Clinton and Bernie on Fracking and Why it Matters for Flint

By | February 7, 2016

Flint is a national tragedy. It is an example of money influencing politics and hurting people. Clinton is out in full force to gain headlines and voters:

“She’s the only one actually trying to help Flint,” said Shayne Hodges, a Flint father of three and friend of Mayor Weaver.

“Secretary Clinton has been in touch with the mayor personally and the two staffs have been in consistent contact,” Kristin Moore, the mayor’s communication director told MSNBC. “As far as I know,” she added, “Clinton is the only presidential candidate—Republican or Democrat—who has reached out.”

But what she won’t bring up is that she as secretary of state pushed fracking, which Mother Jones succinctly painted a picture of:

Shortly before Clinton arrived, tens of thousands of protesters poured into the streets carrying placards that read “Stop fracking with our water” and “Chevron go home.” Bulgaria’s parliament responded by voting overwhelmingly for a fracking moratorium.

Clinton urged Bulgarian officials to give fracking another chance. According to Borissov, she agreed to help fly in the “best specialists on these new technologies to present the benefits to the Bulgarian people.” But resistance only grew. The following month in neighboring Romania, thousands of people gathered to protest another Chevron fracking project, and Romania’s parliament began weighing its own shale gas moratorium. Again Clinton intervened, dispatching her special envoy for energy in Eurasia, Richard Morningstar, to push back against the fracking bans. The State Depart­ment’s lobbying effort culminated in late May 2012, when Morningstar held a series of meetings on fracking with top Bulgarian and Romanian officials. He also touted the technology in an interview on Bulgarian national radio, saying it could lead to a fivefold drop in the price of natural gas. A few weeks later, Romania’s parliament voted down its proposed fracking ban and Bulgaria’s eased its moratorium.

Now, I know many are going to point out that this is not the same thing. And I agree that it is not 100% the same. What it is, however, is an example of the use of money in politics to push an agenda that is at odds with the health and wellbeing of people.

Now, there is a lot of controversy surrounding whether fracking is safe. There are studies showing water has been contaminated. The EPA has said said has not led to “to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.” But InsideClimateNews points out how this was criticized by the Science Advisory Board:

The SAB’s 30 members, from academia, industry and federal agencies, said this and other conclusions drawn in the executive summary were ambiguous or inconsistent “with the observations/data presented in the body of the report.”

“Of particular concern is the statement of no widespread, systemic impacts on drinking-water resources,” the SAB wrote in a preliminary report. “Neither the system of interest nor the definitions of widespread, systemic or impact are clear and it is not clear how this statement reflects the uncertainties and data limitations described in the Report’s chapters.”

Residents in Pennsylvania are continuing to complain about the contamination of their water. Russian Times pointed out:

However, EcoWatch reports that Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has received 2,309 water complaints from 17 of 40 counties where fracking took place. Of those, 1,275 can now be viewed by the public, thanks to the investigations of non-profit Public Herald. The sheer number of complaints casts a shadow over EPA’s claims, since Pennsylvania’s official tally of water degradation is only 271 for all 40 fracking counties in the state.

Don’t worry, however, because while Hillary was fine bringing fracking to other areas of the world, she now opposes it in the US.

For now. I mean, she evolves on issues a lot.

From The Daily Caller:

Hillary Clinton was a major force behind bringing fracking to African countries during her tenure as Secretary of State, although she now opposes fracking in the United States.

Clinton made promoting fracking for natural gas in other countries a big priority during her tenure as Secretary of State. “The United States will promote the use of shale gas,” she said then.

But Grist noted that at the National Clean Energy Summit that Clinton appeared to be supportive of fracking while never using the politically charged word:

Now part of that bridge will certainly come from natural gas. There are challenges here to be sure, but the boom in domestic gas production is an example of American innovation changing the game, and if we do it right, it can be good for both the environment and our economy. With the right safeguards in place, gas is cleaner than coal. And expanding production iscreating tens of thousands of new jobs. And lower costs are helping give the United States a big competitive advantage in energy-intensive energies. …

But to capitalize on this boom, we have to face head-on the legitimate, pressing environmental concerns about some new extraction practices and their impacts on local water, soil, and air supplies. Methane leaks in the production and transportation of natural gas are particularly troubling. So it’s crucial that we put in place smart regulations and enforce them, including deciding not to drill when the risks are too high.

But let’s compare some pictures of water from Flint:

With water from fracking:

What is wrong with us in the US that we are ok with water being contaminated, and we have a Secretary of State out in the world pushing a process that has the potential to contaminate more?

