A new wave of aggressive anti-oil and natural gas legislation is cropping up in several states, driven by national “Keep It In the Ground” (KIITG) groups that have failed numerous attempts at the federal level to restrict development.
Emboldened by the introduction of the “Green New Deal”, KIITG groups have made it clear that nothing short of a ban on oil and natural gas development will do – and that’s the strategy they are taking to the states. As Food and Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said:
“We support the ambition and scale of this resolution, and we are heartened by its recognition that climate change poses a grave threat to healthy food and clean water, but any legislation that does not explicitly address the urgent need to keep fossil fuels in the ground is insufficient.” (emphasis added)
State legislatures in Florida, Colorado, and Texas now threaten to exacerbate the economic consequences of the KITTG movement, which a Global Energy Institute report estimates have already cost the United States almost 730,000 job opportunities, nearly $92 billion in gross domestic product and $20.3 million in state and local tax revenue.
Florida illustrates KIITG’s all or nothing agenda.
Recently, the Florida legislature introduced FL SPB7064 (19R) that would place a ban on fracking in the Sunshine State, but would still allow traditional methods of well stimulation that have been used safely for decades. As Florida Petroleum Council Executive Director David Mica recently testified,
“In fact, most Floridians don’t understand that we produce oil and gas in this state. And that’s a good thing. We quietly are able to produce the products that we need for the energy production to make us less dependent on foreign oil, to produce revenue for the state of Florida, and to produce American energy.”
Despite the myriad of evidence that fracking is used safely across the country and has helped to greatly enhance U.S. energy security, activists like Food and Water Watch have spent the last several years campaigning for a fracking ban in the state. And yet, they are vocally opposed to this recently proposed legislation that would ban fracking. Why? Because it will allow the conventional industry to continue developing the state’s oil and natural gas.
As the Miami Herald reported,
“Michelle Allen of the Florida Food and Water Watch said by refusing to include matrix acidizing and close the loophole, they do not deal with the central question.
“’It’s appalling that senators have chosen to only focus on one type of fracking technique,’ she said. ‘Most tellingly, legislators continue to use the oil industry line that matrix acidizing is just a cleaning technique when it is clear toxic chemicals are used in this type of drilling for the purposes of reaching new pockets of oil.’”
Colorado’s legislature claims the “Boulder Bill” is not a ban attempt, yet counties are already passing moratoriums in anticipation of its passage.
This week, the Colorado House held its first hearing on SB 181. The legislation was previously accelerated through the Senate during a blizzard, despite widespread concerns about its consequences for local jobs, the economy, and the state’s general fund.
Colorado’s Democrats have been adamant that this sweeping legislation – endorsed by presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, who is running on a “ban fracking” platform – is not a de facto ban on the state’s oil and natural gas development.
Congratulations to @SteveFenberg and @COSenDem for standing up to the fossil fuel lobbyists and taking an important step to empower communities to protect their residents’ health, safety and environment. https://t.co/ZHt0p63M0q
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 14, 2019
But actions speak louder than words: Adams County has already jumped at the opportunity the legislation presents. In anticipation of SB 181’s passage and in a déjà vu of Proposition 112 moment, county commissioners this week unanimously voted to institute a six-month moratorium on oil and natural gas development.
Food and Water Watch was quick to release a statement on the Adams County decision:
“Adams County did the right thing today by stopping all new fracking permits. …Ultimately, the only way to protect families from the health and safety hazards of fracking is to ban it entirely.” (emphasis added)
Texas’ infrastructure bill echoes KIITG policies in New England.
The Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs recently passed Committee Substitute Senate Bill 421 (CSSB 421), which includes language inviting litigation and delays against new pipeline projects in the state. Further, by discouraging new critical infrastructure, CSSB 421 could cripple Texas oil and natural gas production, raising energy costs and reducing funding for Texas schools. As TXOGA President Todd Staples recently explained:
“CSSB 421 is wrong for Texas because the legislation will increase litigation, slow infrastructure development and ultimately stifle state and local tax revenue.”
Unsurprisingly, the Sierra Club – a KIITG group that has actively fought pipeline development in the Northeast and recently received a large sum of money from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to campaign for moving away from oil and natural gas –actively supports CSSB 421.
Notably, Sierra Club’s Lena Moffitt clearly laid out the group’s infrastructure agenda in a 2016 Bloomberg article:
“If we can forestall gas infrastructure being put in the ground and locking in that demand for the next 60 years — if we can forestall that by maybe just five years — the hope is that renewables will come in and be cost competitive in all markets.”
U.S. oil and natural gas proves resilient, despite the KIITG movement
While KIITG activists push for legislation that would hurt local governments, threaten funding for public education and hospitals, and eliminate job opportunities, the industry continues to make advancements that bolster our national security and reduce air emissions.
Thanks to the shale revolution, the United States now leads the world in oil and natural gas production. The International Energy Agency predicts the United States will dominate world oil and gas growth through 2025, contributing approximately half of global production.
Between 2005 and 2017, U.S. natural gas production increased 51 percent, thanks to shale. Meanwhile, annual CO2 emissions declined by 758 million metric tons – the largest decline of any country. The IPCC has previously outlined the link:
“The rapid deployment of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies… is an important reason for a reduction of GHG emissions in the United States.”
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler took time during the recent CERA conference to commend the industry’s progress and point out the hypocrisy of KIITG efforts:
“What the United States offers the world in terms of energy is that our fossil fuels are extracted and produced in a more environmentally conscious manner than anywhere else in the world… The truth is that those who oppose U.S. fossil fuel production are actually taking the most environmentally preferable energy source off the table for the rest of the world. This is a disservice to human health and the environment.”
Be sure to check back on EnergyInDepth.org for future updates on these state initiatives.
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