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A quick overview of the Trump administration's pro-fossil fuel agenda and its roster of climate-denying oil and gas cronies in cabinet seats could lead anyone to believe that matters of energy policy are more partisan than ever. And indeed, it's clear that at the national level, the Republican Party as a whole is still largely committed to an antiquated and thoroughly dangerous plan to keep the country hooked on fossil fuels indefinitely.

Yet suddenly, the old rules do not apply. Maryland's state legislature has passed a ban on fracking, which, with the blessing of the Republican governor of the state, is expected to be signed into law any day now. This twist shows fracking is not a partisan issue and puts additional pressure on Democratic leaders to actually lead to protect our communities or air and water and our climate—and oppose fracking.

Earlier this month, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) had this to say about fracking:

"The possible environmental risks of fracking simply outweigh any potential benefits ... I've decided that we must take the next step and move from virtually banning fracking to actually banning fracking."

It's Not Just Maryland: Florida's Bi-Partisan Ban Bill Moving

Now, for the first time, a Republican governor has listened to the science and popular opinion by declaring opposition to fracking. In so doing, he has not just toppled a wall of partisanship on the issue in the state, but also made it impossible for the undecided Senate Democratic leadership to do anything but pass a ban on fracking.

But Republican support for banning fracking is not just limited to Maryland. In Florida, bills have been introduced in both houses by Republicans with a bi-partisan group of co-sponsors to ban fracking in a state. The Senate bill has already advanced through its first committee by a unanimous vote and support for both bills continue to grow.

Maryland's Ban Another Milestone for the Movement

Maryland's ban on fracking will mark the latest in a series of recent milestones for the anti-fracking movement, each pointing to steadily evolving politics on the issue:

New York

The first milestone came when Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned fracking in New York at the end of 2014. Vermont had banned fracking earlier, in what was an important but largely symbolic political statement given that the state does not have gas reserves. New York, though, with its large swath of rural land sitting above the Marcellus shale formation (which also runs under western Maryland), was very much desired by the fracking industry. In response, Food & Water Watch joined with hundreds of local groups to form a robust statewide coalition, New Yorkers Against Fracking, that coordinated an unprecedented multi-year grassroots campaign to ban fracking there.

In the end, Gov. Cuomo was compelled to ban fracking not just by a thorough examination of the science and facts on the hazardous practice—which his Department of Health dutifully undertook—but also by the overwhelming grassroots movement that had emerged around the issue. A huge corner had been turned: For the first time in America, fracking was banned in a place where it was otherwise very likely to happen. Additionally, the anti-fracking movement finally had a leader of national prominence willing to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and say "no."

The 2016 Presidential Race

Another key milestone in the fight against fracking came with the emergence of Sen. Bernie Sanders as a potent political force in the 2016 presidential campaign. Initially dismissed by pundits and party insiders as a fringe candidate, the Sanders campaign steadily rose to become a legitimate threat to Hillary Clinton's political machine. Among Sanders' most popular and potent policy planks was his call to ban fracking everywhere.

Sanders' rise was another shot in the arm for the anti-fracking movement. His clear call to ban fracking may have seemed unusually bold to some, but in fact he was simply responding to the will of the people. By early 2016, national polling had clearly swung against fracking, with a majority of all Americans—and an even greater majority of Democrats—opposed to it. Still, despite his advocacy and the overwhelming support for a fracking ban among Democrats, the party establishment still managed to prevent the party platform from embracing a ban on fracking.

Democratic Governors That Still Support Fracking

Gov. Hogan's support of a fracking ban in Maryland draws a stark contrast with several Democratic governors who claim to have green credentials, but have been unwilling to listen to their constituents and stand up to the oil and gas industry.

California: Gov. Brown

California's Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, for instance has attempted to claim the mantle of environmental leadership in the Trump era, yet he stubbornly defends oil fracking taking place throughout his state, even as his own constituents, county by county, are steadily rejecting the practice.

