Steyer-Backed Group Gives Governor Brown Highest Environmental Marks

Radical anti-fracking activists have long been attacking California Governor Jerry Brown (D) for refusing to ban hydraulic fracturing. They tweet at him constantly, and they heckle him at political events — most famously at the State Democratic Convention, when they interrupted his speech numerous times with shouts of “climate leaders don’t frack!”

Oil Change International (OCI) is one of a cadre of extremist groups — including Food and Water Watch (FWW), the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and even the Sierra Club (since it decided that it now opposes natural gas) – that are trying to stop domestic energy development. OCI even launched a laughable and aggressive campaign to label Governor Brown – one of the leading environmental advocates of the past 40 years — as “Big-Oil Brown” because he dared to follow the science on the safety of fracking, rather than the anti-science ideology of the “ban fracking” movement.

OCI’s David Turnbull has mocked the notion that his organization – and by extension organizations that also claim Governor Brown is not “green” – is radical:


“Radical,” “extremist,” and “unserious” are somewhat subjective labels, but how does OCI convince us that it is a constructive contributor to the important public policy discussion over safe and effective energy development? How does it disprove that it’s not, say, engaging in pure political theater? By creating a spoof of a fragrance commercial, complete with a menacing voiceover saying,

“In a land plagued by drought, one man stands tall.  We won’t tell you what’s in it, but Big Oil Brown’s got it all over him. Jerry Brown’s frackwater. A fragrance that smells like a man.  A man who doesn’t give a [bleep] about drought or climate change.”

Not convinced of OCI’s fundamental (super) seriousness? Neither are we. Neither, it turns out, is one of the major progressive think tanks in the United States, the Center for American Progress (CAP), whose board of directors happens to include outspoken climate change activist and billionaire Tom Steyer. Earlier this month, CAP released a“Climate Guide to Governors,” which details the Governors who, in its view, take climate change seriously.

Acknowledging that California now has strict regulations on hydraulic fracturing that are designed to address the concerns of the public and the professed concerns of environmental activists, Governor Brown received the very highest marks for his work on climate change and was dubbed a “Green Governor.”

According to CAP’s online publication Think Progress, “Green governors not only accept climate change science but are proactively implementing policies to fight climate change and prepare their states for the impacts of extreme weather” (emphasis added). Here’s what CAP had to say about Governor Brown’s environmental record:

“California Governor Jerry Brown (D) has made climate change a primary focus of his administration as he enforces AB 32, the state’s cap-and-trade system. In 2013, he signaled he would not wait for Congress to act on climate by joining the leaders of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia in signing the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy, which aims to unite their efforts in combating climate change. He also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China’s top climate negotiator that pledges to work together on sharing low-carbon strategies and create joint ventures on clean energy technologies. In order to expand renewable energy, Brown signed pioneer legislation that allows customers of the state’s three largest utilities to purchase up to 100 percent clean energy. He’s also signedmultiple clean energy bill packages into law and expanded the Renewable Portfolio Standard to make California’s standard among the most aggressive in the country. While he has signed legislation into law that allows fracking in California, the law imposes strict regulations on the oil and gas industry, including requiring companies to disclose which chemicals they use in the fracking process. Governor Brown is running for re-election in 2014.”

That’s certainly a testament to the fact that Governor Brown has listened to the scientists and regulators across the country, and recognizes that hydraulic fracturing is a fundamentally safe technology with manageable risks.

He’s not alone either. California’s overwhelmingly Democratic legislature soundly rejected anti-fracking activists’ call for a ban on fracking and instead passed a bill authorizing the most extensive hydraulic fracturing regulations in the country.

On the national level Governor Brown is in lockstep with President Obama and numerous administration officials who have long touted the benefits of shale development.  As Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently explained, “Democrats throughout the country have supported fracking. The president has, most of us have, and it’s worked quite well.”  Even John Podesta, who has been called a climate “champion” by anti-fracking groups, has said that anti-fracking activists are being completely “impractical” in their calls to switch off fossil fuels today.

Just when we thought the activists like those at OCI, FWW and CBD couldn’t get any more marginalized, a liberal organization like CAP confirms that their ideology isimpractical and anti-scientific. In fact, by positioning themselves on the fringe of the debate, “radical” and “extremist” are words that, by definition, describe their agenda.

Fracking and shale development are the reason the United States leads the world in carbon emissions reductions — something people who truly care about climate change should celebrate – and it is the reason that we will be able to produce oil in California that we won’t have to import via rail and ship from countries with less progressive environmental regulations. It just goes to show that that Governor Brown’s earlier contention – that anti-fracking activists “don’t know what the hell they’re talking about” – was perfectly correct.

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