We Banned Fracking. So Why Does New York Accept Fracking Waste?

February 10, 2020
 Climate Water

A shocking Rolling Stone investigation uncovered the radioactive dangers of fracking waste. Now a new bill aims to close the dangerous oil and gas loophole.

Five years ago, a huge grassroots movement, led in part by Food & Water Watch, stopped fracking in New York state. That much you probably know.

But did you know that a loophole in state law exempts oil and gas waste from the normal testing of hazardous materials? That means that in the past decade, over 650,000 tons and 23,000 barrels of oil and gas waste from Pennsylvania has been disposed of in New York landfills. Leachate from those landfills can contaminate nearby rivers and streams, some of which can be drinking water sources.

Fracking is depleting our water faster than initially known.

We need to change that. And we have the legislation to get the job done right now.


Fracking Is A Public Health Threat

Fracking and drilling waste threaten our water and public health. An explosive investigation in Rolling Stone magazine shed some light on the dangers posed by this waste stream, which is being dumped into landfills, trucked hundreds of miles across several states, and even used as a de-icer or a dust suppressant on roads.

We banned fracking because it was a threat to New York. The waste created by fracking is extremely dangerous too; it can contain carcinogenic chemicals like benzene and formaldehyde, and includes radioactive materials as well.

Help Get Dirty Fracking Waste Out Of New York

Hundreds of organizations across New York signed a letter to state legislators urging swift passage of S.3392/A.2655. Now we need you to join the fight to keep dirty fracking waste out of New York. 


Banning Fracking is a Political Winner

February 5, 2020
 Climate Democracy

Conventional wisdom says anti-fracking Democrats will lose swing states. But facts say otherwise.

When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a statewide ban on fracking in 2014, only one US senator – Bernie Sanders – supported a ban.  

Things have changed dramatically since then. Maryland and Washington state have banned fracking, and many more senators — including Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Jeff Merkley — are supporting a ban on fracking.

There’s one simple explanation for this shift: the growing recognition that we need to move rapidly off fossil fuels to avoid the worst of the climate crisis. That means stopping dangerous drilling and embarking on a rapid, just transition to 100% renewable energy.

But lately there has been a lot of hand-wringing in the media saying that supporting a fracking ban will hurt Democrats in the general election – especially in heavily fracked battleground states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. The evidence says otherwise. 

In fact, recent polling and electoral data clearly shows that support for a fracking ban is a political winner. Democratic presidential candidates would be wise to support a fracking ban as part of a Green New Deal to move America off fossil fuels and onto 100% renewable energy.

First, Democrats (and Independents) don’t like fracking.

National polling shows Democrats overwhelmingly oppose fracking. According to a poll commissioned by Data for Progress in September 2019: 

  • 63% of Democrats supported a fracking ban
  • Only 19% opposed a ban
  • Among independent voters, 44% supported a fracking ban – a plurality of those surveyed, including many who are eligible to vote in certain Democratic primaries

In another September poll from AP/NORC, just 9% of Democrats and 16% of independents supported increased fracking. 

Fracking is particularly unpopular in critical primary states. Take a look at California, the biggest Super Tuesday prize: Polling in 2016 by PPIC showed that 69% of Democrats and 61% of independents oppose increased fracking. Governor Gavin Newsom campaigned in 2018 on a platform opposing fracking, and a fracking ban passed in oil-producing Monterey County by a 56% to 44% margin despite massive spending by the fossil fuel industry.

Then there’s the primary in Florida, a state where activists are pushing to ban fracking. A 2019 survey by Florida Atlantic University found that 61% of Democrats support a fracking ban. Meanwhile, even right-wing Governor Ron DeSantis campaigned in support of a ban.

But fracking is popular in swing states… right? Not really. 

Conventional wisdom suggests that voters in swing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio are enthusiastic backers of fracking. This is simply not the case. A new poll from Franklin & Marshall of registered voters in Pennsylvania found 48% support a ban on fracking, while 39% oppose it. 

The same survey finds 49% of Pennsylvanians say that the negative environmental impacts of gas drilling are not worth the supposed economic benefits. That’s up from 33% just a few years ago. The same survey in 2018 found that 69 percent of state residents think Pennsylvania should prioritize renewable energy; just 18 percent wanted to prioritize coal and gas. 

A similar dynamic exists in Florida, the largest swing state with the most electoral votes up for grabs. While the poll cited above found that a fracking ban is overwhelmingly popular among Democrats, a third of Floridians who voted for Trump also support a ban.

Of course there is no firm evidence that a candidate’s position on fracking would be a dealbreaker for voters. But even the industry’s preferred argument — “fracking delivers jobs to hard-hit regions” — is undermined by the hundreds of jobs drilling companies have axed in Pennsylvania in recent months due to fracking’s plummeting profitability. 

