Biden Administration Breaks Campaign Promise, Lets Fracking Ban Proceed Unopposed

President Biden has promised on numerous occasions that he will not ban fracking, yet in a first test today the Biden administration refused to uphold this commitment, offering its support of a fracking ban:

“The federal government is abstaining from today’s vote. We respect the outcome of this vote.” – Brigadier General Thomas J. Tickner, Commander, North Atlantic Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (19:40)

After more than a decade, the Delaware River Basin Commission – the federal government and the governors of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware – voted on regulations today that will prohibit high volume hydraulic fracturing in the Delaware River Basin.

“I’m not banning fracking in Pennsylvania.”

Just four months ago, then-candidate Biden stood in Bucks County, which sits in the Delaware River Basin, and adamantly promised Pennsylvania’s residents and union workers:

“I’m not banning fracking in Pennsylvania or anywhere else.”

Today, now President Biden had the opportunity with the DRBC vote to stand up and demonstrate that this was not an empty promise. Instead, the Biden administration didn’t vote at all, and disregarded the promises made to union and working-class families across Pennsylvania.

While the president may not use the term “ban” or vote to enact one himself, since gaining office, he has placed an indefinite moratorium on federal leasing (i.e. a ban) and today showed he will support the efforts of others to prohibit fracking on private lands.

Pennsylvania dismisses science and experience.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) did take a stance, voting yes to ban fracking in 13 counties and portions of several others in the Commonwealth. While this fulfilled a campaign promise, it was far from a decision backed by science and the experience of the rest of the state where prolific development has occurred.

In fact, earlier this week Gov. Wolf’s proxy on the DRBC, Dept. of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell – who also serves as proxy to the neighboring Susquehanna River Basin Commission – answered questions before the state Appropriations Committee on fracking in the SRBC:

“Rep. Fritz asked if Sec. McDonnell believes that a state can have a healthy natural gas development industry and be responsible stewards of the environment at the same time.

“Sec. McDonnell said, ‘Yes.’

“Rep. Fritz noted that he represents Susquehanna County, and DEP has been monitoring water quality in the Susquehanna River Basin, and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) has reported no ‘discernable impact on water quality in the Susquehanna Basin. He asked if Sec. McDonnell can confirm that assertion.

“Sec. McDonnell said he believes that is accurate.” (emphasis added)

This aligns with similar statements made by Sec. McDonnell in 2018 shortly after the public comment period for the DRBC’s regulations passed today, where he told state senators that in regard to fracking, “what we’ve seen in the studies that we’ve seen are; it has been fine on the SRBC side.”

To date, Pennsylvania has had more than 12,800 unconventional wells drilled and produces more than 6 trillion cubic of feet of natural gas annually. This development has generated more than $2 billion in Impact Tax revenue across the state – a large portion of which is used for environmental protection and improvement projects.

Responses to the DRBC Fracking Ban

Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry CEO Gene Barr:

“We are extremely disappointed to see Governor Wolf vote in lock step with the other states in the Delaware River Basin Commission to ban drilling and activities related to natural gas development in the basin.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have been told by government leaders to trust the science. The science is clear: as both the EPA and other water quality regulators, including the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, have noted, there is no support to any claim that drilling results in widespread impacts to drinking water, rivers or groundwater. This was a political decision uninformed by science.

“Finally, the federal government’s decision to abstain from this vote is extremely disappointing, given the national energy security implications of reduced domestic energy development and President Biden’s stated commitment to reducing emissions and re-shoring manufacturing. With our economy reeling due to the pandemic and associated lockdown measures, and recent events highlighting how imperative energy production is, this is no time to let irresponsible voices carry the day and impede energy development.”

Marcellus Shale Coalition President Dave Callahan:

“It may be a good day for those who seek higher energy prices for American consumers and a deeper dependence on foreign nations to fuel our economy, but this vote defies common sense, sound science, and is a grave blow to constitutionally protected private property rights. The Commission’s blatant disregard for scientific evidence and bodies of independent research – including from the neighboring Susquehanna River Basin where continuous water quality and quantity monitors have shown no impact from shale development – further demonstrates the purely political nature of this action.

“We are extremely disappointed in Governor Wolf, who aligned with out-of-state interests to jam through a fracking ban that directly harms working-class Pennsylvania families. We were hopeful that President Biden would keep his vague commitment to not ban fracking, as he told Pennsylvania voters over and over. The Biden administration’s lack of action today, along with the president’s economically devastating anti-energy executive orders – which have already put tens of thousands of skilled union laborers out of work – does absolutely nothing to help America.”

American Petroleum Institute Pennsylvania Executive Director Stephanie Catarino Wissman:

“The DRBC’s decision to ban responsible energy development is entirely misguided and neglects consumers’ needs for reliable, affordable and cleaner-burning energy from natural gas, risks regional job opportunities, limits government revenues and defies private property rights. This ill-informed decision directly impacts residents in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware and ignores a robust regulatory system and strict industry standards that ensure the environment, public health and local communities are protected.

“The number one priority of API has always been to provide energy in a safe, scientifically sound manner while also having the least possible impact on the environment. Few places in the world are as critical to producing reliable, affordable and cleaner-burning natural gas as Pennsylvania, the second-largest producing state. The DRBC’s blatant overreach is a missed opportunity to harness clean and abundant natural gas to power our state and nation and support good-paying jobs in Pennsylvania.”

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