Demonstrators demand ban on fracking in California

Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

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About 60 students and community members rallied on Upper Sproul Plaza on Tuesday afternoon in opposition to fracking in California as part of a statewide movement demanding that Gov. Jerry Brown ban fracking.

The demonstrators — who chanted, “Ban fracking now,” and “If you frack, we’ll be back,” among other phrases — carried handmade signs and hosted four speakers during the hour-long rally.

The rally’s coordinators, Students Against Fracking at UC Berkeley and the ASUC Office of Sustainability, are demanding Brown issue an executive order to ban fracking by Nov. 1. Tuesday’s rally follows a larger rally at the state Capitol on Saturday, where thousands of people gathered from around the state to call for a ban on fracking, including some students from UC Berkeley.

Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, is the process of extracting natural gas and oil by injecting water, sand and chemicals underground at high pressures to fracture the rock surrounding an oil or gas well.

“The industry is toxic,” said Kristy Drutman, a UC Berkeley freshman and co-coordinator for Students Against Fracking. “We have the resources. We need people to invest in renewable energy and make it accessible.”

Many rally attendees and organizers cited concerns that fracking uses too much water, especially considering California’s ongoing drought. According to Alastair Iles, a UC Berkeley assistant professor of environmental science, policy and management who gave a speech at the rally, every time fracking happens, up to 10 million gallons of water could be pumped down.

Mac Farrell, global warming organizer for the advocacy organization Environment California, said that although it’s difficult to tell the long-term consequences of fracking, every drop of water used is wasted.

Farrell cited New York’s years-long moratorium on fracking and other similar bans as evidence that the campaign against the technique has escalated.

“We need to move from NIMBY — not in my backyard — to NOPE — not on planet earth,” said David Solnit, Berkeley resident and a volunteer organizer with the Sunflower Alliance, a local environmental justice group.

Some have said, however, that fracking has benefits for the economy. President Barack Obama, in his 2014 State of the Union address, called natural gas a “bridge fuel” that has the ability to power the economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change.

The president has encouraged further research on fracking, and some California legislators are thinking along the same lines, introducing legislation last month that would require additional research into fracking.

Several passers-by stopped to listen to the message presented by the demonstrators and speakers during the afternoon rally.

“Fracking is a buzzword,” said Kayla Friedrichsen, a UC Berkeley senior. “Everyone is going to say fracking is bad. A more well-rounded description of the issues and political facets is necessary.”

Contact Angel Jennings at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @angeljenningss.