7 Ways Biden Can Prove He’s Listening To Science When It Comes To Fossil Fuels

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Climate and Energy

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

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.

Biden’s 100-Day Must-Do List for a Cleaner, Healthier Country

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Clean Water

President Biden has the work of a lifetime ahead of him if we have any chance of undoing the damage and destruction of the Trump administration — much less stopping the worst effects of climate change, fixing our broken food and farm system, and ensuring clean, accessible water for all. There is no time to lose, and Biden’s first 100 days will be a litmus test for whether his policy vision comes close to matching what this moment in history demands.

Ban Fracking on Public Lands

During the campaign, President Biden promised to put an end to new fossil extraction on public lands and waters. In 2015 we worked with Representative Mark Pocan to introduce the first legislation that would have banned fracking on public lands – the Protect Our Public Lands Act. We know that to fight the worsening effects of climate change, we must keep fossil fuels in the ground. Banning new extraction on public lands and waters would be a good start. About a quarter of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions come from energy extraction on federal lands and waters.

Under the Trump administration, our public lands and waters have been practically given away to the oil and gas industry. According to The Wilderness Society, 90 percent of U.S. public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management are open to oil and gas leasing; only 10 percent are protected for wildlife, conservation or recreation. The number of public land acres leased for oil and gas production jumped 117 percent between 2016 and 2018. Over 100 million acres of onshore and offshore leashes have been offered by the Trump administration. Over five million acres have been sold. President Biden must protect our public lands and waters and fulfill his campaign promise to stop new fossil fuel extraction on them — period.

Let President Biden know you support banning fracking on public lands.

Halt All Water Shutoffs During the Pandemic

Throughout the COVID pandemic the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have said that one of the top ways to fight the spread of the coronavirus is to wash your hands. Yet millions of Americans still face the threat of having their water shutoff because they cannot afford their bills.

President Biden must issue an executive order instructing the CDC to use its public health authority to ban water shutoffs for the full duration of the Covid-19 national emergency. The local and state moratoria issued by local authorities have sporadically protected some Americans from water shutoffs. But their issuance is localized, while the disease is not. Biden’s CDC director-nominee Dr. Rochelle Walensky can take a strong stance to ensure this public health protection is in place for everyone to prevent the further spread of the virus and allow people to stay safe at home. No person should be forced to weather this pandemic without running water in their home.

With more than 20 million Americans having contracted the coronavirus and nearly 400,000 deaths, it’s clear that people can’t wait for safe water. Our country needs the incoming Biden administration to act immediately by issuing a national moratorium on water shutoffs.

Stop Agri-Business Mega-Mergers

If his campaign and administration appointments are any indication, President Biden has no clear vision for what his agencies must do to hold Big Ag accountable for its anti-competitive practices, threats to workers and consumers, unregulated air and water pollution, and destruction of rural America. Biden has already doubled-down on failed USDA policies of the past by appointing Tom Vilsack to reprise his role as Secretary of Agriculture. Under the Obama administration he failed to tackle corporate consolidation and oversaw policy initiatives that made our food supply less safe. On the campaign trail, Biden was out-of-touch in championing ethanol, biotechnology, and other “rural investment” strategies proven to benefit corporate agribusiness, not rural communities.

If Biden is serious about revitalizing rural America, tackling climate change and undoing the worst damage of the Trump administration, he must begin correcting course on day one. He should start by enacting a moratorium on large agribusiness mergers and increasing antitrust enforcement in the food and ag sector.

Protect Workers and Communities from Big Ag

Biden must also prioritize worker safety, both through rescinding dangerous Trump USDA rules that increased hog slaughter line speeds and took federal inspectors off the line (and abandoning similar plans for poultry and beef plants) and by enacting long-term meat and poultry worker protection standards.

Big Ag has long profited from being able to pollute communities with impunity, but Biden’s EPA should immediately restore the few protections in place that Trump removed — including rules gutting the scope of the Clean Water Act and eliminating rural communities’ right to know about toxic factory farm air emissions. But returning to Obama-era policies is not nearly enough. Biden’s EPA must move beyond the agency’s decades-long approach of exempting factory farms from all meaningful pollution regulation, and it must adopt strong new air and water pollution rules for factory farms during the first 100 days.

