On the campaign trail in California, Bernie Sanders hit the White House and his presidential rival Hillary Clinton over their stances on fracking, telling reporters this week that opening up Pacific waters to oil and gas extraction would be “disastrous.”
Sanders criticized federal regulators for clearing the way for offshore fracking to resume in California, just days after the U.S. Department of the Interior released a pair of studies that found it would have no environmental impact.
“Make no mistake: this was a very bad decision by the federal government that will not be allowed to stand if I have anything to say about it,” Sanders said during a news conference in Spreckels in Central California. “Offshore fracking has the potential to pollute the ocean with toxic fluid, hurt the environment, and harm our beautiful beaches. That risk to me is unacceptable.”
He later tweeted: “Let me be as clear as I can be: if I am elected president we will work together on a nationwide ban on fracking. We must #KeepItInTheGround.”
The Vermont senator also denounced Clinton’s platform on the issue, which would allow fracking under certain conditions.
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“Secretary Clinton in one way or another wants to quote unquote ‘regulate’ fracking. I think it is too late for regulating. I think fracking has got to be banned in America,” Sanders said.
As the Washington Post noted on Wednesday, Sanders’ outspoken opposition to fracking throughout the 2016 primaries has helped him win sections of New York, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania—states that are central in the debate—where climate activists have organized around the consequences of fracking, including environmental damage and an increase in earthquakes.
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Spreckels is located near Monterey County, where voters are considering a ballot measure that would ban all new oil drilling—which, if passed, would put Monterey County in the company of Santa Cruz, Mendocino, and San Benito counties, all of which have passed similar initiatives.
Margaret Rebecchi, Latino outreach coordinator for the environmental group Protect Monterey County, also spoke at the news conference on the impacts of fracking on low-income families and communities of color.
“The fracking industry is pushing hard into our communities, and the effects are devastating,” she said, according to the Monterey County Weekly. Over 90 percent of California’s toxic fracking wells are in Latino and low-income communities. I don’t know what else to call that but environmental racism.”
Alexandra Nagy, an organizer with Food & Water Watch, said Thursday that the Obama administration’s plans to open up California waters for offshore fracking would leave “an environmental legacy that sacrifices the health of the many for the greed of the few.”
“We need leaders who champion real protections for our communities and the environment from toxic pollution, who take a stand against the fossil fuel industry and ban offshore fracking,” Nagy said.
Sanders also noted that his home state of Vermont was the first in the nation to ban fracking outright, in 2012.
“Fracking is one of the major environmental issues facing our country,” he said. “What it does to our water supply, what it does to our air, its impact on climate change. So this is an enormously important issue that I know is of growing concern to the people of California, and to the people of the United States.”
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