June 26, 2019

Can a President Slam the Brakes on Fracking?

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

As part of his climate-change focused presidential campaign, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed a plan to rapidly phase out extraction of fossil fuels in the U.S. The plan includes ending fossil fuel drilling on federal land, terminating taxpayer subsidies to fossil fuel business, and pursuing a complete, nationwide ban on fracking.

A fracking ban, or a significant curbing of fracking—which involves injecting a high-pressure mixture of water, sand, and chemicals into the ground to break open hard-to-reach pockets of oil—is meaningful because the prohibition would keep bounties of carbon-rich oil buried, Mashable reported.

Fracking would be hard for the federal government to completely prohibit because the majority of the nation's oil extraction occurs on private lands, Kate Konschnik, director of the Climate and Energy Program at Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, told Mashable. A president, though, has sway over federally owned public lands—and those offshore.

"On public lands, there’s a lot that can be done," Konschnik said.