Leading Democrats Distance Themselves from Sierra Club

There is broad, bipartisan support for responsible oil and gas development using hydraulic fracturing in California, with opposition coming from a well-funded and vocal group of extremists like the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and, more recently, the Sierra Club.

Unfortunately, these activists have driven the “debate” about hydraulic fracturing from the fringes, and are now getting under the skin of leading Democrats nationwide, including Governor Jerry Brown, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

First, a little background: as EID has documented, the Center for Biological Diversity exists simply to file lawsuits to conduct “psychological warfare” on policymakers and regulators charged with protecting and managing our natural resources.

It’s unfortunate that the “extremist” label can be applied to the Sierra Club, once a venerable organization, but it is now borrowing a page from the CBD’s playbook, opposing Democrat-sponsored legislation as insufficient and using the courts to frustrate responsible resource management. The Sierra Club has even staked out positions in opposition to wind and solar projects in California.

In the debate about hydraulic fracturing in California, Governor Brown, one of the nation’s leading advocates for environmental protection and renewable energy, was very clear that he and the regulators at the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGRR) would let science be their guide, rather than “jumping on any ideological bandwagons” of the sort represented by the CBD and Sierra Club.

Brown’s fellow Democrats are starting to understand his frustration. Yesterday’s Sacramento Bee reported the following:

Three months after California Gov. Jerry Brown and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval reached an agreement on the governance of the basin surrounding Lake Tahoe, the governors praised the accord here Monday, and Brown fired back at environmentalists who fear it will lead to more development.

“This is the same group that’s criticizing the Delta restoration plan, and a whole bunch of other things we’re doing,” the Democratic governor told reporters at the Lake Tahoe Summit. “Trying to be absolutely perfect means you don’t get anything done.”

Brown said California has to work with Nevada and other groups and that, “It isn’t just what some Sierra Club chapter around Tahoe wants.”

Brown and Sandoval announced earlier this year they would continue the two-state partnership known as the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, after Nevada passed a law in 2011 in which it would have withdrawn from the compact unless California made concessions to allow more development.

The Sierra Club and other environmentalists filed a lawsuit in federal court, objecting (among other things) to a provision of the accord that would delegate many planning decisions to local governments.

Again, straight out of the CBD’s playbook.  (Let’s leave the hypocrisy aside for the moment, such as the fact that the CBD, Sierra Club, and others have been pushing the idea that local governments can and should make decisions when it comes to hydraulic fracturing in their jurisdictions.)

Brown, along with Senators Reid and Feinstein, joined Al Gore in Lake Tahoe to tout the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, and the Sierra Club’s lawsuit was met with justifiable derision. Feinstein called the suit “regrettable,” and Reid noted that he had tried to talk the group out of its obstructionist plans, only to be ignored. “I tried to prevail upon them, and they didn’t listen to me,” he said. “I’m right, they’re wrong.”

The actions of the Sierra Club and its extremist allies in Lake Tahoe are becoming quite predictable: use the courts to try to frustrate the efforts of regulators and policymakers to balance responsible resource management with environmental protection.  That leading Democrats, with well-known environmentalist credentials, are now becoming exasperated only proves that these groups are far outside of the mainstream and represent the radical fringe of the anti-development movement.

Happily, California’s tradition of bipartisan support for our homegrown energy industry, coupled with leading-edge environmental regulations, is alive and well. This is evidenced by the fact that all efforts to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing went down to resounding defeat in the last legislative session, and by the fact that DOGRR is promulgating regulations on fracturing that, while tough, recognize that the practice is fundamentally safe and an important part of our state’s energy future.

It is time for the extremist activists to read the writing on the wall. Some advice: when your claims of environmental harm have been thoroughly debunked (among other places herehere and here), and when lawmakers with whom you work closely are distancing themselves from you, the problem isn’t everyone else.

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