Fracking is now banned in six California counties and grassroots campaigns are currently underway to ban it in others. Most notably, in November last year, voters in Monterey County took to the polls to ban fracking and further drilling in the county, despite millions being spent by the industry against this grassroots movement. This marked the first county in the country to ban fracking where the industry was already well-established. Not only did Brown not support the community in this case, but he continues to allow dangerous practices like the use of oil wastewater to irrigate crops and the injection of wastewater in to aquifers.

Pennsylvania: Gov. Wolf

In Pennsylvania, Democrat Tom Wolf was elected governor in 2014, promising to bring an outsider reform perspective to a state that has suffered the blight of fracking for years. However, while Wolf has pledged to continue to prevent fracking from being done in the Delaware River Basin, he remains committed to allowing and potentially expanding fracking throughout the rest of state even as residents fall ill and more and more water supplies are contaminated. His current budget proposal calls for a new extraction tax on gas drilling, which would make the state's budget dependent on the continuation of this dirty practice.

And, Gov. Wolf also continues to push additional infrastructure linked to fracking. Just this month his office released a study backing four new ethane cracker plants to support fracking for natural gas liquids in Pennsylvania. The report declared that these developments would also attract "a world-class petrochemical industry" to the state, provided there were sufficient pipelines and storage facilities to enable it. This will ensure continued drilling and fracking in Pennsylvania.

Colorado: Gov. Hickenlooper

Colorado is another state where a Democratic governor has sided with the oil and gas industry over the health and safety of its communities. Gov. Hickenlooper has a long history of supporting fracking and related activities. In 2012, he appeared in industry-sponsored ads proclaiming fracking to be safe. The following year, he sued the city of Longmont after it passed its own local ballot measure banning fracking. He won and the people of Longmont lost.

Most recently, Hickenlooper was an outspoken opponent of the 2016 ballot initiative effort that would have guaranteed local municipalities like Longmont the right to enact moratoriums or bans on fracking and enact a 2,500 foot setback to protect water, health and communities.

Growing the Movement

As it becomes increasingly clear that we need to leave the vast majority of fossil fuels in the ground in order to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, the Maryland ban and positive movement in Florida proves that fracking is a bipartisan issue. But with Republicans nationally denying climate change and several leading Democrats refusing to take meaningful action to leave fossil fuels in the ground, it's critical that we continue to organize and build political power in legislative districts across the country to fight for what we really need for the future of the planet: A ban on fracking, rejection of related infrastructure and a quick transition to 100 percent renewable energy future.

Republican legislators in Florida and the governor in Maryland are far better on oil and gas policy than so called environmental leader Jerry Brown. As a movement, we need to hold all these elected officials accountable—regardless of party affiliation—and highlight those who are taking meaningful action for the survival of our planet.

The White House completed its pipeline trifecta Thursday by rubber stamping the Enbridge-Spectra merger after approving the Dakota Access Pipeline and reversing the blocked Keystone XL pipeline.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved the deal without requiring the merged firm to divest a single inch of its 38,000-mile oil and gas pipeline network. The company will be able to exert market power to reduce output and raise prices on consumers. As with other industries, this mega-merger only benefits company shareholders, not communities.

The Trump administration is quickly fulfilling the fossil fuel industry's wish list. The American people will pay the price for gargantuan gas giveaways—higher prices, a dirtier environment and climate chaos. Approving this deal is a bad omen for future antitrust enforcement. It seems as though the White House has pulled the cops off the antitrust beat entirely, much to Wall Street's delight.

Sponsored

After years of campaigning against the fatally flawed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the deal appears dead.

The TPP represented the latest in a string of trade deals that put corporate interests ahead of communities, workers, public health and the environment. The broad-based, cross-border campaign tirelessly pressed elected officials to reject the TPP, preventing Congress from passing it this year. Without the environmental, labor, consumer, farm, faith, development and so many other groups that highlighted TPP's shortcomings and organized in their neighborhoods and communities, the TPP would have sailed through Congress before the early presidential primary ballots were cast.

