Obama Administration Sacrificing Taxpayers and Rural America to Oil and Gas Industry Profits
Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
Washington, D.C.– “It is no surprise that Secretary Vilsack suddenly announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will reverse course and not require environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) before issuing government-backed mortgages to individuals who have leased their land for oil and gas fracking. Throughout the rancorous debate on fracking, the Obama Administration has signaled it will put the interests of the oil and gas industry ahead of the welfare of rural communities and U.S. taxpayers.
“USDA should not grant their mortgage loans a categorical exemption under NEPA on properties with fracking leases at the same time that banks are showing more caution about the potential risks involved in taking on these loans.
“Fracking can and does reduce property values on land with wells and neighboring properties, which could leave the USDA and ultimately the taxpayers responsible for situations in which the debt exceeds the property value. The potential liability from spills, leaks or other pollution could fall to the lender, ultimately U.S. taxpayers, for any USDA-backed borrowers that default on these loans.
“The USDA’s weak explanation for the reversal of it’s decision, that ‘the information provided to Congressional offices on March 8, 2012 was premature and does not reflect past, current or future practices of the department,’ makes it clear that it has become yet another government agency that the Obama administration has prevented from protecting the American public from the many dangers associated with fracking.
“It is embarrassing for Secretary Vilsack, who has been an outspoken advocate for renewable energy and for preserving the quality of life in rural America, to now do the Obama administration’s bidding and prevent environmental reviews that could protect the water and air resources of rural communities. The White House described the Secretary as ‘working hard to strengthen the American agricultural economy, to revitalize rural communities, to protect and conserve our natural resources, and to provide a safe, sufficient and nutritious food supply for the American people.
“This recent ruling is the antithesis of good public policy. The Obama Administration should stop pandering to the oil and gas industry.”
Contact: Kate Fried, Food and Water Watch, (202) 683-4905, kfried(at)fwwatch.org.