Anti-fracking candidates in Pennsylvania are winning. 

The most serious blow to conventional wisdom about fracking’s role in elections comes from simply looking at recent results. A series of recent local races across Pennsylvania support the argument that standing strong against fossil fuels can be a winner.


Summer Lee, Elizabeth Fiedler, and Danielle Otten are progressive champions running for the Pennsylvania legislature.
           Summer Lee, Elizabeth Fiedler, and Danielle Otten.

In 2018, anti-fracking candidates Summer Lee, Sara Innamorato and Elizabeth Fiedler won their state legislative races. 

And the communities fighting the Mariner East pipelines in Chester County took their movement to the ballot box, flipping a key Republican-held state legislative district by electing Danielle Friel Otten to represent the 155th District. 

These candidates all won competitive races or Democratic primaries, unseating incumbents who were unwilling to take on the powerful fracking industry.

The 2019 elections delivered more evidence of this trend. An intense battle over a plan to lease a park for drilling in the Republican-leaning Pittsburgh suburb of Franklin Park led anti-fracking Democratic candidates to run for seats on the City Council; three of four succeeded. The same thing occurred in East Pittsburgh, where a proposal to build a fracking well at a local steel mill has drawn intense community opposition.

Fracking isn’t just a political ‘wedge issue.’

Aside from the political outcomes of banning fracking, it remains clear that fracking has been disastrous for the communities bearing the public health consequences of drilling. Fracking contaminates drinking water, and takes a much heavier toll on water resources than previously thought: A Duke University team found that water use per well had increased dramatically—as much as 770 percent—and the amount of toxic wastewater produced by drilling was also on the rise.

The impacts of fracking go much deeper. Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York recently compiled the sixth edition of their compendium summarizing the findings from hundreds of different research projects, bolstering the conclusion that fracking is a threat to our air, water and climate.

In southwest Pennsylvania, an outbreak of rare, deadly childhood cancers has become a major concern, with families and advocacy groups demanding that Governor Tom Wolf probe the possible connection to gas drilling in the area. Plus, the recent blockbuster report by Justin Noble in Rolling Stone documents the serious health threats posed by radioactive drilling waste, especially in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Drilling backers insist employment should be the only metric considered for fracking’s impact. But according to a new study, costs from premature deaths and climate harm clearly outweigh the economic benefits. 

The climate crisis is a key issue for voters, making fracking a serious liability.

An increasing number of voters consider climate a top priority. A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found over 70% of Democrats think this crisis demands immediate action; almost 50% of independents felt the same way. And a Pew survey this year found that two-thirds of Democrats say climate should be a top priority for the next president; only 46% said the same four years ago.

Surveys also show strong support for taking bold action. A March 2019 Data For Progress poll showed that 59% of Americans support a Green New Deal, with only 29% opposed. A more recent NPR/Marist poll found 63% support the Green New Deal. Notably, candidates that have advocated a ban on fracking have done so as part of broader plans for a Green New Deal. 

The link between fracking and climate change is crystal clear—and the evidence keeps piling up. While carbon dioxide emissions from coal have been going down, emissions from methane, the primary component of natural gas, have been rising so fast over the past several years that they have essentially negated coal’s decline. Fracking isn’t a bridge to clean energy — it’s deepening our dependence on climate-wrecking fossil fuels.

Smart political leaders should easily see that seeking to ban fracking is a win with voters.


Anti-Fracking Leaders Win Pennsylvania Municipal Races 

November 7, 2019

People-Powered Campaign Shows a Movement is Rising to Protect Allegheny County from Fracking

SEWICKLEY, PA – On Tuesday, three community leaders running on a platform of protecting their community of Franklin Park Borough from fracking won seats on the borough council.

Democrats Susan Striz, Brian Malkin, and Dr. Jiang Li each won their races, while a fourth candidate, Matt Ferriolo, came up just a few dozen votes short.

“This victory shows Franklin Park residents are opposed to fracking,” said Sam Bernhardt, Deputy Political Director for Food & Water Action. “Voters have delivered a mandate to their local government that they want to be protected from this dangerous process. Elected officials at all levels of government—municipal, state, or federal—should take note: prioritize the polluting fracking industry over your constituents puts you at risk of losing your next election.”

The saga in Franklin Park started in mid-2018. A borough survey of residents showed strong opposition to a plan to lease Linbrook Park for fracking. But the Borough Council proceeded to take up the item at their December 2018 meeting. Food & Water Watch mobilized hundreds of residents to this meeting, forcing the council to put off deliberation on the proposal.

