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Campaigners Deliver Message to Obama: 'Yes We Can... Ban Fracking'

'From California, to Colorado, Pennsylvania to New York, and everywhere in between, the public understands that fracking poses an immediate threat to our water, air, health and climate, and they’re fighting back.'

- Jon Queally, staff writer

A day before the peroid of public comment ends on the US government's proposed plan to open public lands to industrial hydraulic gas fracturing, a coalition of anti-fracking and public interest groups descended on Washington, DC Thursday calling for a commitment from President Obama to reject the proposal and ban the practice.

Anti-fracking campaigners hold signs in front of the White House on Thursday. (Photo via TwitPic/@Greenpeace) "Yes We Can... Ban Fracking," the collection of environmental, conservation, and health advocacy groups told the president, borrowing the famous phrase from Obama's 2008 campaign.

The petition, which attracted nearly 650,000 signatures, argues that the dangerous practice—which would contaminate vital water resources, threaten public health, and add to the planetary crisis of climate change—should not be allowed and banned outright.

“From California, to Colorado, Pennsylvania to New York, and everywhere in between, the public understands that fracking poses an immediate threat to our water, air, health and climate, and they’re fighting back. President Obama needs to stop listening to the oil and gas industry and instead listen to the people who elected him,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, a member of the national coalition.  “If President Obama truly wants to curb climate change and move us to a renewable energy future, he should listen to the science and ban fracking.”

According to a letter sent to Obama along with the petition signatures, the anti-fracking coalition explained that among the more than 700 million acres of mining rights administered by the Bureau of Land Management—many of which are beneath federal public and Native American land and targeted for drilling and fracking—are watersheds vital for the provision of clean drinking water for millions of Americans.

Those lands include places such as the Shawnee National Forest in Illinois, Wayne National Forest in Ohio and George Washington National Forest in Virginia and other public lands near iconic national parks, such as Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah and Sequoia National Park in California, among others.

Led by the more recently formed Americans Against Fracking, the coalition included 276 environmental and consumer organizations including, 350.org, Center for Biological Diversity, CREDO Action, Democracy for America, Environmental Action, Food & Water Watch, MoveOn, Progressive Democrats of America, The Post Carbon Institute, United for Action and many others.

Following a rally and press conference at Lafayette Square Park, the groups presented copies of the hundreds of thousands of signatures to both the White House and the offices at the Bureau of Land Management.

Among the groups were many that once gave their political support to the president and are now calling on him to fulfill what they interpret as promising recent comments made by Obama in terms of global warming and his climate policies.

“Many of us worked hard to elect President Obama because we wanted a President who would protect all Americans,” noted David Braun of United For Action. “It’s time for him to represent those who elected him, not big oil and gas. While it’s admirable that the President wants to tackle climate change, fracking has no place in any plan to combat it.”

“Americans want President Obama to protect our beautiful public lands from fracking pollution,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “This inherently dangerous technology contaminates our air and water and disrupts our climate. The president has a duty to protect our environment and our communities by standing up to the oil and gas industry and prohibiting fracking in these wonderful wild places.”

Many of the day's events in Washington were captured on Twitter:

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