Above photo: Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle
Protesters push for Jerry Brown to ban fracking.
Thousands of anti-fracking activists took to Oakland’s streets Saturday to call for Gov. Jerry Brown to change his stance and ban the controversial practice, which uses large amounts of a pressurized water mixture to crack subterranean rocks and release oil or natural gas.
Chanting, playing music and waving signs reading “Don’t Frack Your Mother” and “There’s No Planet B,” demonstrators wove their way along an almost two-mile route, starting at Oakland’s City Hall and then moving through downtown Oakland to Lake Merritt.
“We’re here, marching in Jerry Brown’s hometown, to let him know climate leaders don’t frack,” said Linda Capato Jr., fracking campaign coordinator for 350.org, an international organization that fights climate change and one of the partner groups in the protest, called the March for Real Climate Leadership.
Saturday’s march, billed as the country’s largest demonstration against hydraulic fracturing, drew a wide range of supporters, including labor unions, students, environmental justice groups, health activists and people who just feel strongly that fracking worsens climate change, jeopardizes health and exacerbates the already historic drought.
The demonstrators called on Brown to change his position on fracking, which has put the governor at odds with many who saw him as an environmental leader dating back to the 1970s.
While the governor sees the oil production spurred by fracking as a potential source of money and jobs in a state whose economy is still recovering, activists want him to follow the lead of New York and Vermont, as well as California’s San Benito and Mendocino counties, in banning the practice for health and environmental reasons.
Andrés Soto, Richmond organizer for Communities for a Better Environment, accused Brown of caving to oil company interests and building the state’s infrastructure on the “carbon economy.” “If you don’t get on our side, Jerry Brown,” he said, “Frack you!”
Brown’s administration has said there’s no direct evidence of harm from fracking in the state, a sentiment echoed by Sabrina Lockhart, spokeswoman for Californians for Energy Independence, a coalition that includes energy companies.
“California is the third-largest consumer of oil and gas on the planet,” Lockhart said. “All the oil we produce in California is used here, so if we did not produce oil here under the strictest standards, we’d have even greater reliance on imported oil from places like Iraq and Venezuela.”
Lockhart said that any potential health effects will be offset by state regulations and that the state’s geology requires less water than fracking activities in other states. “Water is used, but when you look at the large-scale water usage in California, it accounts for a small fraction of that,” she said.
The activists weren’t buying those arguments.
“No matter how profitable a practice is, if it harms people, there’s absolutely no justification whatsoever for that practice to continue,” said Eva Malis, a student at UC Berkeley serving as the outreach coordinator for Students Against Fracking at the university.
More than 700 chemicals are used in fracking, 25 percent of which are known to cause cancer, said Sahru Keiser, program manager at San Francisco’s Breast Cancer Action. “Fracking produces a toxic legacy that threatens our health for years to come,” she said.
Sofia Parino of Sacramento traveled to Oakland for the march, and was carrying her 9-month-old daughter, Aurora.
“This is their future,” said Parino, 37, who works for an environmental justice organization and is also the mother of a 3-year-old. “It’s the future generations that are going to suffer if we don’t look at new energy solutions.”
Victoria Colliver is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @vcolliver