Sixty Locals Join Largest March To Ban Fracking

Davis activists make signs opposing fracking and crude-by-rail transport for the Climate March on Feb. 7th in Oakland.
Davis activists make signs opposing fracking and crude-by-rail transport for the Climate March on Feb. 7th in Oakland.

by Leslie Crenna

Despite afternoon rain, at least 8,000 dedicated citizens, including about 60 from Sacramento and Davis combined, called on Governor Jerry Brown to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” across our state on Saturday, February 7, 2015, at a march in Brown’s home town, Oakland. The parallel issue of crude-by-rail—which is how the vast majority of fracked oil and gas is transported across the country—was addressed repeatedly by organizers and participants as well.

Co-organizer Food and Water Watch called the March for Real Climate Leadership the largest march to date on the fracking issue. The event brought together representatives from nearly 140 groups statewide including various 350 chapters, ForestEthics, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Sunflower Alliance, Code Pink, CREDO, indigenous communities, local labor unions, and health care professionals. Local activists Lynne Nittler and Elizabeth Lasensky took the train from Davis to Jack London Square on Saturday and stayed overnight to participate in a convergence on oil trains the following day.

The March

Lasensky reported that “Sunday’s convergence was energizing. It was good to connect with other activists working on the oil train issue, to find out what they were doing, how and why they were successful in their efforts and to form coalitions to collaborate going forward. One area needing more focus is how to move the conversation from oil trains to the larger issue of climate change. There’s so much to be done.”

Lynne Nittler, who served on a panel focused on crude-by-rail transport, commented, “California is the fourth largest oil state in the US so a ban on fracking will be considerably harder to achieve here than it was in New York. Our own governor has expedited the permit process for drilling new wells. But with this showing of 8,000 people willing to take time on a Saturday to march and then follow up with the hard work of a campaign exposing the truth on fracking, we can raise the level of awareness until we gain enough public support and momentum to win.”

Two school buses were chartered to bring participants from Sacramento and Davis to the plaza in front of Oakland City Hall early Saturday morning. Several other attendees from Davis took the train to the event. Marchers gathered from as far away as San Diego and a contingent from the Marshall Islands spoke at the follow up rally.

Handmade and reusable silkscreened banners, standards, signs, and feather style streamers complemented a traditional poster board with the central message of the march addressed to Governor Brown. Marchers brought a plethora of their own unique messages like: There is no planet B, Part of the onesie percent (from a hippo onesie wearer), Climate leaders don’t frack, and I love clean water.

The event kicked off with several speakers on the steps of city hall. Linda Capato of made a sharp comparison.  “Claiming to be a climate leader while allowing fracking is like saying you’re trying to save money from inside a Louis Vuitton.”

“The student voice holds a lot of power,” said Eva Malis, a student at UC Berkeley. “We are aware, we are conscious, we are bold, we are brave, and we are concerned that fracking is hurting our communities. This dangerous and irresponsible practice does not belong in California.”

Marches gather at Lake Merritt Plaza

After a mile march led by chanters, drummers, at least one saxophonist, plus bicyclists and kayakers astride the crowd, marchers gathered for a rally at Lake Merritt Plaza. The crowd was led and entertained by motivational speakers and music by Shake Your Peace—all powered by Rock the Bike, a bike-powered business that mixes up smoothies and runs microphones and amplifiers entirely on two banks of 10 bikes flanking the stage. Marchers gladly stepped up to pedal the two-wheeled generators and literally energize the bike-powered event.

Fracking convergence

After the rally, a short convergence was held at Laney College beginning with a panel of four plus representatives from Food and Water Watch who answered questions including a tough one about the value of marches over ballot initiatives.

Two speakers from the recent successful effort to ban fracking in New York offered organizing tips like monitor press on the issue, tell the truth with real science, coordinate with local groups, involve health professionals and business groups, push for city and county level bans, enlist pledges of civil disobedience, and, finally, use your creativity.

Antonia Juhasz, author of “Black Tide,” zeroed in on fracking facts: 95 percent of fracking in the state of California occurs in and around Bakersfield and Kern County, 79 percent of oil transported by rail is fracked from the North Dakota Bakken Shale deposit, and there are likely twice as many fracking sites in California as the 1,400 that have been disclosed.

Ms. Juhasz described California as “Chevron territory” and noted that our state is now fourth in oil and gas production falling from third since North Dakota rocketed into the rankings with the recent fracking boom there.

Madeleine Stano, staff attorney for the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment who represents clients in Kern County, shared maps showing the concentration of fracking wells in the lower Central Valley, where food and livestock are raised for consumption by Californians, the nation, and the world, and a majority Latino population struggles to fight the impacts of the dangerous practice.

