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President Joe Biden signs an executive order on climate change, in the State Dining Room of the White House on Jan. 27, 2021, in Washington. (AP) President Joe Biden signs an executive order on climate change, in the State Dining Room of the White House on Jan. 27, 2021, in Washington. (AP)

President Joe Biden signs an executive order on climate change, in the State Dining Room of the White House on Jan. 27, 2021, in Washington. (AP)

Daniel Funke
By Daniel Funke January 28, 2021

Biden fracking policy still doesn’t amount to full ban

If Your Time is short

  • President Joe Biden has not “followed through” on a fracking ban. He signed two executive orders, one that pauses the permitting of oil and natural gas operations in northeastern Alaska and one that pauses leases for drilling on all federal land.
  • Biden’s climate change plan never called for banning fracking. Instead, it proposed banning new fracking on federal lands.

An old campaign attack continues to dog President Joe Biden.

A Jan. 25 post on Facebook juxtaposes two news articles: one from the Washington Post and one from Townhall, a conservative news site. The former article says Biden won’t ban fracking, while the latter says he "followed through" with a ban.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

Throughout the 2020 presidential election, we fact-checked many claims that Biden would ban fracking, a process used to extract oil and gas from the ground. Several of them misrepresented his position, so we wanted to take a closer look at this post.

(Screenshot from Facebook)

We found that it, too, distorts Biden’s actions by making them appear more sweeping than they really are. In short, Biden is doing what he said he would do if elected — that is, ban new fracking on federal land.

On his first day, Biden signed an executive order that put a hold on all oil and gas development in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. On Jan. 27, he signed an additional executive order that pauses new oil and gas leases on federal land, effectively banning new fracking there for as long as the policy lasts. His moves leave current fracking untouched.

Headlines don’t tell the story

Let’s take a closer look at the Facebook post.

The top of it shows the headline of a Washington Post fact-check published in early October. It debunked a Trump campaign ad that said, if elected president, Biden said he will end fracking. The headline: "Trump campaign promotes false claim that Biden would end fracking."

The second article in the Facebook post purportedly shows "what Biden is doing," and was published by Town Hall on Jan. 20. Its headline said: "Biden Administration: Yes, We Are Following Through With a Fracking Ban."

The Townhall article covers an interaction at the first press briefing of the Biden administration. (The article more accurately explains the type of fracking that Biden promised to block.)

On Jan. 20, White House press secretary Jen Psaki answered a reporter’s question about the executive order that Biden signed that day about Alaska oil and gas drilling. Here’s the exchange, in context:

Featured Fact-check

Reporter: "President Biden promised to end all new oil and gas leasing on federal lands when he was a candidate. The order that you just mentioned that he signed today was much narrower than that — it's a temporary moratorium and it only applies to (the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge). And there is some debate about whether he has the legal flexibility to even follow through with his full promise. Does the administration still have that commitment today?

Psaki: "We do, and the leases will be reviewed by our team. We just have only been in office for less than a day now"

What Biden signed was an executive order that paused the federal government’s implementation of the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Trump-era program, passed as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, directed the Interior Department to issue leases for drilling oil and natural gas in the refuge’s coastal plain. Biden’s order also reinstated an Obama-era policy that withdrew certain areas of the Arctic from consideration for oil drilling.

"The Secretary (of the Interior) shall review the program and, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, conduct a new, comprehensive analysis of the potential environmental impacts of the oil and gas program," Biden’s executive order says.

Biden’s move tracked with his climate change plan, which calls for banning fracking on federal lands but not all fracking.

RELATED: Biden Promise Tracker

On Jan. 27 — after the Facebook post and Townhall article were published — Biden signed an additional executive order that directs the interior secretary to "pause new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters pending completion of a comprehensive review." It would effectively prevent new fracking projects on federal land.

The Interior Department said the order "does not impact existing operations or permits for valid, existing leases, which are continuing to be reviewed and approved." Biden reiterated that point in remarks to the press.

"Let me be clear, and I know this always comes up: We're not going to ban fracking," he said.

Our ruling

The Facebook post says Biden is "following through with a fracking ban."

That’s not quite right.

Biden has signed two executive orders related to land leases for oil and natural gas drilling. One order pauses new leases specifically in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, while the other pauses new leases on all federal land. Neither ban existing fracking operations, and Biden has said repeatedly that he does not intend to do so.

The Facebook post contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

Our Sources

CNN, "No, Joe Biden didn't just ban fracking," Jan. 27, 2021

Congress.gov, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

C-SPAN, "President Biden Signs Executive Orders on Environmental Policy," Jan. 27, 2021

C-SPAN, White House Daily Briefing, Jan. 20, 2021

Facebook post, Jan. 25, 2021

Federal Register, "Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy," May 3, 2017

Federal Register, "Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience," Dec. 14, 2016

Federal Register, "Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science To Tackle the Climate Crisis," Jan. 25, 2021

JoeBiden.com, THE BIDEN PLAN FOR A CLEAN ENERGY REVOLUTION AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

Newsweek, "Fact Check: Does Joe Biden's Executive Order Ban Fracking?" Jan. 27, 2021

PolitiFact, "In debate, Joe Biden said no more oil drilling and no new fracking, didn’t say shutdowns," March 20, 2020

PolitiFact, "Joe Biden called for limits on fracking, not a ban," June 19, 2020

PolitiFact, "No, Joe Biden doesn’t want to ban fracking and kill the Wisconsin jobs the industry supports," Aug. 18, 2020

PolitiFact, "No, Joe Biden doesn’t want to ban fracking or kill the Pennsylvania jobs it supports," July 21, 2020

Townhall, "Biden Administration: Yes, We Are Following Through With a Fracking Ban," Jan. 20, 2021

U.S. Department of the Interior, "FACT SHEET: President Biden to Take Action to Uphold Commitment to Restore Balance on Public Lands and Waters, Invest in Clean Energy Future," Jan. 27, 2021

U.S. Department of the Interior, "Secretary Bernhardt Signs Decision to Implement the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program in Alaska," Aug. 17, 2020

U.S. Geological Survey, "What is hydraulic fracturing?"

The Washington Post, "Biden plans temporary halt of oil activity in Arctic refuge," Jan. 20, 2021

The Washington Post, "Trump campaign promotes false claim that Biden would end fracking," Oct. 7, 2020

The White House, "Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad," Jan. 27, 2021

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More by Daniel Funke

Biden fracking policy still doesn’t amount to full ban

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