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Renewed Anti-Fracking Effort Surfaces in California

California Gov. Jerry Brown was shouted down by anti-hydraulic fracturing (fracking) advocates last weekend in Los Angeles at a state Democratic Party meeting in which a majority of the political party attendees forced a call for a ban on the drilling practice as part of the official platform this election year.

It was one of two issues (the other being marijuana legalization) in which the party rank-and-file went against their sitting governor, who is running for reelection in November.

Brown's address to the convention was interrupted by fracking protesters despite the fact that last year he signed SB 4 to establish statewide rules for unconventional drilling, including reporting on the chemicals used in the process and pre- and post-drilling water tests (Shale Daily, Sept. 23, 2013).

According to political observers in Sacramento, statewide polls indicate most voters oppose the use of fracking; Los Angeles is considering a ban on the practice (see Daily GPI, March 6).

"Brown's stance on fracking fits his decades-long pattern of confounding critics who try to cast him as too liberal," the Los Angeles Times reported last Sunday. "But it could put him at odds with a new political player who has emerged as a national force on climate change."

The newspaper noted that San Francisco Bay Area billionaire and Democratic Party supporter Tom Steyer has pledged to spend $100 million this year fighting against candidates that don't back climate change mitigation efforts. In addition, Steyer plans to fund efforts for stiffer state fracking legislation. He wants fracking banned except in counties in which two-thirds of the voters support it being allowed, the LA Times reported.

"After all, when it comes to the health and safety of our local communities, the burden of proof should be on the oil companies, not the other way around," Steyer said in his remarks at the convention and reported in the Times. He also wants an "extraction tax" assessed against oil and gas producers, along with strict fracking standards.

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