WTF is Fracking? (FAQ)

  • What is Fracking?
    Fracking, otherwise known as "hydraulic fracturing," is the extractive process of drilling deep into the earth and injecting millions of gallons of toxic fluid -- a mix of water, sand, and harsh chemicals -- at high enough pressure to splinter the rock and release oil or natural gas.

    Increasingly employed by the world's biggest oil corporations like Chevron, Exxon, and Occidental Petroleum, fracking has exploded in the last 10 years across the U.S as a means of extremely dirty fossil fuel extraction. As companies have exploited traditional oil reserves in the U.S. and across the world, they have turned to fracking and other highly dangerous extractive processes (mountaintop removal in Appalachia, deep sea drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, etc.). Fracking in California is one of the most destructive forms of energy extraction, both for public health and the environment.
  • What are the main problems with fracking?
    Fracking poses a major threat to people's health, local communities, and our global climate. Here in California, fracking is polluting our drinking water, contaminating our food, exacerbating the drought, putting us at even greater risk of earthquakes, magnifying racist inequalities in Latino communities...and well, it's just not much fun.

    Click the Video page to learn more about each of these problems.
  • Where does fracking happen in California?
    Fracking has been documented in 10 California counties — Colusa, Glenn, Kern, Los Angeles, Monterey, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Sutter, Kings and Ventura. The vast majority occurs in Kern County, which also happens to be the heart of California's farmland.

    Oil companies have also fracked offshore wells hundreds of times in the ocean near California’s coast, from Seal Beach to the Santa Barbara Channel. And fracking may have been done elsewhere in California, since state officials haven’t monitored or tracked the practice until recently.

    Chevron and other oil companies now want to expand fracking and other dangerously extreme fossil fuel extraction methods in the Monterey Shale. This geological formation under the San Joaquin and the Los Angeles basins may hold a large amount of extraordinarily dirty, carbon intensive oil.
  • How is fracking in California different than other places?
    While most fracking in other U.S. states is for natural gas, here in California all fracking is for oil extraction. In addition, over 75% of fracking in California happens on, or right next to, our farmlands. Oil companies are fracking the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, where almost 50% of the country's fruits and vegetables are grown.

    This region is already home to severe environmental degradation and public health issues. Suffering from decades of industrial agriculture, pesticides, trucking, and conventional oil extraction, the Central Valley has long been home to the worst air quality in the nation. Fracking only exacerbates these problems. Most local residents, especially in Latino and low-income communities, don't own the land that is being sold to the oil companies. They don't make the decisions to frack the land they live and work on -- but they are the ones who feel direct impacts. And because fracking exacerbates climate change, all of us pay the consequences.
  • Why is this campaign aimed at Governor Jerry Brown?
    There is one person who could ban fracking in California this very instant.

    His name is Jerry Brown.

    Governor Brown wants to be known as the "Climate Governor," but he refuses to face the disastrous environmental and health impacts of fracking. Thousands of people have marched, lobbied, taken direct action, and now there is an even a lawsuit against Gov. Brown to demand he bans fracking. Under pressure, last year the California state legislature passed the first regulations on fracking operations (SB 4). These regulations, however, are incredibly weak and difficult to enforce. But we don't want to regulate fracking. We want to ban fracking!

    Unfortunately, Governor Brown has refused to do the right thing. So it's on us to keep the pressure up and show him the light.
  • What places have banned fracking?
    New York, Vermont, and most recently Maryland have all banned fracking in their states. They joined countries like France, Bulgaria, Scotland, and others who have placed moratoriums on fracking. Shout out to Bulgaria!

    California, we're up next.
  • But doesn't fracking create like, you know, jobs?
    Not really.

    The fracking industry does provide a small number of jobs, but in California these jobs are almost all given to out-of-state, temporary contractors. Once the initial fracking well is drilled, almost all these workers move on to another city or state.

    In addition, fracking is hurting people in their existing jobs! Farmworkers face the loss of their farmland, teachers and nurses are dealing with sick kids, and whole communities are being devastated by this extractive, exploitative industry.

    California needs jobs, but it needs good, green-collar jobs that serve both the people and the planet.
  • So you don't like fracking. Where the f**k should we get our energy?
    In California, we have this thing called "the sun." We also get plenty of wind. Between solar and wind power, we have vast amounts of clean, renewable energy. If we invested in renewable energy sources, not to mention retrofitting our buildings and adopting climate-friendly public policies, we would create millions of new green jobs that would help our communities and the environment.

    We need to transition out of corporate control of our energy and environment. The answer is not mega-solar farms run by Chevron. We need democratized, diversified, decentralized forms of energy and governance at all levels. Ultimately, we are building towards a Just Transition away from our society's extractive economy towards a society that values local, sustainable, and equitable economies.

    One step at a time.
  • How long until Jerry Brown does the right thing?
    The more people who join the movement, the sooner we win.

