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Protesters stood front of the Mars Area High School in Middlesex Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania, on July 15, 2015 to demand a ban on fracking near all schools.

Protesters stood front of the Mars Area High School in Middlesex Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania, on July 15, 2015 to demand a ban on fracking near all schools. (Photo: Public Herald/flickr/cc)

At Pro-Fracking Conference, Trump Addresses Companies 'Whose Profits He Has Put Above the Health and Safety of the Planet'

Outside of Pittsburgh conference, activists declare, "We need to step up today and protect our water! Because without water there is no life."

Andrea Germanos

Ahead of President Donald Trump's speech Wednesday at a natural gas conference, climate campaigners said Trump's trip marked a "desperate re-election scheme" to promote his and the industry's "nightmare" fracking agenda.

The forum is the Shale Insight conference in Pittsburgh, but it's not the first time Trump has been a keynote speaker for the gathering.

It's the same conference, where, in 2016 as a presidential candidate, he told the audience, "Oh, you will like me so much," and vowed to lift regulations to allow for more fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure.

Food & Water Action executive director Wenonah Hauter said Trump will be "speaking to his base today–the fracking companies whose profits he has put above the health and safety of the planet."

"This polluting industry sees Trump as its savior, along with an administration that rejects science and cheers on climate destruction," Hauter continued. "The industry has hundreds of infrastructure projects in the works that would double down on fracking and generate more plastics and petrochemical pollution, lock in decades of fossil fuel power generation, and export gas overseas at local communities' expense. This nightmare can and must be stopped."

In an op-ed published Tuesday at Common Dreams, Hauter said the trip to the conference "underscores his administration's vision for long-term fossil fuel dependence, along with increased pollution and plastics production" and called it a "preview of one part of the White House's desperate re-election scheme."

"The gas industry has the exact same agenda" on fossil fuels as Trump, "and it desperately needs a Trump re-election to maintain profitability," she said.

Hauter's group wasn't alone in voicing criticism of the event.

The People Over Petro Coalition, which counts Food & Water Action among its two dozen members, led a protest outside the Pittsburgh conference.

"We're marching, led by Native leaders, to defend our water and say no to the fracking, cracking, and plastics promoted at #ShaleInsight2019!" the group said on social media. "It's our water, we will fight!"

Trump also used his speech at the fracking conference to again bash the Paris climate accord—an agreement he called "terrible."

Though the president announced in 2017 his intention to take the U.S. out of the global agreement, no country can actually give the U.N. formal notice of its intention to the deal until November 4, 2019, and only after November 4, 2020 can a country formally leave the agreement. Trump's comments Wednesday were seen as a reiteration of his commitment to ditch the accord.

Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, on Wednesday called the expected withdrawal "irresponsible and shortsighted."

"All too many people," said Meyer, "are already experiencing the costly and harmful impacts of climate change in the form of rising seas, more hurricane activity, record-breaking temperatures, and large wildfires."

"From the hearty handshakes between the president and fossil fuel industry executives, to the toxic masculinity exuding from the president as he heckled protesters, to Trump's rambling description of catastrophic deregulation at the expense of our climate and communities," said David Turnbull, strategic communications director at Oil Change U.S., "this speech was a classic Trump dumpster fire."

While the Trump administration has sidelined science and pushed the expansion of fossil fuels, "Our next president must do precisely the opposite," said Turnbull. "We need a president who will not shake hands with industry executives, but will instead take them to court for their crimes. We need a president who gets serious about a just transition away from fossil fuel production, not one attempting to bring back the past and resurrect a dirty industry."

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