By: Jacob Elsanadi, Kristy Drutman, and Eva Malis
Standing in front of her Inglewood home, Geneva Morgan points to the dramatic cracks in her driveway, house, and street and declares to a camera, “The truth is that when they frack, they go underneath our houses.” Standing in front of the neighboring Inglewood Oil field, she turns straight to the camera and asks, “The governor that I voted for, why is he not doing anything? We wanted you to help us, and you turned your back.”
She is not alone. Don Martin, resident of West Adams, logically connects his granddaughter’s life-threatening Hodgkin’s lymphoma to the toxic fumes his community is constantly subjected to by the fracking site next door. “They want to keep us out, but do they keep their chemicals in?”
The word ‘fracking’ has become a part of the modern American vernacular in unanticipated ways.
Some associate this method of oil and gas extraction with contaminated groundwater, increased climate-disrupting carbon emissions, and a trigger for earthquakes. Others see it as a route to energy independence from foreign sources, a stimulant for the economy, and a way to drive down gasoline prices. Yet in the face of one of the most severe droughts on record, more people are realizing that fracking does not make sense in California.
In response to the record-breaking drought, Governor Brown declared a State of Emergency and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages. Yet over 1 million gallons of water are being used on average at each of the thousands of fracking sites in our state, every day. The fracking waste water is then often dumped into pits that are dug into the ground which further expose groundwater to the chemical-laden and sometimes radioactive mixture. In October 2014, it was revealed that over 3 billion gallons of fracking wastewater had contaminated protected California aquifers in the Central Valley. If not stored in above ground pits, the volatile liquid is frequently sent to sewage treatment plants which are ill-equipped to deal with these chemicals. Hydraulic fracturing wastes precious water that remains in California and endangers groundwater resources vital during droughts, threatening the health of thousands of Californians.
Governor Jerry Brown, who promises to tackle climate change and address the drought, turned his back on the science presented to him and the local communities who have to live with the impacts of hydraulic fracturing everyday. He continues to allow this scarcely-regulated practice in our state, which has been exempt from the Clean Water Act nation-wide since 2005.
Californians are currently living with the snowballing impacts from fracking: air pollution, water pollution, spills and leakages, worker accidents, truck traffic, surges of transient workers, skyrocketing prices for affordable housing, and more. But Californians are not silent about this assault on our state. The unified efforts of almost 200 organizations comprising the Californians Against Fracking coalition have brought a white-hot spotlight on this pressing issue. Affected communities and concerned citizens are rising together to banish the irresponsible practice of hydraulic fracturing throughout California.
In the November 2014 elections, San Benito and Mendocino counties approved to place a ban on fracking, resulting from over 57% of voter support. Local coalitions, including San Benito Rising, and Coalition to Protect San Benito, worked to pass the measure through grassroots efforts and the compilation of over 4,000 signatures. Despite the success there, oil corporations swayed Santa Barbara’s vote on a similar measure, resulting in 63% of voters against the ban on fracking. It has been reported that local oil corporations “threatened lawsuits against Santa Barbara County if Measure P succeeded.”
Locally, Students Against Fracking on the UC Berkeley campus organizes petition drives, rallies, and teach-ins to address the detrimental impacts of fracking. Students across California spent the past year working with environmental NGOS such as Food and Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club organizing around extreme oil and gas extraction. The youth of today are at greatest stake–standing to either benefit or pay for the choices made now that will shape the future. Consequently, power for change lies in the hands of students.
In March of 2014, thousands of Californians gathered in Sacramento calling for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, and this February, thousands more will be gathering in Oakland to demand real climate leadership from our governor. The March for Real Climate Leadership will take place in Oakland on February 7th, at 11:30 am at Oscar Grant Plaza. It will be the largest anti-fracking demonstration in the history of California and is key to pressuring the Governor to truly represent the interests of his fellow Californians.
Currently, fracking has become one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time. However the fight has just begun. We have seen steps of progression with New York’s government, and now it’s time for Californians to rise up. It’s time we champion safety over profits. It’s time we create a habitable environment for the future, and it’s time we ban fracking now.
 Image: Cagle, Daryl. “Thirsty California Flag.” The Cagle Post. N.p.,
n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2015.