Environmental Groups Silent As Biden Touts Support For Fracking
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s statement this week that he would not ban fracking if elected president was met with silence from environmental groups opposing oil and natural gas as they are seemingly unwilling to undercut his campaign.
During a speech in Pennsylvania to address the nationwide racial justice protests, Biden attempted to affirm his support for fracking in a state with a robust energy industry.
“With a clean energy strategy, there is a place for the energy workers right here in western Pennsylvania. I am not banning fracking. Let me say that again. I am not banning fracking. No matter how many times Donald Trump lies about me,” Biden said.
Opposition to fracking is one of the key platforms of the nation’s leading environmental groups including The Sunrise Movement, 350.org, and the Sierra Club, but none of them publicly criticized Biden after his speech.
It’s the latest example of these groups shifting strategy since Biden wrapped up the nomination earlier this year. They have been reluctant to rebuke the candidate publicly with many of the same criticisms they leveled against him during the primary, aware that would only boost President Donald Trump. Instead, they have attempted to influence his campaign to become more aggressive on energy and environmental issues.
This shift was recently seen when a group of 145 environmental and progressive organizations recently wrote to the campaign demanding Biden not staff his transition team or administration with people connected to the fossil fuel industry.
It shows that the relationship between environmental groups and the Biden campaign remains uneasy. Many of these groups refused to endorse Biden in the primary because they deemed his energy and climate plans as insufficient, and threw their support behind Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
But as the general election got underway, the door opened for potential reconciliation. The Sierra Club endorsed Biden despite the group’s opposition to fracking, while the Sunrise Movement said it would support Biden if he embraced their environmental agenda, as Western Wire reported earlier this year.
After Biden released a more aggressive climate plan this summer, 350.org said that it “is proof that we can hold him accountable, and we will continue to do so.”
Biden has wavered on fracking since declaring his candidacy last year. Most recently, his campaign has sued a pro-Trump SuperPAC to try force off the air TV ads that claim Biden opposes fracking.
Before that, Biden said “No more drilling on federal lands, no more drilling, including offshore, no ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period, ends, number one. … No more — no new fracking,’ in a primary debate in March.
His campaign quickly walked back that statement, saying he would only “[ban] new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters.” Yet a ban on fracking on public lands would have serious consequences for Western state, especially New Mexico which benefited from $3 billion in tax revenue from oil and natural production last year to support public services, education, and infrastructure.
Speaking at a campaign event last year, Biden offered some of his strongest comments against oil and natural gas. When questioned by an activist why he was attending fundraisers with fossil fuel executives, Biden responded by definitely stating, “You don’t have to agree, but I want you to look in my eyes. I guarantee you; I guarantee you we’re going to end fossil fuel and I am not going to cooperate with them. Before 2050, God willing.”
Vice President Mike Pence responded to Biden’s latest claim on fracking by recalling his comments from the 2019 campaign event.
Yesterday, Joe Biden said “I am not banning fracking.” Perhaps he’s forgotten his own words. At one of his rallies, he told a supporter: “I guarantee, I guarantee, we are going to end fossil fuels.” Joe, that includes fracking.
— Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) September 1, 2020