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Amid Phoenix Heat Wave, DNC Committee Hears Anti-Fracking Arguments

The 2016 Democratic Platform Drafting Committee is hearing testimony from environmentalists this Friday and Saturday in Phoenix, Arizona.

Earlier this month, climate activists delivered more than 90,000 petitions to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) declaring that "any serious plan to combat climate change must include a ban on fracking." (Photo: WildEarth Guardians/flickr/cc)

As "rare, dangerous, and deadly" heat moves into Arizona this weekend, environmentalists are calling for the Democratic Party to take a firm stance against fossil fuel extraction in its 2016 platform—starting with a national ban on fracking.

The 2016 Democratic Platform Drafting Committee is holding the second in a series of regional hearings this Friday and Saturday in Phoenix, Arizona. This round of testimony is expected to focus on energy and the environment as well as health and safety.

Among those testifying before the committee this week are actor and activist Mark Ruffalo; Friends of the Earth president Erich Pica; Oregon Climate co-director Camila Thorndike; filmmaker and fracktivist Josh Fox; and Environmental Action policy and organizing director Andrew Rogers-Wright.

Environmentalist and co-founder Bill McKibben, an outspoken anti-fracking activist, is among the progressives chosen by candidate Bernie Sanders to sit on the drafting committee.

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The Hill reported Friday that "[f]racking and the environment are set to be one of the most contentious battlegrounds" of the platform debate, noting that "[t]he Democrats' platform in 2012 recognized climate change, but it also endorsed an 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy, a phrase that has come to be a coded endorsement of fossil fuel development alongside renewable and carbon-free energy."

Sanders rival and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's stance on fracking is in line with that platform—she has said the government should regulate fracking but has not called for the ban that Sanders has.

Indeed, The Hill suggests that interactions between McKibben and Clinton appointee Carol Browner, who led the Environmental Protection Agency under Bill Clinton and advised President Barack Obama on environmental issues, provide an idea of how the debate over fossil fuels and climate change might unfold. 


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When Janet Redman, the director of the Climate Policy Program at the Institute for Policy Studies, testified before the committee last week, McKibben indicated he supports moving more quickly on climate change matters. 

“Could you describe for the committee your sense of how urgent this problem is and really whether even the timeline laid out in [the Paris climate deal] is sufficient to help us meet the targets we addressed there?” he asked, noting the international community’s goal to keep the Earth from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius. 

Browner took a more nuanced position. She praised Obama’s climate rule for power plants and asked Redman what steps the next president could take to address climate change within the context of laws on the books. 

“I certainly argue with the need for renewables, but as we kind of look at where the law is today, the Clean Air Act, which the president has very successfully used to achieve measurable reductions, what would you do after power plants to continue that effort?” Browner said.

Earlier this month, climate activists delivered more than 90,000 petitions to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) declaring that "any serious plan to combat climate change must include a ban on fracking."

The next meeting will be a platform drafting session in St. Louis, Missouri, followed by a final meeting in Orlando ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia at the end of July.

Watch the party platform hearing live below:

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