Big Oil Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown must recognize fracking as a threat and stand up to oil and gas companies

Gov. Jerry Brown got a much-deserved earful from activists during a recent speech before his own party members. At issue is the governor’s support of hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—within the state.

During the California Democratic Party’s annual convention on Saturday (March 8) in Los Angeles, an anti-fracking contingent chided Brown, who’s up for re-election this fall, by heckling him and holding up signs denouncing his stance on the controversial oil and gas extraction method (see “A fracking affair,” Newslines, page 8). The practice involves injecting numerous chemicals and large volumes of water into the earth.

The week before the convention, the state Democratic Party officially amended its platform so that it seeks, among other things, a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing until such time that the state enacts stricter regulations or it is proven safe. Fracking activists—or “fracktivists”—view the practice as an environmental disaster waiting to happen. Fracking is also counter to Brown’s commitment to curbing climate change and mitigating drought, they say.

Saturday’s demonstration was just the latest backlash from environmentalists who’ve taken the governor to task at every opportunity. In-party critics have been calling him Big Oil Brown and following his every move in public. They’ve been waging a campaign online, too, with such gimmicks as an online parody commercial that depicts the governor hawking a cologne called “Frack Water: a fragrance by Jerry Brown” at The spoof depicts the governor as a cowboy and includes this voiceover: “Jerry Brown’s Frack Water—A fragrance that smells like a man, a man who doesn’t give a (bleep) about drought or climate change.”

Many anti-fracking activists, including a local contingent, are preparing to travel to the state Capitol this coming Saturday (March 15) for a large-scale protest. Additionally, in Butte County, local fractivists of the Citizens Action Network are gathering signatures to place a county fracking moratorium on the November general-election ballot.

Californians are serious about protecting the state’s natural resources, especially precious groundwater supplies. Brown must recognize fracking as a potential threat to the environment and decide what kind of legacy he wants to leave: one in which he stands up to the oil and gas companies or one in which he’s remembered as Big Oil Brown.