fracking | Food & Water Watch - Part 3
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Blog Posts: Fracking

May 1st, 2014

Butte County, California Inches Closer to a Fracking Ban

By Tia Lebherz 

The Butte County Board of Supervisors in California recently surprised everyone and took a bold step to ban fracking in their community.  That day, many, including some of the top oil and gas lobbyists in California, concentrated in Sacramento as SB1132, the California fracking moratorium bill, passed its first committee hurdle.  

Meanwhile, an hour north of Sacramento, our friends at Frack-Free Butte County were testifying at their Board of Supervisors’ meeting. Originally slated to speak to the Butte County Water Board’s recommendation to regulate the practice, this amazing group of grassroots activists laid out their case for why the Board needed to take action to truly protect the community. Rightfully so, the supervisors listened, and voted 4-1 to ban fracking. In doing so, Butte County is poised to become the first county in California, and the second in the nation to ban fracking.

Frack-Free Butte County has been building this campaign from the ground up over the past year. When I moved home to California last October, they were one of the first local groups I connected with. Their spirit and determination is contagious. Following the success of our friends in Colorado who recently passed five ballot measures to stop fracking, Frack-Free Butte County, along with San Benito Rising and the Santa Barbara Water Guardians, are all in the signature-collecting phase of their campaigns.  The San Benito campaign actually reached its signature goal in the first 14 days of its campaign, so it’s safe to say that it will ultimately surpass its goal. These grassroots, citizen led groups are taking on Big Oil and Gas right in their own communities. 

The victory in Butte County is part of slew of local victories across the nation to stop fracking. Time and again, we see the federal government push off taking action against fracking to the state and local level.  I like to think that on the local level, we see how democracy is meant to work. We see elected officials actually representing their constituents, not blinded and bound by Big Oil’s financial influence.  In the case of Butte County, the Board of Supervisors deserves much praise for stepping up to protect its community. 

Here in California, the movement is growing, and we’re giving the fracking industry a one-two punch. While local communities such as Carson and Los Angeles continue to stop fracking on the front lines, we’re putting tons of pressure on Governor Jerry Brown to stop fracking across the entire state. On the heels of the largest rally to stop fracking this state has ever seen, and with the momentum of a diverse coalition of residents, farmers, chefs and scientists in on this fight, I believe that California has a bright and sustainable future, and that together, we can ban fracking. 

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April 30th, 2014

Thank You Food & Water Watch Volunteers!

By Mark Schlosberg

At Food & Water Watch, we take on powerful interest groups to protect our food and water – big agribusiness and chemical companies, massive private water companies, and big oil and gas companies. We might not be able to match these corporations dollar for dollar, but due to the many wonderful volunteers who work with us, we are able to build winning campaigns.

As the Organizing Director at Food & Water Watch I have been fortunate enough to watch our volunteers truly make a difference – by helping out in our state offices, tabling at events and participating in phone banking opportunities. Many of our volunteers also end up leading campaigns and taking on larger organizing efforts – planning rallies, lobby visits and campaign strategy meetings. Leaders like these truly give us the ability to go toe-to-toe with powerful interest groups as we work to protect our essential resources 

April is Volunteer Appreciation Month, and we would like take a moment to thank all of the people who take time our of their day to help us out. Volunteers from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, California and all the way to Brussels, Belgium: you guys ROCK. And because words alone do not do your hard work justice, we created a special thank you message from some of our on-the-ground organizers. 

Food & Water Watch is made up of researchers, communicators, organizers and technological wizards, but an equally essential part of this organization and the work that we do are the many passionate and dedicated volunteers who, every day, build power in their communities. Whether you have petitioned, helped plan a local event, organized a rally or made calls to your state legislators – your efforts are critical to growing a movement to protect our food, water, planet and democracy. You inspire your communities and you inspire us. For all of this, we could not be more grateful! 

There is No “Right Way” to Frack

By Wenonah Hauter 

Back in 2012, I reported on the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) receiving $6 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies to advocate for fracking regulations. Therefore, yesterday’s New York Times op-ed by EDF President Fred Krupp and Michael Bloomberg, while jarring, wasn’t much of a surprise. 

