Pennsylvania Democratic Senate Candidate John Fetterman said in a national television interview last week that he has always supported fracking in his state, but in 2018 Fetterman said he never supported the industry and “never” will.
The comments are part of a long and often contradictory series of positions from the Senate candidate on the industry, which provides tens of thousands of jobs and contributes millions to Pennsylvania’s economy.
Fetterman’s message about the industry has often depended on his audience and he has attempted a balancing act – supporting a transition to green and renewable energy, while also pledging support for the Pennsylvanians employed by it – according to a review of his past interviews by CNN’s KFile.
Fetterman is running against former TV host Mehmet Oz in the race which is key in the battle for control of the Senate. Inside Elections rates the tightly contested race a toss up.
“I support fracking,” Fetterman told NBC News last week. “I supported the energy security we should have in the United States.”
Any of his past opposition was only until there were “appropriate changes and regulations” made to protect the environment, he said when asked about his support for a 2016 moratorium in Pennsylvania on fracking which involves injecting water into shale formations to free up deposits of oil and natural gas that were not economically accessible before.
“I’ve always supported, as long as it’s done environmentally sound and making sure that we’re not contaminating our waterways,” he added.
“Right now, fracking and other traditional kinds of fossil fuels are part of our energy portfolio,” he continued. “And as long as we keep transitioning towards green energy, that’s the way I believe it’s the way to go forward. But again, there were those two truths. Energy security is critical, but also climate change is also very critical.”
But a CNN KFile review of his comments since 2016 found they often were a stark contrast from what he told NBC.
Said he did not support fracking and never has in 2018
“I don’t support fracking, at all and I never have,” Fetterman told a left-wing YouTube channel in 2018 when running for lieutenant governor. “And I’ve, I’ve signed the no fossil fuels money pledge. I have never received a dime from any natural gas or oil company whatsoever.”
Fetterman added he supported maintaining two wells near his hometown that supported 3000 jobs.
“That’s not pro-fracking, that’s saying, I’m pro-union, I’m pro-family, I’m pro-steel,” he said.
Called it a “stain” in 2016
In 2016 when running for US Senate, Fetterman said in a comment published on Reddit, that fracking was a “stain” on the state but he worried about the ability to get a ban passed with the industry so entrenched in Pennsylvania.
“I am not pro-fracking and have stated that if we did things right in this state, we wouldn’t have fracking. The industry is a stain on our state and natural resources,” Fetterman wrote in the post, first reported by Fox News earlier in the year. “But yes, of course I worry about the viability of getting a ban on fracking done when the industry is already so entrenched in Pennsylvania. Like Sestak I’ve called for the same thing – a moratorium. I signed the Food and Water Watch’s pledge to end fracking.”
At the time, Fetterman was running against former Pennsylvania Secretary of Environmental Protection Katie McGinty and former Rep. Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary, which he lost.
Food and Water Action, the political arm of the environmental group, says Fetterman’s position has changed, citing his signing of their pledge in 2016 for a moratorium on fracking in the state.
“On several occasions, Fetterman promised to stand with the communities fighting the powerful industry, only to abandon those commitments after elections had passed,” the group said in 2021.
Campaign says his position hasn’t changed
A spokesman for Fetterman told CNN his position hasn’t changed.
“John has not supported a fracking moratorium or ban since Pennsylvania instituted stronger environmental rules to protect public health,” his communications director, Joe Calvello, told CNN in an email. “In fact, John was attacked in the Democratic primary over his support for fracking, and throughout his career John has stood up to politicians to fight for U.S. Steel’s right to build fracking wells. John believes that we have to preserve the union way of life for the thousands of workers currently employed or supported by the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania and the communities where they live.”
His campaign pointed to an October 2016 law implemented in Pennsylvania that required strict environmental rules in the state for fracking that they said made him believe fracking was being done in an environmentally sound way. The campaign did not address why Fetterman then said in 2018 that he doesn’t support fracking and “never” will.
Oz, Fetterman’s opponent, has pledged his support for the industry in the state and has criticized Fetterman for his past comments. But Oz also expressed some environmental concerns in past columns he co-authored – the Oz campaign maintains those were the views of his co-author and not his own, despite the pair sharing a byline.