Ms. Stano cited in particular Sequoia Elementary School 15 miles north of Bakersfield where children are falling ill with prostate cancer and other illnesses. A 12 year old girl there slipped into a coma during a respiratory attack and did not survive. The school has a fracking well site within 100 feet of school grounds. The state of California is alone among other oil producing states like Texas in not requiring set backs from schools and residential areas.

The good news according to Ms. Juhasz is that fracking wells only produce for a short time and are expensive to operate, so expensive that the recent fall in oil prices has recently halted the initiation of new well sites. She also reported that consumption is down and that oil companies’ own overproduction is part of the puzzle of falling prices.

Activists exchange stories

A short workshop following the panel brought together activists from across the Sacramento Valley including Frack Free Butte County, Greenpeace Sacramento, the California Student Sustainability Coalition, and our own Yolano Climate Action.
Participants were able to briefly share success stories, in particular Butte County which may have enough support for a county-level ban on fracking but also has a ban positioned on a 2016 ballot. Yolano Climate Action, represented by Nittler and Lasensky, reported successfully engaging the City of Davis, Yolo County, and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments to challenge the draft EIR for a proposed expanded rail terminal facility to handle increased crude-by-rail traffic in Benicia, which contributed to delaying the Valero project.

Activists are concerned about rail transport disasters, environmental justice, ground water contamination, ill health effects, and climate impacts connected with the practice. The recent decision of Governor Cuomo of New York to ban fracking statewide was based partly on a report issued in December of last year by the NY department of health.

Fracking bans

The report states, “until the science provides sufficient information to determine the level of risk to public health from [high volume hydraulic fracturing or] HVHF to all New Yorkers and whether the risks can be adequately managed, DOH recommends that HVHF should not proceed in New York State.”

The state of Vermont banned fracking as long ago as 2012. Scotland called for a moratorium on fracking in January of this year, and the Welsh parliament voted against the use of shale gas fracking just last week. Other cities and counties across the US have followed suit.

Among California counties, voters in Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Mendocino passed bans last year. California cities that have already passed moratoriums on fracking include Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and Carson. A complete international list of fracking bans can be found at One speaker at the post-march rally was involved in the fight that led to the ban on fracking in the city of Carson north of Long Beach in March of last year.

While some critics question the validity of activist claims and the NY department of health report claims the science is currently inconclusive, a working paper with an accompanying infographic (revised Jan 2015) from PSE Healthy Energy examined 425 peer reviewed studies on the topic and found that 87 percent indicated “potential public health risks or actual adverse outcomes,” 73 percent indicated “potential, positive associate, or actual incidence of water contamination,” and that 92 percent indicated “elevated air pollutant emissions and/or atmospheric concentrations.”

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  1. Anon

    I know I have said this before, but it bears repeating.  Fracking as well as other factors have reduced our dependence on foreign oil.  We used to import 80% of our oil, now we only import 20%.  As a result, the price of oil has gone down, which is doing damage to the middle east, which is an exporter of terrorism.  Less money from oil is less money spent on terrorism and the creation of mayhem.

    That said, I believe there are some real dangers to fracking, so obviously it needs to be heavily regulated by the gov’t, and the gov’t is notoriously bad at regulating anything, e.g. BP oil spill is a perfect example.  There are no easy answers here.  I am a firm believer in developing all types of alternative fuels, such as solar, wind, nuclear, hydroelectric, fuel cells, etc., so the our country can become completely energy independent.

    By the way, just as a side note, Rep Garamendi is in favor of fracking, so long as it is closely regulated.

    1. Davis Progressive

      my concern is what are the biproducts of a relatively new method of extraction.  i’m not convinced that the people screaming are right, but i’m not convinced they are wrong yet.

      1. Frankly

        a relatively new method of extraction

        It is not.  We have been doing it for over 60 years.  Only the chemicals have advanced and so has the drilling technology for easier horizontal drilling.

        This technique has been used in the oil and gas industry since 1949, and it is widely estimated that more than 2 million fracturing operations have been performed world-wide. Even in conventional oil and gas fields, 20% of the wells are usually stimulated through hydraulic fracturing.

        1. Robb Davis

          [moderator] edited for context with previous edits
          I find your response highly emotional and irrational.  Your argument that we should accept hydraulic fracturing’s potential health and environmental risks simply because it has been done for 60 years is unscientific.  What practice would be continued–no matter how long it has been practiced–if evidence emerges that it is harmful?  With scientific advancement comes change in many practices.

