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Jewell: Fracking Bans “Wrong Way to Go”

January 2nd, 2015

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell told a Northern California PBS station that local fracking bans are “the wrong way to go” when it comes to oil and gas regulation. In an exclusive interview with KQED, Secretary Jewell pointed out the difficulties the energy industry would encounter with a patchwork of fracking bans enacted in various municipalities, counties and states around the country. Her interview came in response to the November passage of local fracking ban referendums in San Benito and Mendocino Counties in Northern California, each by substantial margins.

Health Concerns Spawn Fracking Bans

Many local jurisdictions have enacted fracking bans after seeing reports showing how the practice can affect the health of their residents. Kassie Siegel, director of the Climate Law Institute at the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, Arizona, referred to “numerous studies” that have shown the toxic effects of the chemicals used in the fracking process. The effects from these chemicals include large discharges of methane, a greenhouse gas several times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

Fracking Bans Come From “Misinformation”

Secretary Jewell, a former petroleum engineer, told the station that the local fracking bans stem from “a lot of fears out there in the general public” and “a lot of misinformation about fracking.” She attested that the voters and lawmakers who support fracking bans “don’t understand the science behind it.” She claimed that “what we need is sound science” behind the decision-making process for fracking bans and that federal agencies are in the process of drawing up their own fracking regulations.

Fracking Bans And Ballot Measures

While Secretary Jewell opposes local fracking bans, many of these measures have received either voter approval or executive authorization. In November, residents of Denton, Texas, approved a fracking ban within the city limits. In New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo approved a statewide fracking ban after several studies revealed the environmental damage attributed to the practice. Officials in Monterey County, California are considering the placement of a fracking ban referendum on the ballot later this year, while the Los Angeles City Attorney prepares a moratorium for review by the city council.

Locals Vs. Feds Over Fracking Bans?

In her response to Secretary Jewell’s interview, Ms. Siegel maintains that the Interior Department’s position is “insulting, and quite simply wrong.” She said that local communities are enacting their own fracking bans because they see that “state and federal officials are in denial” over the problems with fracking. Secretary Jewell maintains that industry vigilance, not local fracking bans, are the best move to keep the public safe. She told the interview that the energy industry has the responsibility to “ensure their practices are safe, and then communicate with the communities” about the safety of their practices.

Source: KQED

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