When Biden announced his early actions on climate change — notably stopping the climate-busting Keystone XL pipeline and halting oil and gas leases on federal lands — he emphasized the need to rely on science in guiding his administration’s efforts. This is good news, but if Biden is really committed to following the science and combating climate change in a meaningful way, he will need to do much more. He will also need to commit to banning fracking and blocking a litany of fossil fuel infrastructure projects that are planned or underway. It’s crucial for him to fully embrace the need to build back the economy and our energy system fossil free.
Building new oil and gas pipelines, power plants and export facilities will lock us into future decades of reliance on fossil fuels. But we do not have decades to act on this crisis — we need to transition to 100% renewable energy in less than a decade.
With no time to waste to avert the worst effects of climate disaster, Biden must take bold action. Here are some of the top projects he could block through executive action, to protect our climate, water, land and communities for future generations.
Dakota Access Pipeline
The Dakota Access Pipeline moves over 500,000 barrels of fracked oil per day from North Dakota through the Midwest. In addition to being a climate disaster, it impinges on Standing Rock Sioux treaty rights and threatens their water supply. It was the subject of massive protests in 2016, and a court confirmed that the environmental review of the project was inadequate. While the pipeline was completed under Trump and allowed to operate without a permit, Biden could shift course and shut it down immediately.
Line 3, a proposed tar sands oil pipeline in Minnesota, would have the climate impact of 50 coal power plants. Line 3 also poses a significant risk to more than 200 bodies of water it crosses, and would violate treaties with the Ojibwe people. There has been and continues to be a massive Indigenous movement leading resistance to this project. While a permit has been granted, Biden should direct his agencies to take all possible actions to stop Line 3. He must also direct his team to make respecting Ojibwe treaty rights a priority.
Gulf Coast Export Facilities
There are currently six liquified natural gas (LNG) export facilities proposed in Texas and Louisiana, and more oil and petrochemical facilities proposed along the Gulf Coast. This region has borne the brunt of toxic fossil fuel pollution for decades, which was amplified in 2015 when the federal crude oil export ban was lifted. The Gulf Coast also continues to face devastating climate impacts, including supercharged hurricanes and rising sea levels. Approving additional fossil fuel infrastructure would be harmful for the health of communities in this region, and lock in decades of fracking and climate pollution. Biden could block these proposed export facilities through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). He could also block new petrochemical facilities, like the proposed Formosa plastics and petrochemical facility in Louisiana, by directing the Army Corps of Engineers to reject the required permits.
Mountain Valley Pipeline
The Mountain Valley Pipeline is a 303-mile fracked gas pipeline that would run through West Virginia and Virginia. The project would not only facilitate more fracking and use of fracked gas, but would also cut across the Appalachian trail, impacting this iconic and well-travelled recreational treasure. It would also conflict with recently-passed Virginia clean energy goals. The Biden Administration has the power through FERC to block this project.
Delaware River Basin Fracking
The Delaware River Basin provides water to over 17 million people in the Northeast. Biden has significant decision-making power over fracking and fossil fuel infrastructure in the basin via the Army Corps of Engineers, which has a key vote in its governing body, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC).
Biden should exert leadership in adopting a full and permanent ban on fracking and fracking waste disposal in the Delaware River Basin. He should also block — again through DRBC and FERC — the Gibbstown Logistics Terminal, a large fracked-gas export facility that has been proposed in New Jersey. This export facility and the transmission of gas to it poses significant risks to the water supply of 17 million people, nearby communities and the climate.
Appalachian Petrochemical Storage Hub
Because the glut of fracked gas already being produced is a financial sinkhole for investors, the plastics and petrochemical industries are looking to massively expand capacity in Appalachia, where a key project is this storage hub. The intent is to find new markets for unprofitable fracked gas so investors can recoup their losses. While this buildout will no doubt reap huge profits for the industry, these dirty projects will cause significant public health and environmental impacts for residents. The combination of shale gas production and petrochemical facilities would create what Crain’s Cleveland Business dubbed “an ethane tsunami.” At a time when we need to be moving away from fracked gas and plastics, this project would trap us into decades of additional production. Biden can stop this by overhauling the regulations of the Department of Energy loan guarantees that support this project — rendering it ineligible.
Power Plants in Virginia (And Nationwide)
Two large gas-fired power plants — the C4GT and Chickahominy Power — are being planned just a mile apart in Charles City, Virginia. It is well documented that gas power plants are ticking time bombs for the climate, locking us into years of future carbon emissions. Additionally, like many power plants, these would be located in a majority Black and Native county, representing significant environmental justice impacts. Both plants face delays due to financing and other issues. Biden should halt any permit extensions and direct his agencies to prevent these projects from moving forward until a new review is completed.
Call on President Biden to take these actions as well as banning fracking.
Urge President Biden to listen to scientists and ban fracking immediately.