Climate activists on Wednesday delivered more than 90,000 petitions to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) demanding that the party's 2016 platform include a nationwide ban on fracking.
As the DNC convened in Washington, D.C. for its open forum on shaping the platform, activists with Food & Water Watch, 350.org, Honor the Earth, and other groups handed over the appeals and said officials must acknowledge the harm that fracking has caused the environment.
"The Democratic Party has been complicit in the U.S. fracking boom which is poisoning communities and our climate," said Emily Wurth, water program director at Food & Water Watch. "Any serious plan to combat climate change must include a ban on fracking, and as the committee develops the platform, they should heed the calls of the growing movement to ban fracking and keep fossil fuels in the ground."
The groups noted that more than 137,000 fracking wells have been opened in the U.S. since 2005 as part of President Barack Obama's "all-of-the-above" energy policy that included promoting the use of natural gas. By contrast, the 2016 presidential election has seen candidates backing away from the fossil fuel industry, with Bernie Sanders standing out for his support of a nationwide ban on fracking.
And as Environmental Action policy director Anthony Rogers-Wright explained, the majority of people that now find themselves in proximity of a fracking well are in communities of color—who largely vote Democratic.
"This is the face of fracking in America: Latino, Native, African American and other communities are disproportionately impacted by the toxic effects of fracking and its infrastructure," Rogers-Wright said. "It's time for the DNC, a political party that is totally dependent on the participation of People of Color, to show that our health is as important as our votes. Including a fracking ban in the party platform is an essential step to demonstrate this."
That call echoes at the local level, such as in Texas, where the state Democratic party's convention is scheduled for next week in San Antonio. To that end, the Austin American-Statesman reports, a longtime Texas environmental activist is getting ready to stage a "guerrilla maneuver" on the floor of convention.
The Statesman's Asher Price writes:
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Jere Locke, who runs the nonprofit Texas Drought Project and has long been involved in environmental matters in Central Texas, has recruited volunteers to gather thousands of signatures during the convention, to be held June 17-18, in a bid to force stronger language [on fracking] onto the party’s platform.
[....] The platform calls for a “verifiable and thorough review of the deleterious effects of hydraulic fracturing” — but Locke says that needs updating because deleterious effects have been documented.
Locke said he wanted an outright ban on new fracking projects. As the Statesman notes, Democrats hold no statewide elected offices in Texas, so the platform "is also meant to serve as a sort of blueprint back to victory."
"We're going to take it to the floor," he told the Statesman. "We're interested in winning, but also in educating people."
The Texas demonstration will precede plans by national activists to stage a massive rally the day before the DNC's convention in Philadelphia next month. Thousands are expected to gather for the March for a Clean Energy Revolution, which will demand a ban on fracking, keeping all fossil fuels in the ground, and a transition to renewable energy, organizers said. The march has been endorsed by more than 400 organizations.
"It's well past time for elected officials to defend our collective futures, end their support of fossil fuels, and move into the clean energy era," said Tara Houska, national campaigns director at Honor the Earth.
A recent Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans are opposed to fracking for the first time, with more and more communities continuing to ban the controversial gas extraction technique.
"History will not be kind to those who insist on continued burning of fossil fuels long after the science of climate change was crystal clear," said Ben Wikler, Washington director for MoveOn.org, one of the groups that delivered petitions to the DNC on Wednesday. "The Democratic Party Platform Committee should echo the voices of grassroots activists and the public at large and state unequivocally that fracking has no place in our clean-energy future."