Food & Water Watch was proud to be an integral part of this movement to block the passage of the TPP. Today, there is no path forward to pass the TPP in 2016. Late last week, the White House and House Speaker's office effectively conceded that the TPP's proponents lack the votes to pass the trade deal. We will remain vigilant to ensure that the corporate lobbyists that support the deal do not make one last try to pass it during the remainder of the lame duck congressional session or in the next Congress.

The lobbyists who are streaming into the Trump administration supported the TPP and the corporate trade model. We will reject the same corporate trade model masquerading as new trade policy under the next administration. There must be a moratorium on pending trade deals—including those covering the services industries, various investment treaties and the pact with the European Union. Instead, we must craft trade policies for the 21st Century.

We will continue to campaign to build a trade policy that works for everyone—both here and abroad. We need trade deals that put people before profits, communities ahead of corporations, workers ahead of Wall Street and farmers ahead of food companies. It's time for a transparent, inclusive and equitable trade model that prioritizes human and labor rights, environmental protection and consumer safety. The success of our campaign to stop the TPP shows that the people's movement can deliver real victories when we are united.

[For the latest on this case, click here.]

North Dakota has charged journalist Amy Goodman and filmmaker Deia Schlosberg for doing their jobs: reporting and documenting the peaceful protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. This string of arrests constitutes nothing less than a war on journalism and a victory for fossil fuel interests that have banked on the pipeline.

We call on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to act to protect the first amendment rights of those attempting to tell the stories of the water protectors fighting the risky pipeline. The DOJ must investigate the arrests of Amy Goodman and Deia Schlosberg at the hands of North Dakota police.

The first amendment is not only a cornerstone of our bill of rights, but the right to free speech and freedom of the press is critical to addressing our climate chaos. We need brave journalists to tell the stories of injustice that are occurring at the hands of the banks and fossil fuel companies seeking to extract every last drop of fossil fuels for profit—no matter the cost.

We applaud Goodman and Schlosberg for courageously documenting the peaceful actions at Standing Rock and call upon Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate their arrests and act to protect the first amendment rights of those attempting to tell the stories of the water protectors fighting this risky pipeline.

Sponsored

A new study out today from Johns Hopkins in Environmental Health Perspectives revealed associations between fracking and various health symptoms including nasal and sinus problems, migraines and fatigue in Pennsylvanians living near areas of natural gas development. The study suggests that residents with the highest exposure to active fracking wells are nearly twice as likely to suffer from the symptoms.

A natural gas rig side by side with homes in Washington County, Pennsylvania. B. Mark Schmerling

This is the third study released by Hopkins in the past year that connects proximity to fracking sites with adverse health outcomes. Last fall, researchers found an association between fracking and premature births and high-risk pregnancies, and last month, found ties between fracking and asthma.

What's more, a 2014 investigation revealed how health workers in Pennsylvania were silenced by the state Department of Health (DOH) and told not to respond to health inquiries that used certain fracking "buzzwords." Documents obtained by Food & Water Watch last year indicate the DOH was inundated with fracking-related health concerns ranging from shortness of breath and skin problems to asthma, nose and throat irritation, which were ignored or pushed aside.

While the industry will no doubt continue to refute the expanding science about the dangers of fracking, we can't afford to ignore it. The public health and climate impacts of extreme fossil fuel extraction requires bold leadership to keep fossil fuels in the ground and transition swiftly to renewable energy.

Today, Congress chose to favor the interests of the food industry over consumers' right to know what's in the food they eat and feed their families when the House approved the Senate's version of the DARK Act. The bill now goes to President Obama.

With this legislation, both the House and the Senate have voted to do away with basic transparency about how food is produced. They've also revoked a popular and clear state labeling law that is already in effect in Vermont, nullifying future state labeling requirements.

The majority of Americans support labeling for GMOs and will hold their elected officials accountable for stripping away this transparency.