So far, President Biden has given very little indication that his to-do list is aligned with what our communities and planet need. But with your support we can hold this administration accountable and not only undo the worst damage of the last four years, but begin to make the progress needed to address the most urgent issues of our time. As a first step, will you add your name to the growing list of people telling President Biden to ban fracking on public lands?

Your voice can make a difference in matters this important.

5. KEEPING WATER WHERE IT BELONGS

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Clean Water

Keeping water where it belongs

We fight every day to make sure water remains a right and not a luxury.

People power is how we protect our access to safe public water for all.

3. POWERING THE CLEAN ENERGY REVOLUTION

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Climate and Energy

Powering the clean energy revolution

100% renewable energy is within reach and crucial to avert the worst of climate chaos.

The world is ready now for renewable energy.

4. CALLING FOUL ON FAKE SOLUTIONS

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Climate and Energy

Calling foul on fake solutions

Slick marketing is no substitute for real change.

There are no magical shortcuts like the oil industry wants us to believe.

1. A National Ban On Fracking Is Key

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Climate and Energy

A national ban on fracking is key

Banning fracking everywhere is crucial. If we don’t, the fossil fuel industry will lock us into climate chaos for decades.

There is no such thing as safe fracking.

2. WE MUST END FOSSIL FUELS

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Climate and Energy

We must end fossil fuels

Fossil fuel production and usage is one of the leading drivers of climate change.

We have to be the architects of a new fossil fuel-free future.

It Turns Out Fracking Is A Water Hog That’s Stealing Our Futures

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Climate and Energy

For years, the American people have been assured by energy companies that fracking is harmless and doesn’t use more water than other energy sources. The Duke research team that recently put out a new report begs to differ. They examined data across 12,000 wells and five years of operation. Here are key findings from the report and what they mean for our survival.

The Findings

Water is staying trapped in the shale, or if it does re-emerge, isn’t treated: 

Only a small fraction of the fresh water injected into the ground returns as flowback water, while the greater volume of FP (flowback and produced) water returning to the surface is highly saline, is difficult to treat, and is often disposed through deep-injection wells.

Right: Charts showing the increase in water use intensity over time. Left: Charts showing the decrease in usable Flowback & Produced waters over time. Courtesy of Duke University via Creative Commons

The amount of water used by fracking has been critically underestimated.

The study finds that from 2011 to 2016, the water use per well increased by as much as 770 percent. In an interview for ThinkProgress, one of the authors of the study explained how early estimates of fracking’s irresponsible use of water had been so skewed:

“Previous studies suggested hydraulic fracturing does not use significantly more water than other energy sources, but those findings were based only on aggregated data from the early years of fracking… After more than a decade of fracking operation, we now have more years of data to draw upon from multiple verifiable sources.”— Avner Vengosh, Duke professor of geochemistry and water quality

The toxic wastewater produced is a much bigger problem than previously understood.

The study found that toxic wastewater produced from fracking had increased up to 1440 percent between 2011 and 2016. There has been no satisfactory practice of water treatment that returns this water to usable condition for humanity — and at this scale, one can reason that fracking is on pace to destroy U.S. water sources and leave us without water for our population’s consumption: 

The total water impact of hydraulic fracturing is poised to increase markedly in both shale gas– and oil-producing regions. On the basis of modeling future hydraulic fracturing operations in the United States in two scenarios of drilling rates, we project cumulative water use and FP water volumes to increase by up to 50-fold in unconventional gas-producing regions and up to 20-fold in unconventional oil-producing regions from 2018 to 2030, assuming that the growth of water use matches current growth rates and the drilling of new wells again matches peak production.

What We Do Next Is Critical

Waiting another five years for a new report to bolster this or to show an even bigger spike in fracking’s greedy water consumption is not an option.

