By Richard Iyall
On Feb. 7, our sacred Mother Earth saw what some called the “Largest Anti-Fracking Demonstration in History” (Dylan Donnelly/Fresno People’s Media, Earth First! Newswire, Feb. 10, 2015, issue). Despite a forecast of 2–3 inches of rain, followed by heavy winds, it was estimated that more than 8,000 people attended what was called the March for Real Climate Leadership in Oakland, the longtime hometown of Gov. Jerry Brown. The purpose of the march was “to call for a ban on fracking in California.” There were “134 participating organizations” and “21 buses from across the state” for the event (www.marchforclimateleadership.org). Led by indigenous people of this continent, the march began at 14th Street and Broadway, by the Oakland City Hall, going 1.8 miles to Lake Merritt.
Fresnans Against Fracking organized one of the buses, which left Fresno early the morning of Feb. 7. People from Reedley had come up to join in the bus trip. The bus stopped in Madera, where former Fresno City College student Mark Colley and some students boarded the bus. With those passengers, the bus was completely full. The sponsors of the bus included the Reedley Peace Center, the Fresno Center for Nonviolence, Fresno WILPF, the Sierra Club Tehipite Chapter and Laura Rosenberger. Marilynne Manfredi had organized more people with hopes of joining the group on the bus in Merced. They attended the march via Amtrak.
California is experiencing a major drought. The lack of rain, and resulting lack of stored water, has had a profound effect on the available water for growing crops in the San Joaquin Valley. Many farmers are faced with the choice of either drilling new 1,000-foot deep wells, which is an expensive proposition, or planting crops without knowing where the water would come from, if they plant crops at all. Either we can have water for food, or we can allow oil companies to use water for fracking and oil extraction. We cannot do both without destroying our groundwater aquifers. In addition, water that is contaminated with carcinogens and other toxic chemicals by the oil industry is not conducive for growing plants or for keeping people or other animals alive.
Gary Lasky, vice chair of the Tehipite Chapter of the Sierra Club, says that “the problem is not just water required for fracking; the problem is OIL DRILLING and OIL EXTRACTION. In particular, the oil industry and state regulators (DOGGR) have been arguing that very little water is required for fracking in California, compared with Pennsylvania. They are technically correct; fracking in California averaged 140,000 gallons per well in 2013, compared with 1 to 2 million gallons in PA.”
Lasky continues, “However, a traditional form of oil well stimulation, known as ‘cyclic steam injection’ (CSI), or ‘huff and puff,’ uses over one million gallons of water per well. This involves injecting hot water or steam down one vertical well, drilled close to, and parallel to, an existing oil well. The water then migrates horizontally and loosens the oil so it can be pumped to the surface. This extreme CSI method is banned in San Benito County as part of the new ban on fracking voted on by the citizens last November. Note that CSI is not fracking; it is a traditional well stimulation method.”
The big question here is whether to allow taxpayer-subsidized water to be sold by farmers to oil companies for fracking and other fossil fuel extraction. The fact that there is such a severe shortage of water available adds that much more significance to the choices. Central California is extremely significant to the human population of the planet for the production of food.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has banned fracking in that state with his signature. Gov. Brown could do the same here. Cherylyn Smith, ESL instructor at Fresno City College, has written an article that ties Gov. Brown’s apparent reason for not banning fracking here to a “Cap & Trade” plan “designed to reduce carbon emissions,” which she states is “ostensibly part of our governor’s plan to rescue the environment.” The article articulates that “with a looming fuel tax going to benefit C&T, citizens will ultimately foot-the-bill for penalties on polluters.”
Whatever Gov. Brown’s motivations are for his actions regarding fracking, or lack thereof, the people have spoken, loud and clear, in his hometown. Thousands of people have come together to urge him to “BAN FRACKING NOW.” If he does not take this step in the prevention of possible expanded fracking operations in the future, and to put a stop to such practices currently in operation, many others appear ready to take actions for “REAL CLIMATE LEADERSHIP.”
Our sacred Mother Earth herself spoke to the issue during the event, it seems. In this extremely dry climate, there were big rains hitting the state before and during the event. However, while the march was on in Oakland, the weather was clear and comfortable. Once the people had completed the march and had assembled for a rally at Lake Merritt, rains came again.
What is the best, most sustainable, viable path for this state to take in regard to the question of fracking for oil? Gov. Brown’s own appointee to the state’s Commission on Boating and Waterways, Virginia Madueno, is “concerned for the long-term effects” of fracking. You consider the paths and decide for yourself. Meanwhile, this writer plans to continue to ride his bicycle around town, writing and taking photos with a digital camera for this independent newspaper that prints ideas and images on the paper which comes from the body of trees which grow here, for now.
Richard D. Iyall is a journalist/ photographer for the Community Alliance and member of Fresnans Against Fracking. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.