In the weeks that followed, hundreds of community members continued to show up to council meetings to voice their opposition to the proposed lease, which was eventually voted down, with Laura Coombs (Ward 1) casting the sole vote in support of it.

The fracking issue didn’t go away for the councilmembers, who proceeded to pass an oil and gas zoning ordinance that would allow fracking in residential parts of Franklin Park, ignoring community leaders’ calls to restrict fracking into the M3 zone.

These candidates—Ferriolo, Li, Striz, and Malkin— decided to run against incumbent borough council members because they recognized the council was coming up short on this issue.

Food & Water Action and Food & Water Action PAC played a significant role in recruiting and training these candidates, and deployed significant resources to mobilize voters in support of them. The two organizations, which operated under an internal firewall to ensure no coordination between their operations, deployed a combination of tactics including canvassing, mail, phonebanking, peer-to-peer texting and digital advertising to educate voters about the candidates.


Food & Water Action mobilizes people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people’s health, communities and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

#UnfrackTheWhiteHouse: We Need To Know Where The 2020 Candidates Stand

September 17, 2019
 Climate Democracy

Climate change and the insidious influence of the industries that contribute to it are one of the most pressing issues of this presidential election. We developed a survey for the candidates that asks about the top environmental issues our organization and members fight to solve.

So far we’ve received answers from only TWO candidates (thank you Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris)! We’re following up with folks including Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, and Pete Buttigieg to see why they haven’t responded yet. We need to get answers on the issues that keep a large percentage of voters awake at night.

Check out our survey below (or download it if you’re a candidate who lost your copy), and click on the tweets below to ask the candidates who haven’t weighed in yet to answer these important questions. Climate change won’t wait for politicians to be ready to address it!

UPDATE: We’ve also challenged all Democratic Presidential candidates to take our Fossil-Fuel Free Cabinet Pledge. So far the only candidate to step to the plate is Bernie Sanders. We are looking forward to seeing where the rest of the candidates stand. 

2020 Candidate Survey

The people want to know where you stand on @fwaction 's climate change survey, Joe! Will you answer the Q's here today? #UnfrackTheWhiteHouse fwwat.ch/UNFRACK Click To Tweet The people want to know where you stand on @fwaction 's climate change survey, Senator! Will you answer the Q's here today? #UnfrackTheWhiteHouse fwwat.ch/UNFRACK Click To Tweet The people want to know where you stand on @fwaction 's climate change survey, Beto! Will you answer the Q's here today? #UnfrackTheWhiteHouse fwwat.ch/UNFRACK Click To Tweet The people want to know where you stand on @fwaction 's climate change survey, Pete! Will you answer the Q's here today? #UnfrackTheWhiteHouse fwwat.ch/UNFRACK Click To Tweet

Saving Our Climate Starts With The Decision To Fight Back

September 10, 2019
 Climate Democracy

People everywhere are feeling called to do more when it comes to climate change. Every person has a duty to protect those we love from a future of climate chaos driven by greedy corporations. It’s time for every single one of us to join the fight; it’s time to fight like we live here.

Dear friends, supporters, and those joining us for the first time,

Protecting ourselves and future generations from the worst effects of climate chaos sometimes feels overwhelming — like it’s beyond what any individual can do.  But think about all the unlikely wins that have happened when people have come together to mobilize for change. Every victory started when someone — even a seemingly ordinary person — decided to fight back! 

We’ve all heard some version of the too-common complaint: “Someone should DO SOMETHING about the corporations that poison our water, pollute our air, and destroy our climate.” We all wish that someone would do something when we see the Amazon rainforest in flames, or climate-change-fueled superstorms destroying communities, or the frequent disasters caused by fracking and other deadly fossil fuel infrastructure. In 2005, when we founded Food & Water Watch, we decided that that someone would be us. That’s when we chose to stand up to form an organization that wasn’t afraid to call for the bold policies humanity really needs to survive and thrive, not just the weak half-measures that might seem politically possible. Back then, we knew that to ensure a livable future, we had to take on the big money interests that control the levers of government at almost every level and stop this ravaging of our resources at its source. 

So — together with many of you— we took action. You believed in our shared mission so much that you helped mobilize a dedicated and powerful army of volunteers, members, donors, community coalitions, and scrappy organizers. We’ve done so much important work in the last 14 years and won so many important victories. Here is just a small snapshot of the progress we’ve won together:

Banned fracking in New York, Maryland, Washington. Bans in other states, like Florida, are visible on the horizon

— Banned arsenic in chicken feed, first in Maryland and then nationally

— Helped pass historic legislation in Baltimore to protect water and taxpayers

— Pressured Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti to halt a rebuild of three gas-fired power plants in favor of investing in renewable energy

Built the movement to ban fracking everywhere and set the stage for a REAL #GreenNewDeal

Today, in our toxic political environment, action is more important than ever. In fact, it’s so crucial that we developed another side to our organization called Food & Water Action, to wage the political fights that have the highest stakes for the environment and our resources. We’ve put that to work to achieve pivotal electoral victories. We win the battles that others think are impossible. 

