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"We need our federal and state agencies to stop sweeping fracking harms under the rug," says Wenonah Hauter of Food & Water Watch. (Photo: WildEarth Guardians/flickr/cc)

Fracking-Affected Families Plead with President Obama: 'We Need Help.'

"It's not too late to provide leadership on fracking as part of his lasting legacy for the history books."

Deirdre Fulton

More than 100 families personally affected by the fracking industry have written to President Barack Obama demanding that he meet with them—as he often does with fossil fuel executives—ahead of the Democratic National Convention later this month.

The letter (pdf), organized by the Pittsburgh-based, all-volunteer group Friends of the Harmed, asks Obama and ranking Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials "to meet with our families to hear the personal testimonies—how they have been harmed by the oil and gas industry, and how they have been abandoned by local, state, and federal agencies and officials."

It is signed by people like Edwin and Karen Atwood of Warren, Pennsylvania, who say their "water well was contaminated by both drilling and hydrofracking;" Debaura James of Silver City, New Mexico, which she calls "a sacrifice zone" to fossil fuels; and Randolph Hurst of Slate Hill, New York, who says, "My wife and I both have health issues and all of our concerns and objections to the construction of a fracked gas power plant near our home have been dismissed by local, state, and federal officials."

Friends of the Harmed, which has compiled two publications that include personal testimonials of affected individuals, writes in the letter: "Families we work with live in constant fear, wondering where the next frack pit, well, compressor station or oil train will create another tragedy."

Yet "[o]ftentimes, the only lifelines these families have are small grassroots groups," the letter reads. "We need help."

That help has been hard to find. Federal, state, and local officials "have failed us by allowing these serious harms to our health and our environment, without acknowledging or correcting the problems we face," the letter charges. And just last week, the Democratic National Committee platform drafting panel voted to leave a ban on fracking out of the party's 2016 platform—despite demands by impacted communities and climate activists alike as well as presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Indeed, said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, which is backing the letter: "Pennsylvania, the host state of the DNC, has been ravaged by fracking, yet President Obama and the Democratic establishment continues to ignore the negative impacts it has on people there and across the country. We need our federal and state agencies to stop sweeping fracking harms under the rug."

As such, Obama, who will attend the convention, has an opportunity to "provide bold leadership and acknowledge that fracking comes at a cost to families and to communities," said Dana Dolney, director of Friends of the Harmed and publisher of Shalefield Stories. That leadership, the letter notes, would surely "amplify this message to the DNC on our behalf."

Thousands are expected to participate in the March for a Clean Energy Revolution on the eve of the DNC convention, calling for national fracking ban, environmental justice for all, and a quick and just transition to 100% clean energy.

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