- The Washington Times - Monday, March 7, 2016

Hillary Clinton’s murky position on fracking has angered both sides of the climate-change debate, and it’s unclear whether the Democratic Party’s presidential front-runner supports expanded natural gas drilling or would virtually outlaw it if elected to the White House.

At Sunday night’s Democratic debate, Mrs. Clinton stopped short of calling for an outright ban on fracking, raising alarm bells among some climate-change activists who say the former secretary of state still has to work to do to convince environmentalists she’s serious on global warming.

Mrs. Clinton stressed that she’d lay out a number of conditions on fracking, a drilling technique that has unlocked vast deposits of natural gas and oil but one that activists claim does irreparable harm to the environment.

“I don’t support it when any locality or any state is against it, number one. I don’t support it when the release of methane or the contamination of water is present,” she said at the forum in Flint, Michigan. “By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place, and I think that’s the best approach.”

But less than a month ago, the Clinton campaign released a fact sheet on “responsible natural gas production,” saying the fuel “has played a critical role in reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutants.”

The domestic explosion in natural gas production is almost entirely due to fracking.

On the other side of the spectrum, Sen. Bernard Sanders, Mrs. Clinton’s Democratic primary rival, has a much clearer position.

“No, I do not support fracking,” he said, reinforcing the notion among many progressives that he’s the stronger candidate on climate issues.

While Mrs. Clinton has been endorsed by powerful environmental organizations such as the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund, other activist groups question whether she’s truly committed to addressing climate change.

“Clinton will continue to struggle to convince climate advocates that she is serious about addressing the crisis until she comes out for a full ban on fracking,” said Yong Jung Cho, action campaign coordinator with the environmental activist group 350 Action, which hasn’t endorsed either candidate in the Democratic race. “Clinton has moved from supporting fracking to insisting on regulations that would make it impossible to frack in most places. It’s high time to come out against it all together.”

At the same time, pro-fracking groups question how Mrs. Clinton can square her statement Sunday night with previous comments that seem to support fracking.

“Just a few weeks ago, Hillary Clinton said that natural gas plays a ‘critical role in reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutants.’ How does she propose to get those environmental benefits if her goal is to prevent natural gas from being produced?” the group Energy in Depth, part of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said in a statement.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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