The Democratic Party Platform's Failure On Fracking And Climate Change

Nothing short of a ban on fracking will save Pennsylvania.

Democrats believe it would be a grave mistake for the United States to wait for  another nation to lead the world in combating the global climate emergency. In fact, we must move first in launching a green industrial revolution, because that is the key to getting others to follow; and because it is in our own national interest to do so. Just as America’s greatest generation led the effort to defeat the Axis Powers during World War II, so must our generation now lead a World War II-type national mobilization to save civilization from catastrophic consequences. We must think beyond Paris. In the first 100 days of the next administration, the President will convene a summit of the world’s best engineers, climate scientists, climate experts, policy experts, activists and indigenous communities to chart a course toward the healthy future we all want for our families and communities.

Russell Greene captured in his statement above the gravity of the climate crisis, the scale of the urgent solutions required, and the grand language worthy of big ideas so suited to political platforms, which are part policy prescription and part vision of what the party stands for. Greene, longtime organizer at Progressive Democrats of America, offered his statement as an amendment to the DNC platform  in Orlando, Florida when the party’s standing platform committee finalized the draft that will be put before the conventioneers in Philadelphia in two weeks.

So, naturally, the committee was equally supportive of other amendments offered that would help tackle the global climate emergency, right? Wrong. They rejected saying no to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. They failed to call for an end to natural gas power plants and pipeline infrastructure. They refused to support a call to keep all fossil fuels in the ground. They even opted against stopping the revolving door between government and industry from spinning.

But for Pennsylvanians, it was the committee’s failure to support, or even vote on, a national ban on fracking that was most disappointing. Sure, other issues like TPP have a very direct impact on Pennsylvania. TPP includes a provision that gives automatic approval of Liquefied Natural Gas shipments to member nations, like Japan, second largest importer of natural gas in the world. Cabot Oil & Gas, the company that destroyed the private water supplies of several families in Dimock, PA is the same company that has entered into a 20 year deal with Japan to ship fracked gas from Pennsylvania via the first LNG facility to be approved on the East Coast in Cove Point, Maryland.

Nothing short of a ban on fracking will save Pennsylvania, however. Fracking has been devastating Pennsylvania’s communities for a dozen years. We referred to ourselves as test subjects in a live laboratory experiment, yet the rest of the world seemed not to notice. But things started to change as poll after poll started showing growing public opposition to fracking. Recent polls show a vast majority of Democrats oppose fracking, as do all of the American public by 51-36% according to the March 30, 2016 Gallup poll.  The moment that gave us the most hope, however, was the one during the Michigan debate when a young woman asked the candidates if they support fracking. Finally, fracking had become a presidential campaign issue. 

We Pennsylvanians aren’t naive. We know that party platforms are aspirational statements, non-binding ones, at that, but seeing your issue included in the platform means that you have something to aspire to, something to organize around. We wanted to see our issue make it to the convention, if only as something that warranted a floor debate. After all, when people learn about what fracking is doing to our water, our air and, as a result, our health, our safety, our property, and our quality of life, they join growing millions of Americans who are flatly saying no to fracking. 

It was not to be. The committee failed to vote on an amendment calling for a national moratorium on fracking, in favor of voting for one that makes the same empty and scientifically impossible- to- fulfill promises about better regulating fracking.

To be fair, some progress was made. But despite the political spin given to incremental, half-measures, the Democratic Platform falls far short on the TPP, fracking, and climate change. It’s up to our movement to take a stand for real change. That’s why it’s more important than ever that our movement shows up to the March for a Clean Energy Revolution in Philadelphia on July 24 just before the Democratic National Convention, to demand an end to dirty energy, a swift and just transition to 100% renewable energy, and actions that address the problem and harms we face.