Claiming there’s a safe way to frack is like claiming there’s a safe way to smoke, or a safe way to shoot whiskey before climbing behind the wheel of a car. When you consider the entire lifecycle of shale development, the notion is even laughable.  Read the full article…

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April 25th, 2014

California Oil and Gas Industry Promotes Itself

By Hugh MacMillan 

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), a trade group for oil companies, recently released a report on the economic footprint of the oil and gas industry in California. Not surprisingly, Oil and Gas in California: The Industry and its Economic Contribution in 2012, completely skews the picture on fracking, ignoring the social costs of this highly controversial process. 

The report frames a false choice – employment supported by the oil and gas industry or no employment at all. It exaggerates the economic effect of companies spending money to drill and frack, and it ignores the significant harm that fracking, acidizing, and even acid fracking impose on public health, communities, the environment and our climate, whether onshore, or just off the California coast.

Read the full article…

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April 24th, 2014

Protecting Public Lands for National Park Week

By Katherine Cirullo

The Maroon Bells tower over Maroon Lake, located in the
White River National Forest, Colorado.

Happy National Park Week, everyone! As a former resident of Colorado, this week reminds me of that sprightly time of year when my friends and I would lace up our hiking boots and head to a nearby national park or national forest to explore miles of peaceful trails, enjoy fresh air and just revel in our pristine surroundings. This year, I’m not celebrating Nationals Park Week by camping in the Rocky Mountains. But, I am spending it thinking of one of my favorite places in the Rockies – the White River National Forest – and how it is threatened by encroaching oil and gas development. In fact, much of the country’s public lands and recreation areas, which are managed by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), are eyed for fracking. No matter where you are this National Park Week, join me in standing up for our nation’s public lands by telling President Obama to keep them frack-free.

Earlier this month, I caught wind that Colorado’s White River (which runs through the White River National Forest) was recently named one of America’s most endangered rivers due to oil and gas development. My jaw dropped. How could a place so beautiful and so rich with wildlife, history and untouched rural landscapes – a place that is supposed to be conserved – be given up for fracking? Read the full article…

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April 22nd, 2014

Make Your Voice Heard on Earth Day!

By Katherine Cirullo

I’ve loved Earth Day ever since I was in pre-school and digging in the dirt for worms wasn’t a ticket to time-out, but rather a planned educational activity. In middle school, Earth Day meant we got to clean up trash at the town park – a proud moment for a budding activist. But, the dirt days are long over and, as I’ve learned that control over essential, common resources is slipping from the fingertips of the public to the clutches of large corporations, I’ve realized that protecting the planet is no small task.

Earth Day was established 40 years ago not simply as a calendar reminder of how beautiful and precious our planet is, but as a call to action. In order to protect our natural resources and ensure a truly sustainable, healthy and safe environment now and for future generations, our actions need to be unified, targeting elected officials who hold power to influence policy changes. If there’s one threat to the health of the planet that is particularly ominous, it’s rapidly escalating fossil fuel development. That’s why today, Food & Water Watch presents to you the People’s Platform Against Fracking – hop on. Read the full article…

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April 17th, 2014

Railway Ruckus: Oil and Gas Development is Throwing American Farmers Off-Track

By Katherine Cirullo

Fracking affects our food. In fact, it affects our entire food system. The national fracking debate has remained somewhat quiet around this issue, but that’s all starting to change, and for good reason. Chefs who rely on fruits, vegetables and dairy from heavily-fracked states like California and Pennsylvania are becoming involved in campaigns to stop fracking from contaminating the water needed to grow our nation’s food. Ranchers are concerned that nearby fracking operations contaminate local water supplies, causing their livestock to fall ill. And now, farmers are publically speaking out about how the oil and gas industry is hindering them from transporting their crops and fueling America’s food supply.

In a hearing last Thursday, farmers revealed the recent oil boom in the Bakken Shale of North Dakota is pitting agriculture in the northern United States against the oil and gas industry as they compete for space on the rails. According to farmer testimonies, Big Oil and Gas seems to be winning, while some of our nation’s farmers (whose livelihoods depend on moving their commodities to buyers) are being thrown off the tracks.

