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Monday, 10 March 2014 14:40

Gov. Jerry Brown heckled by protesters opposed to fracking

Written by  Carla Marinucci | SF Gate
Gov. Jerry Brown addresses the California Democratic Convention as opponents of hydraulic fracturing protest in Los Angeles. Gov. Jerry Brown addresses the California Democratic Convention as opponents of hydraulic fracturing protest in Los Angeles. Jonathan Alcorn, For The Chronicle

Gov. Jerry Brown faced protests at the state Democratic Party convention Saturday from crowds of progressives opposed to fracking, even as he attempted to make the case that California has led the country on climate change and renewable energy issues.

"The challenge facing California is not just drought today; it's climate change, now and forever," said Brown, as dozens of party activists holding "Another Democrat Against Fracking" signs rushed to the front of the hall and stood in their seats at the Los Angeles Convention Center, yelling their opposition to the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," to expand natural gas production.

"California is the one state - the one state - that actually has a goal of reducing the consumption of oil, gas and coal and other fossil fuels," said Brown as calls of "No fracking!" erupted at him from the hall floor. "I challenge anybody to find another state that is on that path, a serious path."

State an energy leader
The state is a leader in renewable energy, energy efficient buildings and appliances, and as a consumer of electric cars, the governor said.

"Would it be that we could only do one thing to solve climate change. That is not the way it is," said Brown, who said the state must now expand technology and invest in "massive renewable energy, different kind of grids."

Brown, who late last year signed SB4, a bill that critics said opens the door to greatly expanded fracking, appealed to the sign-waving protesters. "We have to do it all and we can't just have it limited to one thing," he said. "We have to do the whole story."

Through it all, Brown himself appeared unruffled by the hecklers, telling them at one point, "I got it."

'Keep protesting'
And as he left the stage, the governor told them, "Keep protesting," even stopping to shake some of the protesters' hands.

But Brown's position on fracking was directly challenged by Tom Steyer, a billionaire climate change activist who said any discussion on fracking "should not even take place" until big oil and energy interests "are paying their fair share - and have demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that (fracking) can be done safely."

Steyer, whose support of a ballot measure for an oil extraction tax has been criticized by Brown, told the convention crowd it was time to "level the playing field" between local communities and big business in California. The activist said that, just as a two-thirds vote is required by the Legislature to pass new taxes, it should be required at the county level "as a requirement for the approval of fracking."

That would "empower local communities to secure the safety and health provisions their people deserve; it will give communities the right to determine whether fracking really is in their interest; and it will give the people the same two-thirds protections that businesses currently enjoy" in the passage of new taxes, he said. Keynote disrupted The lively scene took place during the governor's keynote at the three-day state Democratic convention, an event that drew 3,000 delegates and party activists to plan strategy and seek endorsements for the 2014 midterm elections. Throughout the day, party members heard not only from Brown, 75, but also from a crowd of Democrats running for statewide offices - or perhaps eyeing a future run. They were also given a glimpse of what's to come from two leading California Democrats widely expected to seek higher office in 2018. Both Attorney General Kamala Harris - who strongly pitched women voters on her leadership in the area of human trafficking - and Lt. Gov Gavin Newsom - who threw a glitzy party to remind LGBT Democrats of his key role in advancing the issue of same-sex marriage - worked the convention caucuses.

And Steyer, viewed as a potential California Democratic candidate in the future, drew plenty of delegate cheers for his remarks.

Impassioned response
But it was Brown's speech that drew the most impassioned response from delegates. Many said they supported the governor on his aggressive climate change agenda that includes high-speed rail - but hoped to change his mind on fracking.

"His speech was great. He did a good job and on climate issues and environment, he actually said the right things," said Oakland Councilman Dan Kalb, who wore a large anti-fracking sticker on his suit coat.

But "on fracking, he needs to move in a different direction," said Kalb. The councilman said he is encouraged there is a growing coalition of officials around the state now pushing for a fracking ban.

Push to ban fracking
"The momentum has changed dramatically from the past year and a half on fracking, and they're going to have to do something a little differently in Sacramento," Kalb said. "It will happen over time."

Harris told Democrats that in 2014, they must be ready to fight on all fronts to counter what she called a Republican "coordinated attack on our middle class, on our working men and women," and on public employee unions like nurses, teachers and firefighters.

"Let's wake up our neighbors, our families and our communities, because we know so goes California, so goes the rest of the nation," she said.

Link to original article from SFGate

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