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House Approves Bill to Fast Track Fracking on Public Lands

Fracking
House Approves Bill to Fast Track Fracking on Public Lands

By a vote of 235-187, the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday approved its latest giveaway to the oil and gas industry—a bill that would fast track the approval of fracking on public lands, according to Environment America.

The bill approved yesterday is one of three anit-environmental, pro-industry bills expected to pass the Republican controlled House of Representatives this week.

“Fracking is already wreaking havoc on our environment and health," said Environment America’s Federal Clean Water Program Director, Courtney Abrams. “America’s public lands—from the White River National Forest in Colorado to Chaco Canyon in New Mexico—should be protected for all Americans to enjoy. However, this reckless bill puts our special places and the communities that rely on them for drinking water and recreation at risk from fracking.

The bill, H.R. 2728, sponsored by Rep. Flores (R-TX), is one of three pro-industry, anti-environment bills that House is expected to pass this week.

According to Earthjustice, the bill, among other things, would:

  • Delay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s study on impacts of fracking
  • Eliminate baseline federal protections for public lands from fracking
  • Keep important data about water contamination from families living on and near fracking sites

"Today they’re standing in the way of important research into fracking impacts, keeping critical public health data from families who live near fracking sites, and eliminating baseline federal protections for this air and water polluting practice," said Jessica Ennis, senior legislative representative with Earthjustice. “This continued pattern of secrecy surrounding and de-regulation of the fracking industry has resulted in a steady stream of public health and safety problems—problems our leaders should be fixing instead of worsening."

The bill prevents the Department of the Interior—who's charged with managing and protecting federal lands for the public—from enforcing federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing and instead, deferring to individual states rules, no matter how inadequate they may be. The Natural Resources Defense Council's Bobby McEnany points out the bill's unstated purpose: to give control to whichever level of government is least likely to protect the public and the environment.

“With recent polls showing opposition to fracking growing even higher, and voters in Colorado approving a series of bans on the practice, the House Majority Leadership is demonstrating, once again, how out of touch with voters it’s become,” Ennis said.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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