How Does a Climate Action Champion Handle Fracking?

On Saturday, some 8.000 Californians converged to March for Real Climate Leadership in Oakland, in what some are calling the largest-ever anti-fracking rally. As Mark Hertsgaard points out in his opinion piece, Gov. Jerry Brown has yet to speak out against fracking, much less ban it, as he has the authority to do. And public pressure is building for Gov. Brown, a self-proclaimed climate champion, to declare that fracking has no place in California’s future.

“People living next to these oil and gas operations are being hurt,” said Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara). In addition to the risk of exposing residents to toxic substances, fracking also diverts and ultimately pollutes vast amounts of precious water in the drought-stricken state. Scientists have also concluded that the hydraulic fracturing process has helped cause earthquakes in Ohio and Oklahoma — no small consideration in California. And with forecasts for recoverable oil from fracking California’s Monterey Shale slashed by a whopping 96%, any positive economics of fracking seem dwarfed by the negative consequences of carbon pollution, earthquake risk, and public health and safety impacts.

Meanwhile, executive actions to ban fracking have been gaining momentum across the country and in Europe. Last fall, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned fracking in his state after a review of its public health effects. In January, Pennsylvania’s new Gov. Tom Wolf banned fracking in state parks and forests. And in the past two weeks, both Scotland and Wales announced temporary bans on fracking, while pressure continues to build in London for a British ban and possible U.K.-wide moratorium.

The implications of the wave of citizen-led drilling bans are clear: local and regional leaders are moving to protect their communities by taking a stand on fracking, ensuring clean water and clean air for their families and for the communities in which they live. 

Gov. Jerry Brown’s fracking problem

By Mark Hertsgaard @markhertsgaard | Contributor to Los Angeles Times | February 5, 2015

California Gov. Jerry Brown has done more to fight climate change than perhaps any other elected official in the United States. So what accounts for the environmentalists heckling him during speeches and planning to confront him Saturday at an Oakland March for Real Climate Leadership? One word: fracking.

“I challenge anybody to find any other state” that’s doing as much about climate change, Brown shot back to anti-fracking protesters during his speech at the California Democratic Party’s convention last March. California was on track to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 25 billion tons by 2020, Brown accurately pointed out. The state will also obtain at least 33% of its electricity from solar, wind or other non-carbon fuels by then, he added.

Over the next 15 years, Brown declared in his inauguration speech in January, the share of California’s electricity produced from renewable energy will rise to 50%. Petroleum use by vehicles will 
fall by the same percentage. Buildings will use energy twice as efficiently.

Joined by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brown has been hyping California’s bipartisan climate leadership as a model other governments should emulate by committing to ambitious emissions reductions at the make-or-break global climate summit in Paris in December.

But can Jerry Brown truly be a climate action champion if he does not reject fracking?

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