Fracking Is Creating A Rift Between Governor Jerry Brown And Some California Democrats

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"Fracking Is Creating A Rift Between Governor Jerry Brown And Some California Democrats"

Jerry Brown

CREDIT: AP Photo / Jae C. Hong

Despite putting environmental issues at the center of his re-election bid, California Governor Jerry Brown is catching flak from fellow Democrats for his support of fracking.

During a speech at the California Democratic Convention in Los Angeles this past weekend, Brown was repeatedly interrupted and drowned out by protestors chanting “No fracking!” and carrying signs that read “Another Democrat Against Fracking.” Opponents of the drilling process also recently released a parody commercial online for “Frack Water, a fragrance by Jerry Brown.”

Brown supported California’s cap-and-trade law, as well as advocating high-speed rail and renewable energy investments. But last year he also supported SB4, a state bill that went into effect at the start of 2014, and which drew the anger of environmentalists for failing to place a moratorium on fracking.

The law does require fossil fuel companies to disclose the chemicals they use in the fracking process. It also requires that companies get a permit for fracking, that they notify neighbors before drilling commences, and that they monitor groundwater and air quality. SB4 also commits state officials to completing a study of fracking’s risks by 2015.

But many environmental groups and scientists had urged lawmakers to institute a moratorium on fracking until the study was completed. As a result, SB4’s passage caused a rift among California Democrats — while Brown’s failure to support the moratorium, and his suggestions that fracking would boost the state’s economy, placed him at the center of the conflict.

Fracking is a process in which, after the well is drilled, a fluid mix of water, sand, and chemicals is pumped into the hole to fracture the underground rock formations. That fracturing allows the gas or oil to flow up to the surface. In most of the country, it’s used to drill for natural gas. Though in California, it’s primarily about oil — and up until a few years ago, there were no state regulations of the process at all.

Multiple studies have linked the chemicals in fracking fluid to infertility, birth defects, and cancer. They’ve also identified that fluid as a likely source of drinking water contamination.

Just a few hours after Brown’s speech, billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer addressed the convention, and called for a law requiring a public vote in any county considering fracking, with a required two-thirds majority to allow it.

The Los Angeles City Council also recently passed a ban outlawing the process within its jurisdiction.

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