Mother Jones, and please I urge you to go read the whole thing, does a good job summarizing the issue:

The episode sheds light on a crucial but little-known dimension of Clinton’s diplomatic legacy. Under her leadership, the State Department worked closely with energy companies to spread fracking around the globe—part of a broader push to fight climate change, boost global energy supply, and undercut the power of adversaries such as Russia that use their energy resources as a cudgel. But environmental groups fear that exporting fracking, which has been linked to drinking-water contamination and earthquakes at home, could wreak havoc in countries with scant environmental regulation. And according to interviews, diplomatic cables, and other documents obtained by Mother Jones, American officials—some with deep ties to industry—also helped US firms clinch potentially lucrative shale concessions overseas, raising troubling questions about whose interests the program actually serves.

And this is why Bernie’s attacks on Hillary and her Wall Street ties matter. What if they come calling holding lucrative benefits to a Clinton administration. Is she going to stand up to defend what is in her best interests or instead bow to them? Bernie, in the response to Hillary saying he was artfully attempting to smear her, said:

Let’s talk about issues. All right, let’s talk about why, in the 1990s, Wall Street got deregulated. Did it have anything to do with the fact that Wall Street provided—spent billions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions? Well, some people might think, yeah, that had some influence. Let’s ask why it is that we pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, and your medicine can be doubled tomorrow, and there’s nothing that the government can do to stop it. You think it has anything to do with the huge amounts of campaign contributions and lobbying from the fossil fuel industry? Let’s talk about climate change. Do you think there is a reason why not one Republican has the guts to recognize that climate change is real and that we need to transform our energy system? Do you think it has anything to do with the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil pouring huge amounts of money into the political system?

And that is the issue. Bernie was able to turn her claim of him focusing on her and instead point out the whole, entire system is rigged. This fracking issue and the Flint water issue are two instances of a national epidemic. Bernie says it is time to get money out of politics, and this whole issue is a good example. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington says:

The fracking boom is yielding gushers of campaign contributions for congressional candidates from districts containing hydraulically fractured wells. A new CREW analysis of federal campaign contribution data tracked by MapLight found contributions from the industry to House and Senate candidates from districts and states home to fracking activity rose by 231 percent between the 2004 and 2012 election cycles.  In contrast, industry contributions to candidates from nonfracking districts rose by 131 percent, over the same time period.

Mother Jones also noted the links to lobbyists raising money for Hillary Clinton:

A list of 40 registered lobbyists that the Clinton camp disclosed to the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday revealed a number of Democratic Party lobbyists who have worked against regulations to curb climate change, advocated for offshore drilling, or sought government approval for natural gas exports.

And this is how Washington works. On the other side, where a candidate stands that is not being bought and paid for by corporate interests, is Bernie Sanders. According to H.A. Goodman, writing for Huffington Post:

Bernie Sanders never accepted money from corporations involved in fracking, and certainly never accepted money from prison lobbyists. His challenger, on the other hand, is linked to oil and gas contributions that span across the globe.

And here is Bernie saying how proud he is that Vermont banned fracking:

And he sponsored the Climate Protection Act of 2013 which does this:

Amends the Safe Drinking Water Act to repeal the exemption from restrictions on underground injection of fluids or propping agents granted to hydraulic fracturing operations relating to oil and gas production activities under such Act.

Requires state underground injection programs to direct a person conducting hydraulic fracturing operations to disclose: (1) before the commencement of such operations, the chemicals intended for use in underground injections; and (2) after the end of such operations, the chemicals actually used.

Requires the applicable person using hydraulic fracturing, when a medical emergency exists and the proprietary chemical formula of a chemical used in such hydraulic fracturing is necessary for medical treatment, to disclose such formula or the specific chemical identity of a trade secret chemical to the state, the Administrator, or the treating physician or nurse upon request, regardless of the existence of a written statement of need or a confidentiality agreement. Authorizes such person to require the execution of such statement and agreement as soon as practicable.

Directs the Administrator to prescribe an underground injection control program for a state, if the Administrator disapproves a state’s program. Repeals provisions concerning optional demonstrations to the Administrator by states that show the effectiveness of such state programs relating to oil or natural gas.

Authorizes civil penalties for violations of underground injection requirements.

And Hillary, let me remind you, pushed fracking worldwide. There is a difference.

UPDATE: Meg Bones on Facebook linked me to this, which could very well tie these completely together:

In July of 2014 I interviewed Flint attorney Alec Gibbs about the state takeover of Flint, why it happened, and the damage that, by that point, was already underway. It was a great discussion. And, because Gibbs got into a lot of depth not only about what had happened in Flint, but the history of the Emergency Manager law in Michigan, I find myself revisiting our conversation often. Well, when reading through it this afternoon, I found something interesting that I had’t noticed before. Toward the end of our interview, Gibbs mentions that the decision to move Flint off of Detroit water, and instead build a pipeline from Lake Huron, was likely made in part because Snyder and the Republicans wanted to bring water west from Lake Huron in order to service fracking operations along that route.


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