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Where is Fracking in the Presidential Race?

While the stance of the Republican presidential candidates is well known to be planted on the business side of oil and gas shale and fracking, there appears to be some moderation recently on the Democratic side, where candidates must dodge the slings and arrows of their environmental base.

As Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton campaigned in the Midwest during the last week before the Ohio primary, she modified her stance on fracking to some degree, going from a pledge to virtually stamp out the practice (March 6 in Flint, MI), to handing the lead to the states on the issue (March 13 at The Ohio State University).

In her March 6 speech, the former secretary of state ran through a list of conditions she wanted enforced, saying, "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."

Her opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders was more blunt. "My answer is a lot shorter. No, I do not support fracking."

But a week later as Clinton tripped across Utica Shale territory, she had a more thoughtful response at Ohio State, acknowledging state and local oversight over much of shale fracking regulation.

"...so much of what governs fracking right now is within state and local control, and the federal government, I think, has an important role to play," particularly in ensuring local communities have some say in the rules.

Clinton inveighed against methane releases, water pollution and companies' failure to disclose the chemicals they are using.

"We know that there is a loophole in the law that I disagree with that permits the fracking companies to not have to disclose the chemicals they're using in fracking.

"We deserve to know; I think we have a right to know. So I am going to push very tough rules. Now I've got to figure out what I can do on the federal level as opposed to what we're going to have to work at on the state level."

She noted the problems Oklahoma is having with earthquakes and the measures the state is taking to limit disturbances.

"And so now even Oklahoma is saying, 'Hey, wait a minute, we'd better stop and take a hard look at this.' So I will do everything I can as president to set the rules, to set the regulations, to try to figure out how to influence states."

Known as a pragmatist, Clinton said, "I'm not sure given the present political makeup we could pass a federal law to end fracking, but we sure can try to regulate it very effectively under the rules we already have that give us federal jurisdictions over some of these chemicals and releases."

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