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Gov. Brown signs climate change agreement but...

November 13th, 2013 / By: Ed Sztukowski

Gov. Brown speaks with reporters

He is also muddling his environmental message

Gov. Jerry Brown joined other regional leaders last week to sign the Pacific Coast Climate and Energy Compact, which coordinates greenhouse gas reduction goals in the North American West.

"California isn't waiting for the rest of the world before it takes action on climate change," Brown said. "Today, California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia are all joining together to reduce greenhouse gases."

While the compact establishes high expectations, some people question Gov. Brown's commitment to battling climate change. Even as Gov. Brown embraces the ideas behind clean energy, he also signals significant support for fracking, which could undermine the fight against climate change.

Fracking in California

Fracking is the process of injecting water, sand, and chemicals into rock formations to release oil and natural gas. Not only does fracking waste water and damage the environment, but it also increases emissions of methane, a major greenhouse gas.

Technological advancements in fracking have increased interest in California's shale formations, which could hold more than 15.4 billion barrels of oil, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

That's a tantalizing prospect to those in the fracking industry, but support for fracking runs contrary to California's climate change plans.

In a letter to Gov. Brown, 20 of the nation's top climate change scientists urged him to place a moratorium on fracking until the consequences are more fully researched.

"If what we're trying to do is stop using the sky as a waste dump for our carbon pollution, and if we're trying to transform our energy system, the way to do that is not by expanding our fossil fuel infrastructure," said atmospheric scientist Ken Caldeira.

Unfortunately, Gov. Brown doesn't seem to be listening. While he called for a study on fracking's potential impacts in California, he stopped short of banning fracking until the study completes.

He estimates that results won't be ready for at least another 18 months. Until then, fracking wells will continue to spring up throughout California, undercutting the greenhouse gas reductions we've achieved over the last decade.

Mixed signals have some fuming

How can Gov. Brown say he wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California while also expanding fossil fuel development through fracking?

That's what environmentalists across the state are asking themselves. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Communications Director of Food and Water Watch Anna Ghosh expressed her frustration.

"It's kind of the elephant in the room that Governor Brown is supposedly a climate change champion and trying to avert it, yet he's also a champion of fracking," Ghosh said. "It's clear that fracking contributes to fossil fuel consumption, which contributes to climate change."

Ghosh and her colleagues believe that his support for fracking in California weakens the climate change compact he signed earlier this month.

Only by embracing renewable technologies, like solar panels and electric cars, can we reduce greenhouse gases and achieve the goals set by the Pacific Coast Climate and Energy Compact.

Emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) in California saw an overall increase between 1990 and 2010, but renewable energy has helped to slow their growth significantly. Policies like the California Solar Initiative enacted in 2008 have led to a 7% reduction in emissions per capita today, but that progress faces threats from fracking.

You can signal your concern about Gov. Brown's support of fracking by contacting him today. By joining your voice to a growing chorus of concerned Californians, we can recommit ourselves to a clean energy future.