At the hearing, 39 people from the agricultural industry (farmers, grain elevators, etc.) from states such as Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana complained to the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) about rail shipping delays that have hindered the movement of crops. They claimed the railways serving the region (Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and Canadian Pacific (CP)) are not fairly allocating railcar space between the agricultural industry and the oil and gas industry, choosing oil as the favorite. Favorite or not, the reality is that Big Oil is not fit for sharing. Read the full article…

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April 14th, 2014

Alabama: The Next Tar Sands Frontier?

By Alison K. Grass

Keep Alabama the BeautifulIf you’re like me, you probably have a special spot in your heart for your hometown and home state. I grew up in Alabama, in the countryside, in a house surrounded by several sprawling acres of trees, farmland and open space. Even though I now live hundreds of miles away, I still am protective of the people who live there, their health and the beautiful landscapes and natural wonders that coexist in the appropriately termed, “Alabama the Beautiful.”

So last year when I learned of a secretive plan to auction 43,000 acres of public land in the Talladega and Conecuh Nation Forests for potential fracking and drilling, I grew concerned and wanted to know more. Fortunately, public outcry delayed the sale of the land.

Now, an equally concerning development has come to my attention: Alabama may open up its northwestern Lawrence, Franklin and Colbert Counties to tar sand oil extraction, in order to become a “major oil-producing state.” MS Industries has already bought around 2,500 acres of land in Alabama counties.

Read the full article…

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April 1st, 2014

Anti-Frackers Hot on Cuomo’s Reelection Trail

By Seth Gladstone

In New York, it’s an election year. Slowly but surely, Governor Andrew Cuomo is emerging from his tightly managed and typically sparse pubic appearance schedule to attend an expanding roster of ribbon-cuttings and party fundraisers. Which means the anti-fracking masses are once again hot on Cuomo’s trail.

As noted – with a photograph – in the New York Daily News, more than 150 New Yorkers of all stripes turned up recently outside a swanky Manhattan hotel to remind Cuomo of exactly what his next eight months will look like (unless he bans fracking, that is.) Days later, the crowds were out on Long Island, with the same simple message for the governor: we’re not leaving until you do the right thing for our families and our future.

As the movement against fracking in New York continues to grow, new activists, new advocates, and new constituencies are joining every day. In a state still struggling to recover from Superstorm Sandy, climate change has taken increasing prominence in anti-fracking circles.

In what sadly should come as no surprise to anyone with an eighth grade education, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently confirmed the stark, terrifying reality of human-impacted climate change. “Water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying… and the world’s food supply is at considerable risk.” Lovely.

While the immense scale and complexity of the crisis seems daunting, the antidote to our stubborn fossil fuel addiction is actually quite simple: it’s political leadership.  This leadership can and must be exhibited by elected officials here in America that claim to be responsible, forward-thinking policy makers, but have yet to support such claims with actions.  Officials like Andrew Cuomo.

In this election year, New Yorkers will be leading the charge for a future beyond fossil fuels, and without fracking. Governor Cuomo will be getting an earful. Stay tuned.

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March 31st, 2014

The Fight Against Fracking is a Fight For Social Justice

California fracking rally

Left to right: Food & Water Watch’s Adam Scow, social justice leader Lupe Anguiano and The Center for Biological Diversity’s Hillary Aidun at the March 15, 2014, Don’t Frack California rally in Sacramento.

By Anna Ghosh

Today, March 31, we celebrate the birthday of Cesar Chavez, the co-founder of what we know today as the United Farm Workers; now in its 52nd year. His heroic leadership of a 5-year grape strike in Delano, California, in the 60s is chronicled in the newly released film Cesar Chavez. Through aggressive but nonviolent organizing, Chavez organized thousands of poor Latino workers throughout Central California to win higher wages, better working conditions and collective bargaining rights for generations of farmworkers.

I had the honor last week of having a conversation with an amazing woman who worked alongside Chavez in the 60s and has been fighting for social justice her entire life. Lupe Anguiano is a civil rights activist known for her work on women’s rights, the rights of the poor, and the protection of the environment. In 2006, she founded the environmental nonprofit Stewards of the Earth to provide educational, social and economic services to low-income and Indigenous people in the United States, Mexico and Latin America. In 2007 she was designated a Women’s History Month Honoree by the National Women’s History Project and has an archive named after her at UCLA. Now, Anguiano’s fight for social justice has led her to fight fracking and dumping of toxic waste associated with fracking and drilling where she lives in Oxnard, California.

