by Tarah Heinzen and Mitch Jones
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.