Brown Declares Drought State of Emergency as Protesters Urge Halt to Fracking

By Dan Bacher  | January 18, 2014 | As a crowd of anti-fracking protesters gathered in front of Governor Jerry Brown's San Fran...

By Dan Bacher | January 18, 2014 |

As a crowd of anti-fracking protesters gathered in front of Governor Jerry Brown's San Francisco office this morning to call for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in California, Brown proclaimed a drought State of Emergency and directed state officials to take "all necessary actions" to prepare for the record drought conditions. 

“We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas,” said Governor Brown. “I’ve declared this emergency and I’m calling all Californians to conserve water in every way possible.” 

In the State of Emergency declaration spurred by the record drought, Brown directed state officials to assist farmers and communities that are economically impacted by dry conditions and to ensure the state can respond if Californians face drinking water shortages. 

Brown also directed state agencies to use less water and hire more firefighters and initiated an expanded water conservation public awareness campaign. He asked the state's residents and businesses to reduce water use by 20 percent 

"We are in an unprecedented, very serious situation," said Brown. "Hopefully, it will rain, but in the meantime we have to do our part." 

Adam Scow, California Campaign Director of Food and Water Watch, responded to the Governor’s drought declaration as he rallied with 75 protesters in front of the Governor’s Office, noting that Brown can't make it rain, but he can put a moratorium on fracking and he can stop his peripheral tunnels project. 

"While Governor Brown cannot make it rain, he can prevent wasteful and harmful use of our water by placing an immediate moratorium on fracking and other extreme methods of oil and gas extraction that pollute our precious water resources with toxic chemicals," said Scow. "Moreover, fracking pollutes our air with methane and carbon dioxide that will worsen our climate crisis and could promote more droughts in the future." 

"The drought underscores the need for reducing and maintaining responsible levels of water exports from the San Francisco Bay Delta," stated Scow. "This can be achieved if the Governor drops his plan to build massive twin tunnels to divert the Sacramento River in order to sustain excessively high water exports from the Delta. This plan, estimated to cost as much as $67 billion, would largely benefit corporate agribusinesses and oil interests in the southwest corner of the San Joaquin Valley at the expense of California taxpayers and households in the southern California and the Santa Clara Valley." 

Scow said polls show Californians favor a moratorium on fracking and oppose the BDCP twin-tunnels scheme when told the facts about these destructive projects. 

"We need Governor Brown to do more than make declarations," said Scow. "We need Governor Brown to take bold action to protect California's water now and for future generations. Working to ban fracking and dropping the twin-tunnels would be a good start." 

Activists from the Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch, CREDO, Oil Change International, Move On and other members of the statewide Californians Against Fracking coalition at the protest urged Brown to protect the state’s water supply by halting fracking. 

Protesters from the coalition have dogged the Governor at his press conferences and other appearances throughout the state in recent months for refusing to halt the oil industry’s use of the highly polluting technique. Fracking involves blasting huge volumes of water mixed with toxic chemicals into the ground to break up rock formations and release oil and gas. 

"Fracking uses enormous quantities of water, and oil companies are gearing up for a massive expansion of fracking even as California’s water resources are stretched to the breaking point," according to the Center for Biological Diversity. 

The Center said fracking pollution has also been tied to water contamination in Wyoming, Texas and other states. In California, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board on November 15 ordered a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum Company, Vintage Production California LLC, to pay a $60,000 penalty for discharging fracking fluid into an unlined sump in violation of the California Water Code. 

Proclamation includes 20 points 

The proclamation outlined 20 points, including the initiation of a statewide conservation program, the implementation of water use reduction plans for all state facilities, the expediting of the processing of water transfers, and the consideration of modifying requirements for reservoir releases or diversion limitations. 

Of note to anglers throughout the state, point 15 states, “The Department of Fish and Wildlife will work with the Fish and Game Commission, using the best available science, to determine whether restricting fishing in certain areas will become necessary and prudent as drought conditions persist.” 

The proclamation didn't mention the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels nor anything about "improved conveyance." 

Water activist Jerry Cadagan noted, "There are a lot of potential issues in the 20 point proclamation, not the least of which is paragraph 5 which arguably would grease the skids for the Tunnels without CEQA review of the change of point of diversion." 

