During the Democratic presidential debate last night, both Hillary and Sanders had something to say about fracking, and it’s not about creating jobs, stimulating the economy, or maintaining our country’s oil independence. Bernie, who is famous for his one-line zingers, told the audience and debate watchers his answer about supporting fracking: “No. I do not support fracking.” Naturally, the left-leaning crowd at the debate held in Flint, Michigan, gave him a thunderous cheer. Flint has been undergoing its own ecological issues resulting from lead contaminating its drinking water.
Clinton, though, not one to get too off-message since many of her biggest campaign donors come from energy and oil companies, gave a more nuanced answer. “If local communities oppose it, if the drilling releases methane or contaminates water, or if fracking operators aren’t required to identify the chemicals they are using,” Clinton would oppose it. She said, “By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place.” Sanders scoffed at her by saying, “My answer is a lot shorter.”
Clinton’s speech is eerily familiar to then-Senator Barack Obama famously saying in 2008 that if you wanted to open a coal company while he was president, it would be a very bad idea: “If somebody wants to build a coal-fired power plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them.” That was in response to a cap-and-trade question from the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board. He also said, “Under my plan … electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”
He was right on both fronts. Obama’s use of the EPA to roll out staggering regulations has shuttered so many coal plants that many states have already reached the emission’s requirements of the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP was put on hold by the Supreme Court (at least until the states have a chance to litigate). That outcome will likely happen long after Obama has left office, but at least the “stay” is on the books.
Clinton also said at last night’s debate that the government needs to “regulate everything that is currently underway” and put a system in place to prevent “further fracking unless conditions like the ones I have mentioned are met.” That’s because the government has little say about fracking unless it’s occurring on federal lands. So far, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has studied fracking extensively and concluded that it is not a danger to our watershed. They said there was no indication of “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water” from fracking.
New York has completely banned fracking, even though it sits on one of the largest shale oil and natural gas reserves in the United States. As the debate heated up, Sanders said he opposed fracking across the board and said that “scientists … all over this country” have told him it is doing terrible things to water systems. Of course, there hasn’t been a single documented case that hydraulic fracturing has infiltrated the watershed that communities rely on, but that didn’t stop Sanders from aggrandizing these fictional consequences of fracking.
EPA also did a five-year-long study on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) that showed there was minimal risk to the watershed.