    And we're here to win.

    You hear that, Jerry?

    We will win.

Want to know more about the issues raised in each video?

  • Fracking Insanity in California's Drought
    California is currently suffering the worst drought in 1,200 years. It's so bad that some towns in the Central Valley have literally run out of water. Meanwhile, the fracking process is incredibly wasteful and water-intensive, using over 160,000 gallons of fresh water per oil well. During the fracking procedure, that clean water is injected with over 300 toxic chemicals, and the contaminated water seeps into local wells that people use for drinking, cooking, and showering. Awesome, right?

    Want more water fun? In Kern County, which is the heart of both California's fracking and agricultural industries, oil companies sell "diluted" fracking wastewater to local farms for irrigation. These farms, which are already suffering water shortages from the drought, see no choice but to buy this dirty water to irrigate their (decidedly not organic) grapes and lettuce. So the fracking industry isn't just exacerbating the drought -- they're profiting off of it.
  • See Dick Frack
    It's a little known, but crucial, fact: Dick Cheney is the man most responsible for the toxic fracking industry we are now suffering from. As Vice President, Cheney pushed through a loophole in the 2005 energy bill that stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to regulate fracking. In particular, it exempted the fracking industry from both the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. This loophole soon became known as the "Halliburton loophole," because Cheney was the former CEO of Halliburton and his oil company was the inventor of fracking's original process in the 1940s. Jerry Brown, do you really want to be known as the "Dick Cheney of California"?
  • Stop the Fracking Racism
    Fracking hits hard at people's health: sky-high rates of asthma, contaminated water, and even cancer. But it doesn't hit everyone equally. Over 90% of California's fracking takes place in low-income and Latino communities. Kern County and the Central Valley, where almost all of the state's fracking wells are, have long been the dumping ground for California's pollution. Just down the road in Delano is where Cesar Chavez led his final hunger strike to protest dangerous pesticides that were causing cancer and health problems for Latino farmworkers. Now these same Latino communities are on the frontlines of the fracking crisis, once again leading the fight for equal rights and a healthy environment. The media likes to say that racism is dead, but when it comes to ecological justice, life in California is sadly still separate and unequal.
  • Don't Frack with our Food
    Fracking in California takes place almost entirely in Kern County and the Central Valley, which is the breadbasket for the country. This where where almost 50% of the country's fruits and vegetables are grown. Most fracking wells are located next to, or even right on top of, this important farmland. Through fracking, oil companies like Chevron and Occidental Petroleum inject hundreds of toxic, dangerous chemicals into thousands of acres of California farmland. This hazardous process threatens both the land and the food that we eat. How delicious is that?
  • No Fracking con Nuestra Comida
    Fracking en California occure casi completamente en Kern County y la Valle Central, cual produce casi 50% de las frutas y vegetales para el pais. La mayoría de fracking está situada al lado, o encima de, estas tierras de cultivo importantes. Empresas petroleras como Chevron y Occidental Petroleum están inyectando cientos de químicos tóxicos de fracking en miles de acres de tierras de cultivo en California. Este proceso peligroso ameneza la tierra y la comida que comemos.
  • Climate Change Ain't Nothing to Frack With
    Temperatures are rising. Oceans are rising. We have more hurricanes, more super-storms, and more drought. Climate chaos is a nasty beast, and fracking is only going to make it nastier. In addition to releasing massive amounts of carbon into the air, the fracking process releases huge quantities of methane (a gas that heats up our atmosphere at 20 times the rate of carbon). Governor Brown says that he wants to fight climate change, but then defends policies like fracking that make it worse. When it comes to global warming, it's pretty simple, Jerry: keep the oil in the soil.
  • Earthquakes are no Fracking Joke
    If there's one thing that unites all Californians, regardless of race, class, or your opinion of the Lakers, it is our fear of earthquakes. From San Francisco to Los Angeles, we all tremble in anticipation of the next Big One. So the idea that we would sanction a process that literally blasts holes in our state's geologic backbone seems like a Hollywood disaster waiting to happen. The verdict is in. States with major fracking industries like Texas and Oklahoma are now more earthquake-prone than California. Oklahoma! If fracking is messing with the stable plains of Oklahoma, what it will do to the volatile tectonics of California?
  • Stop Fracking Up California's Reputation
    Last year New York became the largest state to ban fracking. We celebrate their victory, but are we really going to let them outshine us here in California? This is the Golden State! We have always been leaders for environmental and social justice. And right now we need to step our game up! Let's ban fracking...and put solar panels on every house in the barrios of Kern County! Let's divest all public funds from the fossil fuel industry... and reinvest that money in green-collar worker co-ops from Richmond to Fresno! Let's stop pretending that driving your Prius is enough for the environment...and push for real climate leadership that supports public transportation, public health, and a just transition to a green future for the people and the planet.