Soapbox

California should follow Maryland, New York and Vermont, and ban fracking

Steve Rosen, Liz Lee and Nancy Plaxico attend an anti-fracking rally with dozens of other protesters at the Maryland Statehouse in Annapolis on March 16. Maryland’s governor signed a bill to ban fracking in April.
Steve Rosen, Liz Lee and Nancy Plaxico attend an anti-fracking rally with dozens of other protesters at the Maryland Statehouse in Annapolis on March 16. Maryland’s governor signed a bill to ban fracking in April. The Washington Post

Gov. Jerry Brown recently issued a warning to President Donald Trump on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “you don’t want to mess with California.” And in an interview with the Los Angeles Times just after Trump signed an executive order dismantling Obama-era climate policies, Brown said the president had made a “colossal mistake.” Brown then told Trump to watch out for the “countermovement.”

Well, California has a chance to join that countermovement. Our state could turn the governor’s words into action by finally tackling one issue where we’ve fallen behind: fracking.

New York and Vermont have already banned the fossil-fuel extraction method. And recently Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, signed a bill in his state to do the same. Hogan said he just doesn’t think there’s a way to frack safely. “The possible environmental risks of fracking simply outweigh any potential benefits,” Hogan said at a news conference on March 17. “This legislation, I believe, is an important initiative to safeguard our environment.”

Not to be outdone, Californians have passed numerous fracking bans at the local level, standing up to oil companies at the ballot box despite being outspent by the industry by millions of dollars leading up to the election.

At the state level, California should also move quickly to safeguard its environment and protect our air, water, health and climate from the many ills associated with fracking. Brown and the Legislature should realize that this is now a bipartisan issue and seize the moment.

The governor has already signed landmark legislation to reduce greenhouse gases. But California now lags behind other states that are aggressively saying no to Big Oil and hydraulic fracturing. The state deserves forceful leadership on fracking, too.

Fracking – the practice of injecting huge amounts of water and chemicals into the earth to break up rock and unleash fossil fuels – has led to documented cases of water contamination across the country. California fracking operations have all of the risk factors identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for fracking-related water contamination.

Oil companies in California frack at shallow depths, very close to groundwater. They also employ fracking fluid with unusually high concentrations of chemicals and often leave polluted wastewater in unlined pits. California oilfields also produce carbon-intensive crudes that actually rival dirty Canadian tar sands oil in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

Trump’s backward-looking view on climate change is a golden opportunity for the Golden State. Let’s join the movement of states standing up for health and the environment.

California must live up to Brown’s tough talk. Recently, in discussing Trump with the Los Angeles Times, he promised to double down on California’s clean energy commitment. “We have plenty of fuel to build this movement,” he said.

Let’s just make sure that fuel doesn’t come from fracking.

Hollin Kretzmann is a Center for Biological Diversity attorney. He can be contacted at hkretzmann@biologicaldiversity.org.

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