Oakland anti-fracking rally to draw thousands

BAKERSFIELD — This weekend, thousands of Californians from all over the state will march through downtown Oakland to call on Gov. Jerry Brown to enact a fracking moratorium.

Organizers said they hope the protest, dubbed March for Real Climate Leadership, will draw up to 10,000 activists to the governor’s hometown as they fight to convince him to impose a moratorium on fracking in the state.

The weekend storm expected to dump up to three inches of rain on the Bay Area may hamper their efforts, however.

Dan Jacobson, state director of Environment California, told SFBay:

“Fracking is a dirty and dangerous form of oil drilling. … It uses millions of gallons of water, water we just can’t spare, it destroys beautiful places, it pollutes our air with methane, a major global warming pollutant, and it keeps us addicted to fossil fuels at the key time we need to move to clean power.”

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is when fluid — usually a mixture of water, chemicals and sand — is injected into the ground at high pressure to fracture or break underground rock or shale and release natural gas and oil.

Brown has long been praised as an environmentalist, but rifts developed between him and other democrats over his support for fracking when he failed to enact a ban on the practice.

Instead, Brown signed a law requiring oil companies using fracking techniques to notify nearby property owners, get a permit, test groundwater supplies and publicly disclose the chemicals used in the process.

That’s not enough for protestors who plan to march through downtown Oakland to the Lake Merritt Amphitheater after assembling in Frank Ogawa Plaza at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. The rally will conclude with a speaker panel hosted at Laney College.

The protest is being organized by a number of activist organizations including Californians against Fracking, a statewide coalition, the same group that helped organize an antifracking protest in Sacramento last March that drew about 4,000 people.

Organizers are using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to spread their message as well as organizing ride shares and bus groups across the state. Amtrak is even shaving 10 percent off fares to those traveling to the rally.

The protestors contend that fracking is harmful to the environment and a danger to humans. The process threatens to pollute underground drinking water aquifers and wastes millions of gallons of water during California’s drought.

A report from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 estimated that 70 to 140 billion gallons of water are used to fracture 35,000 wells every year.

Jacobson said:

“I think, after this march the Governor will review his position on fracking and in light of the massive outpouring of public support against fracking and the latest reports on damaging drinking water and threats to our climate. … I think he will call for a ‘time out’ on fracking.”

Oil companies, meanwhile, contend the process is not only safe, but also an important tool used to help them extract more oil and natural gas.

They’re especially interested in mining the Monterey Shale formation, a 1,750 square foot formation that runs from Kern County to Los Angeles County and West to the Pacific Ocean. Experts estimate the area to potentially be worth billions of barrels of oil if it can be mined.

About 95 percent of fracking in California occurs in the San Joaquin Valley, with much of it taking place in Kern County, according to a January 2015 report from the California Council on Science and Technology.

An Environmental Impact Report released in January by the California Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources was critical of the new regulations saying they would have significant environmental impacts. The report went on to say it was possible some effects could be mitigated.

Meanwhile, a competing study found California wells to use significantly less water, but more chemicals than fracking wells in other states, according to the California Council on Science and Technology and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

During the coming year, leaders of the anti-fracking movement say they plan to take the fight to the local community level including cities like Monterey, Los Angeles and Hermosa Beach.

Adam Scow, California director of Food and Water Watch said:

“We need more victories and we’re gonna get more victories. … All these things add up and other communities will see what we’re doing and respond positively, but ultimately it’s up to the governor to protect our resources and protect our people.”