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What A Bernie Sanders Fracking Ban Would Mean For Texas

David Martin Davies

Bernie Sanders is one of the leading candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for president. However, the senator from Vermont has policies that traditionally could be a hard sell here in Texas. Last week Sanders filed a billthat, if passed, would ban fracking.

Sen. Sanders’ stance opposing fracking isn’t new. He said it on the campaign trail in 2016.

“When we talk about our environment – we’ve got to put an end to fracking,” Sanders said to cheering supporters.

Sanders has tweeted that, “Fracking is a danger to our water supply. It’s a danger to the air we breathe. It causes earthquakes. It’s highly explosive. And it’s contributing to climate change. We need to ban it nationwide.”

But Todd Staples, President of the Texas Oil and Natural Gas Association says the use of hydraulic fracturing has created abundant low cost energy, wealth and jobs in Texas.

“This type of legislation would actually decimate millions of lives across America. And jeopardize the ability to get much needed power to our hospitals, to our homes, to our schools,” said Staples.  

Staples — who was a Republican two-term Texas Commissioner of Agriculture — says Sanders and other Democratic candidates promising to outlaw fracking are pandering to voters and not talking about the reality of petroleum production.

“We need to understand the process that it takes to deliver power to heat and cool our homes. And that’s what we need to have a conversation about in this campaign time,” he said.

But Mark McCord, director of FracDallas said industry claims that a fracking ban would cost jobs don't add up.

“There is no job loss or anything there because the fact is the industry is hemorrhaging jobs for the last four years anyhow,” he said.

McCord says except for in the Permian Basin there isn’t much fracking going on in Texas anymore and that’s because of low prices for oil and natural gas and the high cost of drilling and overhead.

But McCord says even if fracking started booming again then Sanders couldn’t do much about it.

“Well it’s possible for Bernie Sanders or any other president to stop it on federal land. He could not stop it on state land and he could not stop it on private land,” he said.

In Texas it's the state’s job oversee activity on the oil patch, said Tom Tunstall director of research at the University of Texas at San Antonio Institute for Economic Development.

“From a practical standpoint, in the case of Texas, it's the Railroad Commission that regulates to the oil and gas industry,” he said.

Tunstall points out that the concerns that some people have about fracking are not different than what could happen with convention oil drilling techniques.

“Most commonly spills at the surface, which would seep down into the ground or improperly cemented well casing. And those occur with the old drilling rigs as well as the unconventional,” Tunstall said.

Because oil and gas drilling is complicated, Staples says campaign promises to ban fracking don’t actually mean much.

David Martin Davies can be reached at DMDavies@TPR.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi