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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at McGregor Industries in Dunmore, Pa., Thursday, July 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at McGregor Industries in Dunmore, Pa., Thursday, July 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at McGregor Industries in Dunmore, Pa., Thursday, July 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Jessica Calefati
By Jessica Calefati July 21, 2020

No, Joe Biden doesn’t want to ban fracking or kill the Pennsylvania jobs it supports

If Your Time is short

  • U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, a Republican from northwestern Pennsylvania’s Butler County, accused Biden of wanting to kill hundreds of thousands of jobs supported by fracking, an industry that has lifted the economy in the southwestern part of the state. 
     
  • Biden wants to block the federal government from issuing new permits for drilling on public land, but he has not called for banning fracking outright. He also would allow existing fracking operations to continue.
     
  • Meanwhile, the statistic Kelly mentioned on the campaign call – the 600,000 Pennsylvania jobs supported by fracking that he says Biden wants to eliminate – comes from a 2019 report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute.

The controversial drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has long been a flashpoint in Pennsylvania politics. On a Trump campaign call last week, U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly took aim at Joe Biden’s vision for the sector.

"If Joe Biden really cared about Pennsylvania, why would he propose killing over 600,000 jobs supported by fracking?" said Kelly, a Republican congressman from Butler County, in northwest Pennsylvania.

We wondered whether Kelly accurately described Biden’s position on fracking, which has lifted the economy in southwest Pennsylvania but also sickened some residents who live near the wells that extract natural gas from miles beneath the earth’s surface.

Biden wants to block the federal government from issuing new permits for drilling on public land, but he has not called for banning fracking outright. He also would allow existing fracking operations to continue.

His official position hasn’t changed, but it became muddled when Biden, now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, misspoke during a March debate with Bernie Sanders, his last opponent standing in the race for the nomination.

Here’s an excerpt of their exchange:

"I’m talking about stopping fracking as soon as we possibly can," Sanders said. "I’m talking about telling the fossil fuel industry that they are going to stop destroying this planet — no ifs, buts and maybes about it."

"So am I," Biden replied.

"Well, I’m not sure your proposal does that," Sanders said.

"No more — no new fracking," Biden said.

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Biden seemed to be saying he wanted to ban fracking entirely – a sharp departure from his official position.

And the former vice president’s critics pounced.

Republican operatives quickly cut a short video of Biden’s remarks to use as a cudgel in races against moderate House Democrats, The Washington Post reported. And Sanders supporters accused Biden of misleading voters about his policy, which wouldn’t ban fracking outright, like Sanders wanted to.

The Biden campaign retracted his remarks the night of the debate, but that hasn’t stopped conservative media outlets from inaccurately reporting that Biden supports a total ban on fracking. The misstep is now being used against Biden in battleground states like Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, the statistic Kelly mentioned on the campaign call – the 600,000 Pennsylvania jobs supported by fracking that he says Biden wants to eliminate – comes from a 2019 report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute. It estimates that 609,000 jobs connected to fracking would be eliminated across the state by 2025 if fracking were banned.

The figure has popped up in several recent emails from Trump Victory, a political group led jointly by the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, and it flashes across the screen at the end of a television ad released last month by America First Action, a Republican super PAC that supports President Donald Trump’s reelection. The 30-second spot has appeared in several Pennsylvania media markets, according to the ad tracking firm Advertising Analytics.

However, only 21,000 of the jobs the report says are set to disappear over the next five years are positions directly within the fracking industry. The others comprise companies that do business with the industry or benefit from it indirectly, and the report doesn’t specify which jobs would be at risk. It also hypothesizes that a ban on fracking would mean higher energy costs for American families and that with less disposable income to spend in their communities, local businesses would struggle and ultimately shed jobs. The report says the 609,000 jobs figure is calculated using economic modeling software that "tracks monetary transactions within the economy between different industries, the government, and households," but it offers no other explanation of the math. 

A recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that 20,146 people are currently employed in Pennsylvania’s oil and natural gas industry.

Kelly did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Our ruling

Kelly said Biden proposed "killing over 600,000 jobs supported by fracking." 

Biden does not support an outright fracking ban, even though he spoke inaccurately about his stance on the debate stage in March. In addition, the 600,000-job figure comes from a report published by an organization that opposes limits on fracking and failed to fully explain how it calculated its projections on job losses

We rate Kelly’s statement False. 

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No, Joe Biden doesn’t want to ban fracking or kill the Pennsylvania jobs it supports

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