“I am not banning fracking.”
Joe Biden, in a speech in Pittsburgh, Aug. 31

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden appeared Monday in Pittsburgh and defended his position on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — a controversial drilling technique that has lifted the economy in Western Pennsylvania.

“I am not banning fracking. Let me say that again. I am not banning fracking. No matter how many times Donald Trump lies about me,” said Biden, who spoke at a Carnegie Mellon University robotics institute.

Biden’s remarks came after Trump, speaking Thursday on the final night of the Republican National Convention, accused him of wanting to “abolish” natural gas production in the United States. Fracking is used to extract natural gas from reservoirs deep beneath the Earth’s surface.

We’ve examined Biden’s position on fracking before, so we know he has not called for banning the practice. He wants to block the federal government from issuing new permits for drilling on public lands but would allow existing fracking operations to continue.

The Biden campaign also noted in an email that 90% of fracking takes place on private land.

Biden’s position on fracking became muddled earlier this year when he misspoke during a March debate with Bernie Sanders, his last opponent standing in the Democratic primary.

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.

Biden seemed to be saying he wanted to ban fracking — a sharp departure from his official position. And the former vice president’s opponents pounced.

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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 like Sanders wanted.

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.

Our ruling

Biden said he’s “not banning fracking” if he wins in November. Ban means “prohibit,” and Biden doesn’t want to prohibit fracking. He would allow existing fracking to continue. Biden does, however, want to stop issuing new permits for fracking on public lands, and he left that part out of his speech in Pittsburgh. Biden’s statement is accurate but needs clarification. We rate it Mostly True.

Our sources

The Philadelphia Inquirer, “A fight over fracking at a Pennsylvania steel mill is forcing a reckoning among Democrats,” March 17, 2020

The Hill, “GOP mischaracterizes Biden’s energy agenda in convention speeches,” Aug. 30, 2020

Biden for President, “Climate: Joe’s Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice” accessed July 20, 2020

Email interview, Biden campaign, Aug. 31, 2020

The Houston Chronicle, “Did Joe Biden just pledge to ban fracking in debate against Bernie Sanders?” March 16, 2020

The Washington Post, “Fact-checking the Biden fracking fracas,” March 19, 2020

Axios, “Clearing up the Biden-Bernie fracking tussle at the debate,” March 16, 2020

The Washington Free Beacon, “Biden Promises ‘No More Drilling’ Under His Presidency,” March 15, 2020

PolitiFact is a nonpartisan, fact-checking website operated by the nonprofit Poynter Institute for Media Studies.