Thousands gather in Oakland to protest fracking

Blue and yellow flags colored the streets as thousands of people swarmed through downtown Oakland Feb. 7 to demand the end of structural fracturing, otherwise known as fracking, in California.

The March for Real Climate Leadership, organized by a broad coalition of groups around the state, called on Gov. Jerry Brown to be a climate leader and impose a ban on fracking. Marchers insisted on real action from Brown following his inauguration speech Jan. 5, where he vowed to fight climate change.

“Claiming that you’re a climate leader while also fracking is like saying you’re trying to save money while you’re in a Louis Vuitton,” said Linda Capato Jr., fracking campaign coordinator of 350.org. “We’re here to make sure that Brown understands that while we continue to frack and expand extraction for oil and gas in this state, he will no longer be known as climate leader.”

Fracking is a method in which water, chemicals and sand are injected into geological formations to allow oil and gas resources to be extracted, according to Jason Gurdak, an assistant professor in SF State’s department of earth and climate sciences.

“There are many concerns about fracking,” Gurdak said. “The gist of it is we use a lot of water in the fracking process and there’s a lot of potential contaminants that are used. Although they’re used in areas we don’t really use for water resources, they can get up into the water, cause environmental damage and potential health effects for humans.”

Several SF State environmental groups organized a contingent of students to storm the march together including Jason Schwartz, a member of Fossil Free SFSU, an organization that pushes the university foundation to sell off investments in fossil fuel companies.

Cyclists ride stationary bikes to power the stage's sound system during a protest against fracking in California during the Climate Change march in Oakland Saturday Feb. 7.     Photo by Helen Tinna

Cyclists ride stationary bikes to power the stage’s sound system during a protest against fracking in California during the Climate Change march in Oakland Saturday Feb. 7.

“The reason that I organize is to affect change to stop the trend over the last 40 years favoring profit over people,” Schwartz said. “As a student here, I can make the most impact in making the changes I want to make.”

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency website, the EPA is conducting a study to better understand the potential effects fracking has on drinking water.

There are several sites all over California where unconventional oil development, including fracking, take place, according to CA Frack Facts. Central California’s Kern County, which encompasses Bakersfield, has over 42,000 active wells and has produced 72 percent of California’s oil in 2012.

Sofia Parino, senior attorney at the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment in Oakland, said that the proximity of the fracking sites are detrimental to Kern Country residents.

“These fracking sites are literally next door to houses and schools,” Parino said. “The people in Kern are concerned about their health, the air pollution and the water pollution.”

Parino said that her group works closely with Kern County neighbors and local electives to help them understand what fracking is.

Rex Halafihi, member of the Pacific Islanders Club at SF State said he believes that fracking and other climate issues are affecting his homeland in Tonga.

“With the rising climate and the water levels rising, our homelands are about to be drowned,” Halafihi said. “My island of Tonga should be done by 2070 if we keep this up.”

Other students from around California, like Tenley Lillegard from Cosumnes River College, came out to the march to show support.

“I am very, very, very against fracking, it’s a very risky thing to do,” Lillegard said. “Right now, we’re in college and it seems like we can’t do much but our voices matter and we are the generation that’s going to be ruling the world someday so we need to start acting now.”

 

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