Sen. Bernie Sanders was hoping to win the California primary by using an anti-fracking message, but instead he lost to his pro-fracking opponent and brought down other “keep it in the ground” Democratic candidates in the process.
Democratic presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who has long-acknowledged her support for natural gas development, demolished Sanders, who campaigned in California on an anti-fracking platform. She won the Golden State by more than a 12-point margin. Several other Democrats followed suit, carving out messages demonstrating opposition to natural gas.
The anti-fracking message didn’t work as well as the Democrats in the state would have hoped.
In California’s Fourth Assembly district, which has a higher number of Democrats to Republicans, pro natural gas GOP candidate Charlie Schaupp won.
“We need to be energy-independent,” Schaupp told reporters in May before his primary win. “We need to be smart. We need to not ban something because we’re afraid of it.” He will run against Democrat Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, who won despite being circumspect on natural gas development. “The jury is still out on fracking,” Aguiar-Curry said in May.
She added: “I’ve had many conversations with people regarding fracking but I’m still … the jury’s out on it. So I don’t have a real strong answer for what I think fracking in California, and in particular, in this district, how it’s going to affect us.”
Dan Wolk, who ran against Aguiar-Curry, replied to Aguiar-Curry’s non-committal to the anti-fracking craze, saying at a panel in April that, “Unlike Cecilia, the jury is not out for me on fracking…I am solidly opposed to fracking.”
Hyrdraulic fracking, Wolk added, “reinforces our reliance on fossil fuels when again we should be moving away from it. It creates a lot of instability … and it creates groundwater issues in terms of pollution. We have to oppose fracking.”
An interesting pattern has begun, wherein counties in California with huge plumes of natural gas tend to favor hydraulic fracking while counties without natural gas reserves tend to oppose it.
Butte County in California, for instance, passed a fracking ban, yet it has no oil or gas development — thus no fracking takes place there.
Other California counties such as San Benito and Marin support a fracking ban as well, neither of which have natural gas reserves. In other California counties like Santa Barbara, Kern and Los Angeles, for instance, continue to rebuke fracking bans as they have large amounts of natural gas. A proposal in Santa Barbara seeking to ban fracking was voted down 63 percent to 27 percent in 2014.
Meanwhile, California Gov. Jerry Brown has demonstrated that California will not be “jumping on any ideological bandwagons” regarding hydraulic fracking.
Other governors have sparked the same basic message.
“Based on experience and science, I recognized that fracking was one of our very best and safest extraction techniques,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, wrote in his memoir.
He added: “Fracking is good for the country’s energy supply, our national security, our economy, and our environment.”
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