Activists to governor: Please un-frack California

Activists with the newly formed Californians Against Fracking coalition congregated in front of the state building yesterday.

A statewide coalition of more than 100 environmental organizations has formed to pressure California Gov. Jerry Brown to ban fracking – an environmentally harmful oil extraction method technically known as hydraulic fracturing.

On May 30, environmental activists from the Center for Biological Diversity, Credo Action, Food and Water Watch, Environment California and other nonprofits rallied outside the state building on Golden Gate Avenue in San Francisco to launch the campaign and hand-deliver stacks of petitions calling on Brown to put an end to the practice. The action coincided with a similar show of opposition to fracking at the state building in Los Angeles.

Fracking has already taken off in Pennsylvania and North Dakota, and has the potential to transform vast swaths of landscape in California, where a geologic formation known as the Monterey Shale is estimated to contain some 15 billion barrels of oil.

With chants of “Jerry Brown, take a stand, don’t let frackers ruin our land,” the activists waved signs proclaiming, “Don’t frack California.”

“In California, water is more precious than oil,” said Becky Bond, political director at Credo Action. “It’s not just a question of will this produce some jobs.”

Bond added that the activists were targeting Brown because “we know that special interests have so much more influence in the Legislature than they do in the governor’s mansion.” And besides, she added, “even if good legislation passes, it ends up on the governor’s desk.”

Earlier in the week in Sacramento, legislation that would have imposed an indefinite moratorium on fracking was scaled back, much to the dismay of environmentalists. AB 1323 was introduced by Assemblymember Holly Mitchell, and would have imposed a statewide moratorium on fracking until an independent evaluation of the health and environmental impacts of the practice could be completed.

However, changes to the language of the proposed bill did away with the independent evaluation process and called for a moratorium only until the California Department of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources finished hammering out a set of regulations around the practice. A similar piece of legislation to impose a fracking moratorium, AB 1301, was kept on suspense file and won't move forward this year.

“It renders the moratorium essentially meaningless,” Food and Water Watch political director Adam Scow told the Bay Guardian shortly after the changes were made. “We have a bill that is inadequate for protecting Californians from fracking.”

And that's partly why Brown is the new target for anti-fracking activists. Elijah Zarlin, a campaign manager at Credo, jumped on the megaphone during the rally. “We’ve seen what fracking has done in Pennsylvania,” he said. “Governor Brown has the power to not let that happen in California.”