During Sunday's Democratic presidential debate in Flint, Michigan, where environmental issues are especially critical as residents grapple with a water contamination crisis, moderators asked the candidates where they stand on the controversial gas extraction method that involves injecting chemicals and water deep underground.
Clinton answered, "I don’t support it when any locality or any state is against it, number one. I don’t support it when the release of methane or contamination of water is present. I don’t support it, number three, unless we can require that anybody who fracks has to tell us exactly what chemicals they are using. By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place."
Sanders countered, "My answer is a lot shorter. No, I do not support fracking."
As the audience applauded, Sanders added, "This is a crisis we've got to deal with now."
The contrast between the candidates' responses, even as they came to similar conclusions, demonstrates how much Clinton "will continue to struggle to convince climate advocates that she is serious about addressing the crisis until she comes out for a full ban on fracking," said Yong Jung Cho, a campaign coordinator at the climate advocacy group 350 Action.
It is not the first time that the distinction between the candidates' environmental policies was made apparent.
And as Rebecca Leber points out at Grist, Clinton's continuing slide to the left on environmental issues may be a deliberate move to hide an unflattering climate legacy:
As secretary of state in 2010, Clinton argued in favor of gas as “the cleanest fossil fuel available for power generation today,” and said that “if developed, shale gas could make an important contribution to our region’s energy supply, just as it does now for the United States.” Her office, meanwhile, promoted fracking in developing nations.
Cho added, "Clinton has moved from supporting fracking to insisting on regulations that would make it impossible to frack in most places. It’s high time to come out against it all together."
"Scientists are clear that the only way to prevent catastrophic climate change is to leave all fossil fuels, including natural gas, in the ground," Cho said. "We need to see clearer signs that if elected president she won’t do the bidding of the fossil fuel industry corporations, whose campaign contributions she still hasn’t refused to accept."