by Ella Teevan
and Contributing Writer Roberta Giordano
Berkeley, CA, December 4, 2013 – The students of UC Berkeley have spoken their minds about the controversial practice of fracking, and their message is loud and clear: “Frack is wack!” On Wednesday night, the Associated Students of the University of California at Berkeley (ASUC) Senate voted in support of a fracking ban in California, with unanimous support from members present.
“The ASUC stands united in opposing the harmful and regressive practice of fracking,” said Nolan Pack, Executive Vice President of the ASUC. “Extraction of fossil fuels, including, fracking continues to do irreparable harm to the environment. The extraction and use of fossil fuels disproportionately harms low-income communities, often of color, in the Unites States, and developing nations all over the world – both through direct pollution and climate injustice. Continuing the use of fracking in California is unconscionable in a day and age when a renewable energy infrastructure should be our highest priority.”
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a dirty and extremely dangerous method of oil and natural gas extraction. It’s been garnering ever-increasing debate and media attention in recent months, especially in California, where the Monterey Shale is estimated to contain up to 15 billion barrels of oil recoverable by fracking and other new technologies. Fracking involves injecting a toxic brew of chemicals into the earth to fracture the shale and release the fossil fuels inside. This process threatens our air and water quality, wildlife and ecosystems, climate, and human health.
“We are inspired by the actions of the students at Berkeley and the ASUC in standing up for a ban on fracking in California,” said Rose Braz of the Center for Biological Diversity, a member organization of Californians Against Fracking. “Together, we are part of a growing grassroots movement across the state that will ban fracking.”
About ten students and activists gathered at Wednesday’s ASUC Senate meeting, holding signs that read, “Students Against Fracking” and “Climate Leaders Don’t Frack.” Among the groups represented were Californians Against Fracking, the statewide coalition of more than 150 organizations united to ban fracking, and the Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC). These groups, along with members of several other campus groups like CALPIRG, Cal Dems, the Center for Biological Diversity, and California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC), met Monday to begin forming a coalition, Students Against Fracking at UC Berkeley, which they hope to spread to the state and national level.
The Students Against Fracking at UC Berkeley coalition plans to meet again before the semester ends to strategize about how it can provide support and strengthen the already existing statewide anti-fracking movement. “Cal students are 30 minutes away from communities that have been heavily impacted by fossil fuel industries,” said Roberta Giordano of SERC. “The time for students to stand up in solidarity and take action alongside community members has come.”
The recent attention to fracking on campus and in the media follows in the wake of several other widely publicized student environmental protests. On Halloween, several groups, including Fossil Free Cal, held a rally on Sproul Plaza calling for the University of California to divest its funding from the fossil fuel industry. Last month, student and activist groups staged another rally on Sproul to protest the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
The ASUC is the first student government in California to pass a bill calling for a ban on fracking. The vote is in keeping with the ASUC’s history of passing environmentally progressive legislation, including bills opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, calling on the University of California to divest its endowment funds from the fossil fuel industry, and divesting the ASUC’s own funding from fossil fuels.
“The ASUC’s resolution to divest from fossil fuels has been a huge strategic asset as Fossil Free Cal continues its campaign, lending the voice and strength of the student body to our cause,” said Lilly Adams of Fossil Free Cal. “I am confident that the anti-fracking resolution will give the same influence and credibility to Students Against Fracking as they seek a statewide ban.”