When Joe Biden returned to Scranton last month, there was one place he didn’t visit: the landfill on the outskirts of town that is full of toxic fracking waste.
Biden is a child of Scranton. On Election Day 2020, he returned to his childhood home in Scranton and wrote a message in the hallway of his house: “From this house to the White House, but for the grace of God.
The entire city of Scranton held its breath during these crucial days, watching like the rest of the country until every vote was counted. When he finally won, the text came out: “Party at Joe’s!” We went spontaneously to the childhood home of the then elected president. It was a ray of hope after four long years and a horrific pandemic – maybe things would get better. But sinking underground on that day of celebration was Scranton’s dirty little secret – fracking waste.
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Since the dawn of the Coal Age, Scranton has been an environmental justice community. Many of us in Scranton are the children and grandchildren of coal miners who risked their lives every day for the profits of the coal company. We grew up with the stories of men tucking mines in body bags, and we saw our rivers flow orange with runoff from coal mines. More recently, we have seen the horrors of the waste and hydraulic fracturing industry. In the Scranton area, you can find both one of the largest fracking gas-fired power plants east of the Mississippi and one of the largest fracking waste landfills in Pennsylvania.
The Orwellian-named “Keystone Landfill” is a symbol of how the fossil fuel industry and its backers have turned Pennsylvania into a dumping ground for their toxic waste. The landfill, built on a network of old coal mines, has been a growing plague on our community since the mid-1970s. In 1988, the Environmental Protection Agency decided to go ahead and decommission the waste. of fracking as “non-hazardous,” a move that turned out to only benefit the fossil fuel industry.
In Scranton, local landfill owners saw nothing but profit when the Marcellus Shale boom took off. Toxic fracking waste in landfills is full of oil and grease, heavy metals, radioactive materials and man-made fracking chemicals, many of which have been linked to leukemia, lymphoma and other cancers.
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Biden has vowed to fight for environmental justice communities like Scranton, but 10 months into his presidency he has yet to use his executive authority to crack down on fracking, or at the very least regulate his toxic waste. . The failure is part of a worrying trend of his administration in terms of fossil fuels. Whether it’s the Line 3 oil sands pipeline in Minnesota, drilling on public land, oil export facilities in the Gulf of Mexico, or hydraulic fracturing dumps in one’s own city. native, President Biden has yet to take sides in the people’s fight against fossil fuels. Every day that it delays is another day when tens of thousands of people here in Scranton – and millions more across the country – risk drinking toxic water or breathing polluted air.
We know that in Congress, fossil fuel-friendly politicians like Senator Joe Manchin are standing in the way of helping communities like Scranton, but President Biden doesn’t have to let bullies stop him from standing up for our community and communities like her.
Through executive actions and regulatory authorities, Biden has all the power he needs to tackle pollution, stop the reckless expansion of the fossil fuel industry, and put us on the path to a just transition to a clean and renewable energy system.
Congressional action is important, but Biden has promised a holistic approach to the fight for environmental justice. He pledged to build back better with clean water, investments in clean energy, economic revitalization and funding for environmental justice communities. It is a vision that the people here in Scranton stand for. Now we want him to take action.
Janet Brier, MPH, is a member of the Dunmore Borough Council. Dunmore is a 9 square mile town that shares a postcode with Scranton.