Here’s an excerpt from our talk:

How did you get involved working with Chavez? When the strike began I was a Catholic nun working with migrants and Latino people in Los Angeles. The grape growers didn’t adequately take care of their workers – they had no restrooms or clean water to drink – and it I felt that it was part of my mission as a nun to stand up for these workers rights. We would picket in Los Angeles where they would unload the grapes from Delano.

What led to you leaving the clergy to become a community organizer? The more I learned about the injustices being waged against Latinos, the more I got involved. I fought redlining (housing and financial discrimination), as did many religious people, but Cardinal McIntyre (who Harvard historian Lisa McGirr calls “the most extreme right-wing member of the American Catholic hierarchy), objected to Los Angeles clergy speaking out. He said we were getting too political, but we knew this was about social justice. This is what Christ did (stand up for the poor). Pope John XXIII even encouraged is, which gave me wings. But I continued to be reprimanded by the Cardinal, which led me to leave the order. I felt that I could do more as a layperson. This is when I was invited by Cesar to come to Delano. But then I was called to Washington by President Johnson to work on bilingual education.

What did you think of Washington? I was very disappointed, so I went back to Delano. Volunteers were paid $5 a week plus housing and food, but it was the most rewarding job of my life. I would get up at 3a.m. so I could ride in the truck with Cesar. He used great a great method of organizing to get the attention of workers and policy makers alike. He taught us the importance of nonviolence. I learned so much.

What is your personal connection to the land and agriculture? I am a Latina and Latinos build the agricultural industry in California. When I was a child, every summer we would pick fruit on the farm that my Uncle tended. Latino workers always protected and respected the soil, the land and the environment. Agriculture is what enriches our state. It’s what makes California so special and important. Why would we want to tarnish or risk the agricultural wealth of our state?

Why do you think Governor Brown can’t see how fracking and extreme extraction threatens California’s agricultural heritage? I’m completely disappointed by Brown. I have lived in California since I was in the third grade (Lupe is now 85), and every governor and president since I have lived here has protected our agriculture and environment. For example, Nixon initiated the Clean Air and Endangered Species Acts and when the big oil spill in Santa Barbara happened, Governor Reagan initiated CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act). What is Governor Brown doing destroying California’s agricultural economy? Petroleum by its very nature destroys living organisms. Has he gone out of touch? I hear his wife is invested in petroleum and she’s probably influencing him. But how can a governor not understand that agriculture is so integral to our economy? Destruction of our agriculture is criminal. More than 50 percent of the nation’s fresh food comes from California and to destroy that would be it outrageously sinful.

Then there’s his rhetoric on climate change, but he continues to stand behind dirty fossil fuels. The whole thing is crazy. Can he not see the huge opportunities in renewable energy? We are leaving behind industrial era and moving into renewable technology. California is in the lead and our universities are set. The whole nation and world are moving towards more renewable sources. But Governor Brown’s lack of action to stop fracking and drilling could destroy California’s position as a leader in renewable energy.

What are you working on now? I live in Oxnard, which is the dumping ground of Ventura County. A few years ago, we fought tooth and nail to keep a liquefied natural gas terminal our or Oxnard. We won, but it’s a continuous battle. Now they’re dumping fracking waste in our strawberry fields and trying to build wells near an elementary school. They’re trying to turn Oxnard into a Bakersfield. Why aren’t they going to Thousand Oaks or Simi Valley? Because they would never allow it. We cannot allow our communities to become toxic dumping grounds. We’re not Texas, we’re not South Dakota.

What organizations do you think are doing the best work in this area? Groups that engage Latinos, like LULAC and the Latino Congreso, and groups that focus on agriculture, like Food & Water Watch, are critical. We must align ourselves. Food and water are the foundation for life. The Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice have good attorneys, great research and information.

How can we make the most impact?  
We must cultivate more responsible leaders. We need more independent, “decline to state” voters. We need more young people to get politically active. Afterall, this is the world that they are inheriting.

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