          JAMA acknowledges that there is little evidence so far of harm from fracking but that is partly because researchers are not being given access to proprietary information about chemicals used.  The American Public Health Association has called upon state governments to allow closer scrutiny of these practices (the APHA are not, I can assure you, “kooks”) so that public health effects (short and long-term) can be assessed.  In addition, we know that fracking uses and contaminates large quantities of water.  Fracking likely has very little future in California for geological reasons.  However, to practice it in Bakersfield in a period of extreme drought should be questioned.


        2. Frankly

          My posts are neither emotional nor irrational.  It is the protestors that are both or one or the other.

          We have been doing this for 60 years so why now?  Why now is the “ban fracking” bandwagon party train so popular when we heard nary a peep before?

          The only thing we should ban is people trying to ban things that they have no understanding of.

          I am all for research and science as long as it does not have any political or ideological connection.

          But, when we have been doing something for 60 years and then POP… NOW! it is a problem that we need to march about!!!   Well it is usually pretty obvious that this is just a media play for a larger agenda.

          Fracking likely has very little future in California for geological reasons.

          Sure, if you want to based it on pseudo science and the politics of fear.  Which in CA we will probably do.

          It is very very very clear that this is part of the anti-industrial liberal political agenda.  The problem isn’t fracking per se, it is the inexpensive fossil fuel.  It burns cheaper and that causes those with environmental obsessions to burn too.   Better to let more poor people freeze to death due to the affordability of energy to heat their homes.  Better that that low income person cannot afford to drive to school or work.  Better that air travel is more expensive.  Better that manufacturing is less feasible.  Better to rely on foreign energy so all those menacing countries can better fund their trouble.

          Yup, fracking is SO BAD, that we need to ban it and sacrifice all these other things.

          And I am the one with a logic problem?  Right.

      2. South of Davis

        Like DP “i’m not convinced that the people screaming are right, but i’m not convinced they are wrong yet.” and I want to remind Frankly that calling people names using the caps lock key is making him look like the one that is a little off…

  2. Davis Progressive

    “Two school buses were chartered to bring participants from Sacramento and Davis to the plaza in front of Oakland City Hall early Saturday morning.”

    so they didn’t drive vehicle and 60 people used two buses, one time.  is that acceptable to the critics from last week?

    1. Miwok

      DP, finally a question about the topic! Thank you.

      My question is WHY Oakland? Was J Brown at home to see it? Why not go where the people you are trying to influence are?

      I used to have the same questions every time my union compatriots were all bent on picketing, where it would do the least good. They still do. They just like to get together and paint signs..

    1. Frankly

      TBD – you got crickets from that point.  Those frreakin’ frackin’ worriers and ban demanders don’t want to talk about that inconvenient point.

      Advocate for research and regulation based on the research, and I’m with you.

      Mention ban, and you are in a class of people that demand to be denigrated.

      1. Don Shor


        and you are in a class of people that demand to be denigrated.

        Thank you for giving me an excellent segue to the Vanguard Comments policy. Denigrating other participants, or making derogatory comments about groups of people, does not help to foster the welcoming atmosphere that the Vanguard wants to encourage. Comments should focus on ideas and principles. There is plenty to discuss within that range without resorting to name-calling and derogatory characterizations.
        The Vanguard wants to encourage guest authors. So I want to take this opportunity to repeat this section from the Vanguard Comments policy:

        Pejorative references to any general class of people are strongly discouraged. The Editorial Board asks commenters to understand that general insults discourage the participation of others. They contribute to a negative tone and strongly suggest disrespect for the views of others. In some cases, general insults oversimplify the positions of others, which is detrimental to informed and respectful debate. General insults that are provocative are especially discouraged.

        Disagree, counter facts, compare philosophies and values. But in your choice of words, please be awesome to each other.

      2. TrueBlueDevil

        Yes, Frankly, just like nuclear power plants produce no CO2, our current day boogie man.

        BTW, did you see that another investigator has found out that climate temperatures have been again manipulated to help prove global warming? Temperatures from decades ago in South America have been lowered by 1 degree, to therefore help buttress the argument that our temperatures are increasing. It looks like three different agencies may have changed former temperature readings!

        Biggest scientific scam ever?

        1. Davis Progressive

          “another investigator has found out that climate temperatures have been again manipulated to help prove global warming? Temperatures from decades ago in South America have been lowered by 1 degree, to therefore help buttress the argument that our temperatures are increasing. It looks like three different agencies may have changed former temperature readings!”

          or maybe he didn’t:

        2. TrueBlueDevil

          This appears to be ClimateGate 2.0.

