower chamber last week by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a supporter of Sanders' presidential campaign and the main House sponsor of the Green New Deal.

"The science is clear: fracking is a leading contributor to our climate emergency. It is destroying our land. It is destroying our water and it is wreaking havoc on our communities' health," Ocasio-Cortez said in January. Sanders added that "if we are serious about clean air and drinking water, if we are serious about combating climate change, the only safe and sane way to move forward is to ban fracking nationwide."

The legislation—which would immediately revoke permits for current fracking wells within 2,500 feet of homes, schools, or other inhabited structures and clearly states that "fracked natural gas is not a bridge fuel," as the oil and gas industry and some politicians have claimed—is co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.).

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is an extraction process of injecting water and chemicals into rock formations to access oil and natural gas. Advocates of a rapid transition to clean energy as well as communities near fracking operations have long voiced concerns about the climate, environmental, and public health impacts of the practice.

"Fracking has a devastating impact on public health at the local level," the groups' letter says, citing analysis from the Physicians for Social Responsibility. "Living near fracking sites adversely affects health and pregnancy, raising risks for preterm birth and low birth weights as well as asthma, skin and sinus conditions, and headaches."

"Fracking and related infrastructure projects poisons our air and water and destroys our public lands and wildlife," the letter adds. "Fracking has been found to directly contaminate groundwater, and fracking wastewater has polluted countless rivers and streams. This wastewater has also contaminated food supplies in places where farming and fracking overlap."

The letter also points out that "according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, greenhouse gas emissions must be cut nearly in half by 2030, and reach 'net zero' by 2050." Fracking for fossil fuels, the letter says, "has delayed a transition to renewable energy and contributed to dangerously accelerating levels of atmospheric methane."

As Common Dreams reported Wednesday, new research suggests that the extraction and use of fossil fuels may emit up to 40% more methane than scientists previously thought, bolstering the case for quickly shifting renewable energy systems worldwide. Methane is 84–87 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

"In addition to banning fracking and fracked gas infrastructure, it is critical to prioritize support for communities who have historically been harmed first and most by the dirty energy economy and workers in the energy sector and related industries," says the letter, advocating for "a fair and just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy."

Karen Feridun, co-founder of the Pennsylvania-based Better Path Coalition, said in a statement Thursday that "the Fracking Ban Act couldn't be more timely or necessary."

"In Pennsylvania, we are seeing a shift towards a second generation of fracking to support the production of plastics," she explained. "Communities still reeling from fracking's impacts of the past 16 years are being hit again as they find themselves in the path of the metastasizing infrastructure—and it's all happening with the blessing of elected officials on both sides of the aisle."

The groups' letter comes on the heels of a new Food & Water Watch report documenting the dangers of fracking. As Common Dreams reported, like the legislation, that report pushed back against the fossil fuel industry's framing of natural gas as a "bridge fuel" and called for a ban on fracking as part of a national transition to renewable energy through a New Deal-scale green energy public works program.

"The path to a Green New Deal starts with bold action to restrict the supply of fossil fuels, and that is precisely why a ban on fracking is an absolute necessity," Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Action, said Thursday.

"We have seen the toll fracking has taken on the health and safety of frontline communities," she said. "We know that it has stymied the growth of clean renewable alternatives. And we know that emissions from fracking are fueling the climate crisis. There is no time to waste: A ban on fracking is essential and urgent climate action."

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