Point 5 states, "The Water Board will immediately consider petitions requesting consolidation of the places of use of the State Water Project and Federal Central Valley Project, which would streamline water transfers and exchanges between water users within the areas of these two major water projects." 

The Governor's Office also noted that "the proclamation gives state water officials more flexibility to manage supply throughout California under drought conditions." 

California’s river and reservoirs are below their record lows, according to state water officials. Manual and electronic readings record the snowpack’s statewide water content at about 20 percent of normal average for this time of year. 

The Governor's Office claimed that the declaration "follows a series of actions the administration has taken to ensure that California is prepared for record dry conditions." 

"In December, the Governor formed a Drought Task Force to review expected water allocations, California’s preparedness for water scarcity and whether conditions merit a drought declaration," according to the Governor's Office. "Earlier this week, Brown toured the Central Valley and spoke with growers and others impacted by California’s record dry conditions." 

It is worth noting that Brown didn't talk to anybody from the farming and recreational industries on the Delta - nor anybody from the recreational and commercial fishing industries throughout California and California Indian Tribes who are being impacted greatly by the drought. 

Tunnels are a flawed 'solution' for a drought-plagued state 

Anticipating the drought declaration by Brown, Restore the Delta and other opponents of Brown’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels on Monday held a tele-conference calling the tunnels a “flawed solution for a drought-plagued state," in addition to issuing a press release responding to the declaration after the Governor's press conference on Friday. 

Six experts on Monday criticized the tunnels as an "outdated, inappropriate solution to California’s water challenges, one that would create no new water, be of no use in dry years, and drain $70 billion that could otherwise be spent on projects that create new water and increase regional water independence." 

Barbara Barrigan Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, pointed out the disparity between record low levels in northern California reservoirs, including Folsom, Oroville, Shasta and Trinity, and Southern California reservoirs that are now 93 percent of capacity. 

"It is worth noting that presently, reservoirs in Southern California are filled to 93% capacity," said Barrigan-Parrilla. "Yet, water levels are at record lows in the north part of the state, and corporate agribusiness growers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley are continuing the push for water deliveries, even though the water system is depleted." 

On Friday, Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, pointed out that "egregious mismanagement" of the state's water has led to the current crisis. 

"The present crisis could have been avoided, and is a direct result of egregious mismanagement of the state’s water supply system by the state and federal water projects," said Jennings. "Excessive water exports and the failure to prepare for inevitable drought have created a decades-long disaster for fisheries, and placed the people and economic prosperity of northern California at grave risk. The State's obsession with tunneling under the Delta does nothing to address drought, or put us on a path to correct the misuse of limited water supplies." 

The tunnels will hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other fish species, as well as imperil steelhead and salmon populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers. 

To listen to the tele-news conference featuring Jonas Minton, Tom Stokely, John Herrick, Dr. Jeff Michael, Bill Jennings, and Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, go to:

On Thursday at 10 am on the North Steps of the State Capitol, young and diverse community leaders and job developers called upon Governor Jerry Brown to abandon the peripheral tunnels proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.

They asked him to invest instead in "clean water supplies for all California communities" and to develop sustainable jobs in alternative water solutions. 

"We call upon Gov. Brown to abandon the fatally flawed $70 billion tunnels,” said Javier Padilla Reyes, Latino Outreach Director of Restore the Delta. “Our communities need clean water supplies, not export tunnels for unsustainable cotton and almond mega-growers. The tunnels are a giveaway to a few billionaire absentee farmers, and won’t provide sustainable jobs. Our future is at stake, and we need solutions more appropriate to our future water challenges." 

He emphasized, "Many farm communities in the San Joaquin Valley do not have access to clean drinking water. Some of these water sources have been polluted by these same growers, who now want us to suspend environmental regulations. Let’s clean up water supplies for families, not ship more water so huge growers can profit from our loss.” 

“There is a better solution for California that will protect the Delta and enhance our overall economic opportunities," stated Esperanza Vielma, a job developer with Café, Inc., in Stockton. "Local water projects will actually make more jobs than a large-scale water project like the peripheral tunnels, according to the Southern California Business Roundtable. These jobs pay good wages and would provide new work opportunities for the unemployed throughout California." 

Other speakers at the event included Stockton City Councilmember Moses Zapien (Stockton); Stina Va of Restore the Delta; and Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla. 

For more information, go to: 

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