Great Day for California, Very Bad Day for Josh Fox

Two very different events on May 30 — one in northern California and one in southern California — suggest that the public policy debate over our state’s energy future has moved decisively from the fringes of environmental radicalism. At the State Capitol, the people sent a very clear message through their elected representatives. At almost exactly the same time, in downtown in Los Angeles, filmmaker Josh Fox and his extremist allies like Food and Water Watch and the Center for Biological Diversity were having a very bad day; they just didn’t know it yet.

Fox is currently touring energy-producing states for screenings of his polemic-disguised-as-a-documentary, “Gasland Part II.” (Spoiler Alert: Save your money. My colleague Steve Everley has written a thorough debunking of the film, which can be read here.)

He rolled his ideological crusade into the Golden State earlier in the week for a screening of his film in Sacramento, just as legislators were gearing up to make final decisions on a group of measures that would have placed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing — something Fox and his allies put huge pressure on lawmakers to enact.

After all, these true believers in an immediate cessation of the use of all fossil fuel have stated repeatedly that hydraulic fracturing shouldn’t be regulated to further ensure its record of safety. It should – actually, according to them, it must — be banned entirely. This view of the world is certainly untethered to reality and science, but it is the outcome that the activists were counting on California, one of the nation’s most progressive states, to deliver.

Legislature Rejects Moratorium

The “ban fracking now” crowd miscalculated — badly.

As The Daily Caller reported:

The California legislature opted not to follow in the footsteps of New Jersey and New York, defeating a bill that would have put a moratorium on fracking within the state until regulations could be imposed.

As Bloomberg described it:

California lawmakers rejected a bill that would have stopped drillers from using hydraulic fracturing to free oil and natural gas from shale beds until state regulators implement rules for the controversial practice.

Indeed, on May 30 Assembly members from both parties turned their backs on the fringe ideology of the activists by decisively defeating all “moratorium” bills including the Los Angeles Times-endorsed AB1323, which received a mere 24 votes in an 80 member assembly that includes 54 Democrats. This is great news for all Californians, and especially those in the unemployment-ravaged Central Valley. (A recent USC study gives a hint of the potential economic benefits that further developing California’s Central Valley oil and gas resources could provide. Even if the numbers are a fraction of what the study suggests, it would lead to a much-needed boost in jobs, economic growth and tax revenue.)

Governor Brown recently said that decisions about hydraulic fracturing in California should “be decided based on science, based on common sense, and based on a deliberative process that listens to people, but also wants to take advantage of the great opportunities we have in this state.” Lawmakers in Sacramento clearly share the Governor’s priorities.

Bad Timing in Los Angeles

In what must be one of the worst-timed events in the history of activism, while Assembly was doing its job, Josh Fox’s was appearing in downtown Los Angeles where he addressed a group of about 100 activists to launch a group called “Californians Against Fracking.”

“I’m proud to be involved with the launch of Californians Against Fracking and stand next to environmental leaders, advocates and ordinary people fighting to protect the Golden State from the dirty and dangerous processes of fracking and drilling,” he said.

Side note: It is good when anti-industry activists say what they mean, and, by railing against “drilling” and not just hydraulic fracturing (which are two completely different processes), Fox gave the game away and proved that he and his supporters aren’t interested in the safety of fracturing, but in shutting down our homegrown energy industry.

That the Assembly let the activists down just as their hero was barnstorming the state and “launching” an anti-fracturing group must have been a crushing blow, but they put on a brave face.  Among the “environmental leaders” Fox referred to in his speech were fellow extremists like those at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) (which, as we recently noted in this space, has admitted that is eschews science in favor of “psychological warfare”).

Following the death of the bills that the CBD had invested countless hours and countless misleading column-inches to pass, the group’s Brian Nowicki said, “Lawmakers haven’t passed a fracking moratorium yet, but public opinion is on our side.”

Even the activists’ attempt to find a silver lining is rooted in falsehood. Public opinion is not on their side. If the Assembly vote wasn’t proof enough recent public opinion polling makes this clear.

Last month, a poll released by the California Business Roundtable and the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy showed that registered voters from both parties not only strongly support California’s energy industry, but they support expanding development of the Monterey Shale — using hydraulic fracturing — by a staggering 16 percentage points.

While last Thursday’s Assembly vote must have shocked out-of-state agitators like Josh Fox and his friends, it is perfectly in keeping with California’s traditional approach to public policy whereby members of both parties seek to preserve and protect our environment while responsibly developing our homegrown natural resources.

After all, why in the world would we want to place a moratorium on something that has taken place more than 1.2 million times in the U.S. over the past 60 years, and which everyone from Governor Brown, to state regulators, to President Obama has recognized as fundamentally safe?

Californians are smart. The miscalculation of the radical activists like Josh Fox and the CBD was to believe – and, indeed, to hope – that we are stupid.

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