          UK Telegraph: The fiddling with temperature data is the biggest science scandal ever

          “…Two weeks ago, under the headline “How we are being tricked by flawed data on global warming”, I wrote about Paul Homewood, who, on his Notalotofpeopleknowthat blog, had checked the published temperature graphs for three weather stations in Paraguay against the temperatures that had originally been recorded. In each instance, the actual trend of 60 years of data had been dramatically reversed, so that a cooling trend was changed to one that showed a marked warming.”

          “Following my last article, Homewood checked a swathe of other South American weather stations around the original three. In each case he found the same suspicious one-way “adjustments”. First these were made by the US government’s Global Historical Climate Network (GHCN). They were then amplified by two of the main official surface records, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (Giss) and the National Climate Data Center (NCDC), which use the warming trends to estimate temperatures across the vast regions of the Earth where no measurements are taken. Yet these are the very records on which scientists and politicians rely for their belief in “global warming”.”


          “Burton’s key point is this: where Cowtan claims that all NOAA’s adjustments have done is increased warming by a modest 3 per cent, in actuality they have increased it by 35 per cent. So, far from Cowtan’s assessment that these adjustments are “inconsequentially tiny”, they are in fact quite massively distorting.”

        3. TrueBlueDevil

          Chief, or one of many?

          Tit for tat, can we trust “researchers” who receive thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars to study global warming to be honest and forthright?

          You know something smells when people want to end debate, when they claim it is “settled science”. I have a friend who has an opposing view in Physics to a physical property that 99% of physicists agree with. No one has told him and his colleague to stop their investigation, to stop their inquiry.

          1. Don Shor

            [moderator] I know you all like to debate climate change, but this article really is about fracking. So please let’s keep to that topic.

  3. Davis Progressive

    Hydraulic Fracturing has become a hot environmental discussion topic and a target of media articles and University studies during development of gas shales near populated areas. The furor over fracturing and frac waste disposal was largely driven by lack of chemical disclosure and the pre-2008 laws of some states. The spectacular increase in North American natural gas reserves created by shale gas development makes shale gas a disruptive technology, threatening profitability and continued development of other energy sources. Introduction of such a disruptive force as shale gas will invariably draw resistance, both monetary and political, to attack the disruptive source, or its enabler; hydraulic fracturing. Some “anti-frack” charges in media articles and university studies are based in fact and require a state-by-state focused improvement of well design specific for geology of the area and oversight of overall well development. Other articles have demonstrated either a severe misunderstanding or an intentional misstatement of well development processes, apparently to attack the disruptive source.

  4. Nancy Price

    Let’s be clear, most of the oil, natural gas and coal that is being ripped from the earth is going to be exported-  that is why the coastal ports are being expanded and upgraded.  Currently, Japan is the biggest importer of U.S. natural gas. Dirty energy development in the U.S. is not about U.S. energy independence and national security i is about getting oil and gas to the highest bidder.

    And, let’s be clear, if we want to protect our air, land and water, public health, and develop green, sustainable energy from wind and solar, we must defeat Fast Track and stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.

    Please call your Rep. Garamendi’s office in D.C. 202-225-1880 or Davis district office at  530-753-5301 and ask that he stay strong and say “No” to Fast Track and the TPP for the sake of people, planet and peace over profit.

    You can read Global Corporate Empire: Corporate Rule by “Free” Trade Agreement at   or “Trading Nature for Profit: Devastation will Ripple Across Planet Earth” at

    Have a good day.

    1. Miwok

      Nancy, an ad for perpetual candidate or appointee Garamendi is not really the point.

      I think people don’t want their lives ruined by fracking, and see their children harmed in the way they have been by Union Carbide (Bhopal), Texaco (Ecuador), or a lot of other third world countries, which all used to be first world companies (Pennsylvania, Texas, Long Beach) who did the same thing in this country.

      Even with the EPA, supposed to clean up and prevent all this type of pollution, it is happening again according to these people with home painted signs. I think their choice of target city was strange.

    2. tribeUSA

      Nancy–I’m with you here, we need to get the word out to the public about the TPP, which is being discussed behind closed doors by our elected ‘representatives’ and industry honchos, and if passed will have significant negative impacts on our children and grandchildren (except for some of the oligarchs and other trans-nationals high up the food chain), the entire USA future. If TPP passes, it is likely that fracking will fast-track, with proper environmental/health safety regulation or enforcement receiving less priority. (With regard to fracking I’m personally for ‘proceed, but slowly and with caution’,  with prudent regulations and monitoring, erring on the side of caution until long-term potential and real effects of fracking, particularly on deep and intermediate freshwater aquifers, is better understood.)

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