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Nation's Strongest Fracking Ban Bill Introduced to Protect Public Lands

Energy

Congressmembers Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, both Democrats, have made no secret of their strong opposition to fracking. Last December, for instance, as new rules were being formulated on the opening new areas of public lands to energy exploration and extraction, they introduced a bill to ban fracking entirely on public lands.

The Protect Our Public Lands Act would ban oil and gas operations entirely on federal lands.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

"Federal lands should be preserved for the public good,” said Pocan at the time. “We should not allow short-term economic gain to harm our environment and endanger workers.”

Today they upped the ante with the reintroduction of the Protect Our Public Lands Act, which they announced at a press conference in Washington DC. H.R. 1902 would prohibit 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 bill is being touted as the strongest bill against fracking introduced in Congress so far.

“Today is Earth Day‚ a time to renew our commitment to protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink and the planet we all call home,” said Schakowsky. “Our public lands have been preserved and protected by the federal government for over one hundred years. We owe it to future generations to maintain their natural beauty and rich biodiversity. I believe the only way to do that is to enact the Protect Our Public Lands Act, and I will continue to fight to see that happen.”

Schakowsky and Pocan were joined by environmental leaders, including Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, Hilary Baum of the American Sustainable Business Council, Andrea Miller of Progressive Democrats of America and Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. The legislation is also endorsed by Environment America and Friends of the Earth.

“Our public lands are a shared national heritage and shouldn't be polluted, destroyed and fracked to enrich the oil and gas industry,” said Hauter. “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 land, so that future generations can enjoy these special places.”

“We've seen fracking contaminate our drinking water, put our families health at risk and turn our treasured open spaces into industrial zones,” said Environment America's Sarah Frost. “Environment America applauds Representatives Pocan and Schakowsky and the co-sponsors of POPLA on their effort to protect our country's most precious and protected public lands from fracking. Some places are just too precious to drill and frack, and that includes our parks, canyons, and forests."

Co-sponsors include Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, who is the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline and California Congressman Mark DeSaulnier. All are Democrats.

The reintroduction of the bill follows the new rules for fracking on public lands, which were announced by the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management in March. Their release followed a comment period that solicited more than a million responses, including more than 650,000 supporting a ban on oil and gas operations. While those rules strengthened some environmental and public health protections, for instance, requiring companies to disclose chemicals used within 30 days of completing operations, Schakowsky called them only "a step in the right direction."

H.R. 1902 proposes to take another giant step.

"Our national parks, forests and public lands are some of our most treasured places and need to be protected for future generations,” said Pocan.“It is clear fracking has a detrimental impact on the environment and there are serious safety concerns associated with these type of wells. Until we fully understand the effects, the only way to avoid these risks is to halt fracking entirely.”

"Fracking is dangerous to human health, massively contributes to global warming and simply should not be occurring on U.S. public lands owned by all Americans," said Snape. "This historic bill will help lead us to a better future."

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