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Ocasio-Cortez introduces fracking ban bill in sync with Senate proposal

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Ocasio-Cortez introduces fracking ban bill in sync with Senate proposal

Progressive powerhouse U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., joined 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders with a bill to end hydraulic fracturing nationwide.

Ocasio-Cortez introduced H.R.5857 on Feb. 12 — the companion to which Sanders, I-Vt., submitted last month. If passed, the legislation would prohibit new federal permits for fracking-related infrastructure and ban the practice within 2,500 feet of homes and schools by 2021, according to a Feb. 12 release from cosponsor U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla.

In 2025, the legislation would ban fracking for oil and gas "on all onshore and offshore land in the United States" in an effort to limit emissions that contribute to climate change.

The proposed legislation would also direct the U.S. Department of Labor in conjunction with other federal agencies, organized labor groups and stakeholders to create a plan to place affected workers into other "good-paying jobs" in their communities, according to the release. The fossil fuel industry is often quick to point out that energy jobs are typically the highest-paying in rural communities and most susceptible to a clean energy transition.

American Petroleum Institute spokeswoman Bethany Aronhalt noted in a Feb. 13 statement that technological advances have allowed the U.S. to end its reliance of foreign energy.

"Banning a safe, successful method of developing energy would erase a generation of American energy progress and in the process destroy millions of U.S. jobs, spike household energy costs and hurt farmers and manufacturers," Aronhalt said.

But Ocasio-Cortez focused on the oil and gas industry's methane emissions, which trap 25 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently determined that the natural gas sector's methane emissions increased by 0.4% from 2017 to 2018, while the oil sector declined 5.7% over the period. Methane emissions from the natural gas and oil sectors dropped by 23.2% from 1990 to 2018.

"The science is clear: fracking is a leading contributor to our climate emergency," the representative said in the release. "It is destroying our land. It is destroying our water and it is wreaking havoc on our communities' health."

While a fracking ban is unlikely to pass the Republican-led Senate, the proposal has been discussed among candidates vying for the Democratic Party's nod for president. Sanders, who has emerged as one of the party's 2020 front runners after his performance in the recent Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, said he would end fossil fuel production on federal lands. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has also proposed a ban.

While the president would need Congress' help to ban fracking entirely across the U.S., he or she may have better luck banning the practice on federal lands, S&P Global Platts Analytics wrote in a Jan. 14 report. About 24%, or 3.1 million barrels per day, of total U.S. oil production occurs on federally owned or managed lands but immediately stopping new drilling would affect about half that daily production by 2024, it stated.

"[I]t's also worth mentioning that there remains upside risk potential in the near-term to these supply loss estimates," according to the report. "Between the months of November 2020, when it will be known if there will be a change in office, and January 2021, when a newly elected president will be inaugurated, there could be a surge in permit requests in anticipation of a potential ban to new permitting."

A Wood Mackenzie analysis determined that, should Sanders become the 46th president and implement a hydraulic fracturing ban on federal lands immediately, crude and condensate production would drop from 10.8 million barrels per day to 10 million in the 48 contiguous states next year.

"Operators that have acreage optionality would likely choose to develop more of their private-lease acreage instead," Wood Mackenzie analyst Elena Nikolova said. "Investors have been pressuring operators to operate within cash flow and that expectation is unlikely to change. … Low investor confidence in the oil price outlook could spur a more significant market reaction as operators recalibrate their plans."

S&P Global Market Intelligence and S&P Global Platts are both owned by S&P Global Inc.