“At a time when large parts of our county are suffering through persistent droughts and year-round fire seasons, it’s truly unconscionable that the fossil fuel industry would be allowed to divert vast volumes of water to fracking for oil and gas. The fact that the burning of this oil and gas is driving our climate chaos and intensifying the droughts and fires makes this reality all the more shameful and absurd.” – Seth Gladstone, Food & Water Watch

Organizations like Food & Water Watch and people like you need to double down on our efforts to ban fracking now and to move to 100% renewable energy ASAP. Humanity doesn’t get a do-over on saving our water supply.

Showing your support for a ban on fracking helps persuade Congress.

FULL DUKE UNIVERSITY STUDY ON WATER USAGE IN FRACKING 

We’re Literally Eating and Drinking Plastic. Fossil Fuels Are To Blame.

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Climate and Energy

Care about plastic pollution? Then it’s time to work to start moving away from fossil fuels.

Plastic is a serious problem, and it’s time we addressed it at its source: fossil fuel production. Plastics are increasingly fueled by fracking in the U.S.—the extreme method of extracting fossil fuels that is polluting our air and our water, and exacerbating climate change. Fracking provides the cheap raw materials for plastics production, which has lead industry publication Plastics News to say fracking “represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity.” More fracking equals more profit in plastics (which equals, you guessed it…more plastics.)

It is so pervasive in our environment that it’s become commonplace to digest it through the microplastics present in our food and water.

Plastic in Water, Salt…Even Beer?

Everyone drinks water, and whether you drink tap water or bottled water, you are very likely ingesting some level of plastic pollution. A recent study by Orb Media tested 159 drinking water samples from cities and towns around the world, and 83 percent of those samples contained microplastic fibers. That means food prepared with plastic-contaminated water becomes contaminated as well.

Bottled water samples fared even worse than tap water—unsurprising because it is manufactured with plastic. Another recent study by the same organization found 90 percent of bottled water analyzed from around the world contained plastic microfibers. A single bottle of Nestlé Pure Life had concentrations of microfiber plastics up to 10,000 pieces per liter. The type of plastic used to make bottle caps was the most common type of microplastic fiber found in bottled water.

In response to the mounting evidence showing plastic is present in our drinking water, the World Health Organization is now looking into the problem.

Plastic has also been found in sea salt, and researchers attribute that to the ubiquitous nature of single-use plastics such as water bottles, which comprise the majority of plastic waste. In 2015 about 70 percent of plastic water bottles went unrecycled, and much of this plastic waste ends up in landfills, incinerators or in—you guessed it—our oceans and seas. Plastic has also been found in seafood, beer, honey and sugar.

We need more research on the extent of microplastic pollution and the best ways to treat water to remove it. It’s also clear that we need to upgrade water treatment plant infrastructure so it can handle this new pollutant. But the best way to address this pollution is at the source by reducing plastic waste in the environment.

Fracking in the U.S. Promotes a Global Plastics Bonanza

Fracking, which causes many negative public health problems and harms our air, water, and climate, is now powering a dangerous plastics bonanza. It was the rapid expansion of fracking in the United States that led to a gas glut, which drove real natural gas prices to the lowest level in decades. This is where the plastic industry came to the rescue of the oil and gas industry: low-cost ethane, a byproduct of fracking, is used to manufacture plastics.

Both plastic and ethane are being exported across the globe. More than half of the raw plastic produced in the U.S. is headed to distant shores. Whereas the chemical giant Ineos, based in the United Kingdom, is receiving ethane to help fuel European plastic factories. The controversial Mariner East pipeline system delivers this gas byproduct to the Marcus Hook export terminal in Pennsylvania—where it is then carried via massive “dragon ships” across the Atlantic to Ineos’ facilities in Grangemouth, Scotland and Rafnes, Norway.

What represents an “opportunity” for the plastics, oil, and gas industries means adverse health effects and climate catastrophe for all of us. To learn more about the toxic relationship between the plastics and fracking industry read our fact sheet, and spread the word: we can’t tackle plastic pollution without moving off fossil fuels. 

This is important for people to see.