Anti-fracking groups from across California set a record by staging the largest fracking protest in the state’s history in Sacramento on Saturday. Protesters, who rallied at the capitol building, drew by various estimates 2,000 to 4,000 participants.
The group, Californians Against Fracking, organized the event in coordination with it’s 150 partner organizations in an attempt to pressure Governor Jerry Brown into placing a ban on the controversial oil-extraction process. A process which those opposed to fracking claim can lead to a wide range of serious health and environmental problems.
During the day, various speakers addressed the crowd, including rally organizer Zack Malitz. Malitz said that by not taking a stronger stand against fracking, Brown was endangering his legacy as a climate champion.
To be labeled as anti-environmental would be quite a turnaround for a politician who has a four-decade record of fighting for a wide range of environmental concerns. During his long career, Brown has fought with the major oil companies before the state supreme court, promoting tax incentives for roof-top solar panels, and is credited by some with keeping off-shore oil drilling off parts of the California coast. More recently, he has supported plans for high-speed rail as well as investing in renewable energy.
But last year, Brown upset environmentalists when he signed SB4, which went into effect at the beginning of 2014, and is one of the main reasons for the record-setting protest in Sacramento. The new law requires oil companies to file a permit when they want to frack a well and to fill out more detailed reports about the process, but it does not stop them from doing so. According to some oil industry spokesmen, the fact that they are not sure of exactly what is required under the new law has resulted in an unofficial moratorium and far fewer wells being fracked.
But a moratorium, or an outright ban, is exactly what environmentalist want. Linda Capato, a lead organizer with 350.org said about Governor Brown that talking about being an environmental leader was not the same thing as actually being one. And that they intend to keep pressure on Brown until he puts tougher regulations into place or simply bans fracking.
Fracking is an extraction process companies use to get oil or gas out of shale rock. The well is drilled horizontally, within the shale layer. Water, combined with chemicals and sand, is injected into the layer at very high pressure. The pressure causes the shale layers to fracture, releasing the oil or gas that was trapped inside. Wells can be fracked any number of times, as long as it results in enough oil or gas to justify the process.
Environmentalists claim that the process is dangerous and is the cause of water contamination in other parts of the country. They are concerned that the chemicals used in fracking can leak into the ground water supply, resulting in health hazards to anyone, humans and animals, who drinks the water.
But that is not the only concern. Protesters at today’s rally are concerned about plans to frack the Monterey Shale, a large shale formation in the San Joaquin Valley that is estimated to hold over 15 billion barrels of shale oil or about 64 percent of country’s shale oil reserve. In addition to the potential threat to the water supply, a study just released by the Center for Biological Diversity claims that there is a link between fracking and earthquakes.
Malitz said that even though the protest had set a record, it was just the beginning of their efforts to get legislators in Sacramento to ban tracking in California.
By Dan Reyes