If this bill becomes law, the food and biotech industries win what are essentially voluntary requirements. This so-called "compromise," does not mandate recalls, penalties or fines for noncompliance and many loopholes in the bill will likely leave many GMO ingredients exempt from any labeling requirements. The bill gives companies the option to use discriminatory and cumbersome QR codes that require a smartphone to access basic information about the food on store shelves.

We urge President Obama to remember his campaign promise to let consumers know what they are eating by rejecting this bill. This is his final chance to get it right when it comes to food policies that protect people over corporations. He'd do just that by vetoing the DARK Act.

I have to admit that for a few days I felt really angry and depressed about the outcome of the Democratic Party Platform Committee meeting in Orlando. Despite a letter from more than 200 party delegates calling for a ban on fracking in the platform, more than 100,000 public petitions demanding the same and a recent Gallup poll showing that a vast majority of Democrats (not to mention a clear majority of Americans at large) are opposed to fracking, the committee failed to stand up to the corporate power of the oil and gas industry. In the end, the fracking ban proposal wasn't even allowed to come up for a vote.

Although this is disappointing, our work doesn't change. We must organize, organize, organize and build a grassroots movement so strong and diverse we are able to elect national leaders that reflect our progressive ideals and will fight for worthy policies. And of course we must then hold these individuals accountable.

In the meantime, progress is being made. Democratic Platform Committee members voted in favor of an historic amendment categorizing climate change as a global emergency requiring a World War II-scale mobilization. It's our job to keep fighting for policies that will keep fossil fuels in the ground and end the fracking nightmare. It will be up to each of us to keep demanding that those in power—regardless of political party—take the needed steps to seriously address our impending climate crisis.

To be clear, here's what the Democratic Party platform needed to do that it didn't do:

  • Call for a national ban on fracking, the dangerous method of oil and natural gas extraction responsible for a majority of American fossil fuel production.
  • Call for a halt to the construction of oil and gas pipelines and other infrastructure that is scarring the country, impacting land, waterways and communities.
  • Call for a halt to all fossil fuel extraction on federal lands—to Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground—in order to avoid the biggest impacts of climate change.
  • Call for challenging corporate power. The committee rejected several amendments that would have addressed this critical issue including one amendment that would stop the revolving door between industry and government employment.

These Democratic Party failures clearly explain why I will be marching in the streets of Philadelphia on July 24, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, to raise up clear, bold, urgent demands—demands that must be met if we are to avoid the worst and most disruptive climate consequences. We want fracking banned, fossil fuels left in the ground, the TPP rejected, environmental justice for all and a quick, just transition to 100 percent renewable energy.

That's what the Clean Energy Revolution requires and we demand that it happen now. Join me in Philadelphia.

[Editor's note: Read the latest here.]

Today, in a cloture vote, the Senate voted to do away with our right to know what's in our food, revoking a popular and clear state labeling law in effect inVermont and nullifying all future state labeling initiatives.

This is a slap in the face for all of the advocates that have worked hard to pass state-level measures because they believe strongly that labels should be transparent, and people should have the choice to decide whether or not they purchase and consume foods with genetically engineered ingredients. The majority of Americans support labeling for GMOs and will hold their elected officials accountable for stripping away this transparency.

If this bill becomes law, the industry wins what are essentially voluntary requirements under this GMO labeling "compromise," which does not mandate recalls, penalties or fines for noncompliance with the incredibly weak requirements of the bill that will likely leave many GMO ingredients exempt from any labeling requirements. And the bill gives companies the option to use discriminatory QR codes that require a smartphone to access basic information about the food on store shelves.

Now, we call on the House not to pass the bill. We also call on President Obama to veto the bill if it comes to his desk. On the campaign trail many years ago, he promised reform on many food issues—from giving family farmers a fair shot in the marketplace to food labeling, saying we had the right to know whether or not food is genetically engineered. Before he leaves office, he has one more chance to get it right when it comes to food policy that protects people over corporations. He must veto this bill.

Watch as Senators John Tester (D-MT) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) speak out today against the Senate GMO food labeling bill, with Senator Tester arguing that including the label as a QR code protects corporate food producers over consumers:

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