California Democrats almost unanimously approved a progressive platform Sunday that included a proposed ban on fracking, breaking with Gov. Jerry Brown, who has indicated a willingness to explore the practice.
The issue of the ban came during this weekend's California Democrats State Convention, a three-day meeting in Los Angeles that brought together state Democratic leaders including Gov. Brown, State Attorney General Kamala Harris, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, as well as about 3,000 delegates and guests. Other issues on the platform included an adjusted minimum wage, an end to solitary confinement in prisons and the legalization of medical marijuana.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, a controversial process for extracting oil and natural gas from the earth, has been a hotly debated topic across the state and the nation, drawing opposition from environmentalists, politicians and even celebrities in the past year. Brown's Saturday speech was interrupted by protesters frustrated with his support of the practice.
Democrats answered the protesters by calling for "an immediate moratorium on fracking, acidizing and other forms of oil/gas well stimulation" the next day.
Though fracking would allow oil companies to access California's coveted Monterey Shale deposit, little is known about the long-term effects of the practice. Some research suggests that fracking has the potential to contaminate groundwater, deplete water resources and release harmful pollutants and carcinogenic chemicals. Research has also suggested that the practice could cause earthquakes.
Brown has shown support for a limited degree of regulated fracking in California, arguing that it could offer economic opportunities. In September, Brown issued the state's first fracking regulations, which went into effect Jan. 1. The regulations require any companies intent on fracking to acquire permits and publicly disclose the chemicals used in the process. They also call for air and water quality monitoring and an independent study of local effects.
While Brown has received harsh criticism over his refusal to issue a state ban on fracking, he has defended his position with equal fervor. During an interview, KQED's Michael Krasny asked the governor if it was possible for him to implement a meaningful climate change pact without addressing the issue of fracking.
"Fracking is a point, it's an issue, but climate change is dealing with cars, with power plants, with cows, with agriculture, with cement, with land use, with many, many things," Brown replied. "The key point here that most people have in their minds is fracking the Monterey shale. Nobody's doing that. At best it's several years if it ever happens. And it can't happen until a major and the first serious scientific study to an environmental impact analysis that I required by a law I signed two months ago is done. I'm supervising that analysis and we're going to find out."