Center for Biological Diversity Tries to Mislead Governor Brown and California Democrats

Today, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) issued at open  letter to Governor Jerry Brown urging him to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, “pending further study.” The letter, signed by “100 local officials,” was released at a press conference held at the California Democratic State Convention in Anaheim. This is the latest in CBD’s attempts to shut down California’s energy industry, which is the third largest in the country.

Unfortunately, the letter contains the same anti-fracking talking points contained in previous letters, but presents no new arguments, and no new evidence, for its claims. As importantly, the “authorities” that CBD relies upon are no more credible, most likely because they got their information about hydraulic fracturing from CBD.

In today’s letter, CBD’s attempt to mislead is glaring: of the California officials who “signed” the anti-fracking letter – from a Marin County Supervisor to a Glendale City Council member – only 14 out of 100  are from oil producing areas, and there is only one from Kern County where more than 75 percent of the state’s oil production – and well over 90 percent of the state’s fracking — occurs.

Put another way, 86 percent of these local officials’ constituencies have no direct stake in oil and gas development. Therefore, signing such a letter is symbolic; it has no direct political cost to the local official.*

It is telling that CBD was not able to wrangle signatures from those who represent the region that actually lives with oil and gas development daily. If CBD’s claims of “harm” from fracking were accurate, Kern County officials – who have just as much interest in their constituents’ health and welfare as officials from elsewhere in the state – should have dominated its list.

These signatories ignore the fact that California is the third largest energy producing state and the third largest consumer of gas and diesel (after China and the U.S. as a whole) on the planet. Even so, we still import more than half of our oil from overseas and bring it to California by ship and by rail. We all have a significant financial and environmental stake in ensuring that we produce as much oil as possible at home under our strictest-in-the-nation environmental protections. Whether these “officials” realize it or now, all Californians benefit from the nearly 500,000 direct and indirect jobs the industry provides and the billions of dollars of tax revenue and economic activity.

But perhaps the officials didn’t consider this because they got their information on fracking from CBD, which, as we have repeatedly shown, is engaged in an aggressive misinformation campaign on the issue.

The letter

CBD’s letter is full of oft-repeated misstatements of fact.

The letter claims that fracking “will exacerbate many of our environmental threats, particularly local air and water pollution” when repeated studies – even a study in the highly urban Inglewood Oil Field near Los Angeles – show that this is not true.

The letter further claims that “millions of gallons at a time” of water is used at a time when officials at the California Department of Conservation confirm that this is false; the average amount of water used per fracturing job is 100,000 gallons. CBD also claims this water is “permanently removed from our supply” without acknowledging that oil development produces water never in the water supply. Further, last year some 10 billion gallons of this produced water was cleaned and provided to the agriculture industry for irrigation. CBD also writes about “toxic” chemicals, without acknowledging the notion of concentrations and ignoring that most of these “chemicals” are common in many applications in our daily lives.

The letter invokes the State of New York which recently extended its moratorium on fracking to 2015, ignoring the fact that the “science” behind the New York ban violated the basic scientific standards of peer review as the research praised by the Cuomo administration as “bona fide scientific literature” included reports that were financed and produced almost entirely by professional opposition groups. More on this can be found in the Energy In Depth white paper: A Look Inside New York’s Anti-Fracking Echo Chamber.

This should shed light on the credibility of CBD’s letter.

The “pending further study” approach is transparent: there can always be more study of anything. But the notion that an industry should be shut down until “all” study is completed is impossible. This notion is as absurd when applied to the oil and gas industry as it would to any other industry. That noted, hydraulic fracturing is a routine and well-understood process for more than 65 years and it has been, and continues to be extensively studied.

Empty gesture

Happily, Governor Brown and Democrats in the California legislature have put their responsibilities to the economy and the environment ahead of CBD-style activism.

The Governor – one of the leading environmentalists of the past 40 years — has consistently maintained that hydraulic fracturing is a boon for our state and that we should maintain our energy leadership. Not only did he recently say on NBC’s Meet the Press that a ban on fracking “doesn’t make a lot of sense,” but he is also on the record stating that anti-fracking activists “don’t know what they hell they’re talking about.”

Democrats and Republicans alike in Sacramento know that, with more than 30 million cars on the road, Californians need transportation fuel – even as our overall use of oil goes down over time. They also know that every barrel of oil produced under California’s strict tapestry of environmental laws is a barrel that isn’t produced elsewhere under less regulation and then shipped here via tanker and rail, which carries their own carbon footprints.

The Democratic-controlled legislature has now twice soundly defeated fracking “moratorium” bills, and the latest CBD attempt to pressure the Governor speaks of the group’s desperation. After all, as incoming U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said:

“Overall, the Democrats throughout the country have supported fracking. The President has, most of us have, and it’s worked quite well.”


*This is similar to a 2013 CBD letter to Governor Brown purporting to be from “top climate scientists.’ The letter included signatories like Paul Ehrlich of Stanford (who famously predicted that humanity would starve to death by 1980); Cornell’s Anthony Ingraffea and Robert Howarth (whose claims about methane emissions received wide criticism from the actual science-based environmental community); James Hansen (an activist who favorably reviewed a book’s recommendation of the need to “rid the world of Industrial Civilization”), and Shaye Wolf, who is the climate science director of … CBD.



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