Fracking undercuts climate change, water advances

Gov. Jerry Brown and the other West Coast leaders – Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark – who have pledged to solve global warming deserve a heartfelt “thank you” from the people of California and around the world, especially as Congress stalls on climate change.

But the leaders who formed the Pacific Coast Collaborative have overlooked one serious component in their plan on the climate.

Increased drilling for fossil fuels, especially expanding dangerous and unconventional drilling methods such as fracking, will reverse any of their positive efforts. To slow down global warming, Brown and his colleagues should heed the advice of scientists and academics and stop fracking in California.

New studies showing the harms of fracking are published nearly every week.

Just last week, the Concerned Health Professionals of New York released a massive compilation of dozens of studies that identify the public health risks associated with fracking nationwide. The data set combines the latest science on fracking and clearly demonstrates its dangers.

Scientists at Yale University linked health problems to residents’ proximity to drilling and fracking sites in Pennsylvania. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that workers at fracking sites are routinely exposed to high levels of benzene, a dangerous chemical that can cause cancer.

While Brown promotes water conservation, draws attention to air quality and attacks global warming, the latest science proves that fracking will undermine the green innovations and landmark legislation he fought so hard for.

As California grapples with a years-long drought and the havoc it is causing to our agricultural industry and to our way of life, we cannot overlook the oil and gas industry, one of the state’s largest and dirtiest water users.

The process of fracking, or injecting a toxic sludge into the earth to release crude oil, produces contaminated wastewater. That water is completely removed from the aquifer.

What’s worse is that it is often injected back into the earth, where it further pollutes. Scientists are now finding instances of polluted groundwater that is used for drinking, particularly in the Central Valley.

Scientists have found that inherent in the fracking process is the release of large quantities of methane, which is at least 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a cause of climate change. The report released in New York shows that the federal EPA has underestimated the dangers of methane by a factor of 10.

Hundreds of earthquakes across the Great Plains and the Midwest, areas not known for seismic activity, should give anyone pause. An October study in the journal Seismological Research Letters connects some 400 earthquakes in Ohio to hydraulic fracturing wells. Oklahoma now has more seismic activity than California.

If fracking increases in California, what will that mean in our already seismically active state?

And promoting fracking in California and across the country can thwart investments in the emerging field of renewable energy, something Brown has ardently supported.

California’s resolution for 2015 should be to solve global warming in every way we can. Let’s promote clean energy and stop fracking.

Daniel Jacobson is state director of Environment California.