In the face of Trump’s shameless and shameful environmental rollbacks, our mission has only become more important. So we’ve decided to be bolder, and lead with Action. You’ll be seeing more from our Food & Water Action arm in the months and years ahead, as we champion the fighters like you who are making real, positive change happen. If you’d like to see more about our strategy, we want you on board. We’re ready for the fight, and our mission — to save our climate and protect people everywhere — has never been more urgent.

All the progress we’ve made in the last 14 years comes down to this: we came together, stood up, and decided to fight back. We’re doubling down on that formula for the fights ahead because we know it will work.

The clock is counting down in this perilous time. We need many more people who care to make that decision, too. Send them our way, won’t you? The fight for our climate and natural resources is a fight we must win, because this planet is the only one we get. Let’s fight like we live here.

If you’re ready to fight like you live here, join our email list and enlist friends to join, too! 

A Bold New Strategic Vision for Food & Water Action

September 10, 2019

Catastrophic climate change is the most urgent issue of our time, creating enormous risks to people and threatening our food and water. To stop it, we need to think big and not be limited in vision. Science shows that the best – and only – way to battle climate chaos is to make massive and immediate changes to fight the greedy corporations that put their own profit over human life. In the last 14 years, we’ve proven that we know how to do that.

As just part of our long list of milestone victories, we’ve banned fracking in New York, Maryland and Washington State. We’ve fought and stopped dangerous oil and gas infrastructure in states across the country. We helped pass historic legislation in Baltimore to protect public water. And we built the national movement to ban fracking everywhere and set the stage for a real Green New Deal. But our work is just beginning. In today’s toxic political environment, our proven strategies are even more urgent. This plan, which is the result of research, thought, and collaboration from every member of the Food & Water Action team, shows us how to focus our action more effectively than ever to stop catastrophic climate change. We’re ready to come together, to mobilize, and to fight like we live here.

As part of this clearer & renewed focus, we updated our mission statement:

Our food, water, and climate are under constant assault by corporations who put profit over the survival of humanity. They have seized control of the very institutions that were built to protect us. We mobilize people to reclaim their political power, hold our elected officials accountable, and resist corporate control — ensuring we all have the essential resources we need to thrive. This is a fight we must win, because this planet is the only one we get.

In the coming years, we will invest the majority of our resources in 3 core campaigns to move that mission forward.

  1. Stop catastrophic climate change by working at the federal, state and local levels to eliminate the production and use of fossil fuels. Food & Water Action is a national leader in the fight to ban fracking and stop fossil fuel infrastructure projects; these efforts build on dozens of wins over the last 14 years. We have proven again and again that our approach and strategies work. We are doubling down on our success to win bigger victories to end climate chaos.

  2. Fight to make sure we all have access to clean and affordable water. In the face of crumbling infrastructure and worsening water shortages caused by climate change, corporations are racing to privatize our drinking water. At the same time, corporations are dumping toxic pollutants from fracking and other dangerous industrial practices into our water supply. We are mobilizing people to secure their right to clean and affordable water where they live, and we’re fighting for everyone by passing effective federal legislation.

  3. Ban factory farms and fight to create a just and equitable food system that protects our air, water, communities, family farmers and climate. Factory farms destroy air, water, and the communities they occupy. We’re fighting to ban them in favor of sustainable, fair food systems and we’re starting with the key agricultural battleground states of Iowa and Oregon.

Other critical and urgent issues relate to our 3 core campaigns. We’re going to continue to fight on these fronts: plastic contamination in our food, water, and environment; water privatization; weak and ineffective organic food standards and food safety laws; and other issues that impact our climate, food, and water. Our core campaigns are a critical framework for taking on these aligned issues.

The challenges we are taking on today are the biggest issues humanity has ever faced. Our approach to these issues is bold, uncompromising, and hard-hitting – and it works. Every part of our identity, from our core campaigns to our tagline – Fight Like You Live Here – captures and shares that strength, conviction, and hope.

Our goals are clear; our focus is urgent: We will be working hard every day in order to secure our climate, our food, and our water. And to do it we need your ongoing support, now more than ever. With your support, we will ban fracking and factory farms, stop catastrophic climate change, and secure our water infrastructure. Will you join us?

No, I’m sorry, I can’t make a monthly donation — but I can make a one-time donation.