Hydraulic fracturing, more widely known as fracking, is the risky method of forcing millions of gallons of water, sand and often undisclosed chemicals into the ground at extremely high pressure to break up rock formations to release oil and gas.
The industry contends that the process is safe, clean and an engine for economic growth and jobs in California, but evidence shows fracking is anything but safe and clean.
From truck traffic to the disposal of fracking wastewater that has been linked to earthquakes, fracking and its fallout creates air pollution and contaminates water resources.
But is fracking good for California's economy? Fracking may line the pockets of oil execs and result in some short-term cash for a few lucky landowners, but it does not provide broad-based growth for the rest of us and it's exacerbating the financial troubles for many.
Wells Fargo, the largest home mortgage lender in the U.S., refuses to make home loans for properties with natural gas drilling leases, making these properties nearly impossible to sell. Fracking is also threatening one of our state's most prized and lucrative industries: agriculture.
California is the agricultural powerhouse of the United States, leading all other states in farm income -- $37.5 billion in 2010. Nine of the nation's top 10 producing counties are in California. Many of these same counties -- Kern, Fresno, Monterey and Ventura -- are also hotbeds for
Fracking threatens California's agriculture industry and puts the Bay Area's food sources in peril.
In June, strawberry growers spoke out against unconventional drilling and fracking since it puts their $327 million crop in jeopardy. In 2009, 96 million barrels of wastewater from drilling operations in Kern County leached onto a farmer's property, killing almond trees.
As the public becomes increasingly aware of the dangers of fracking, and more concerned about the wholesomeness of their food, more people will think twice before consuming food from areas with intensive fracking.
California leads the country in organic farming, but organic farmers could lose their premium prices if industrial fracking fluid pollutes their crops. Farm sales would diminish if pollution impacts livestock, crops and farmland.
In the Bay Area, where the term locavore was invented and farmers markets abound, we can appreciate the importance of keeping farmland clean and safe.
Beyond contamination, oil and gas companies are competing with farmers for access to a shrinking supply of fresh water.
In a recent auction of water rights in Colorado, gas companies outbid farmers for 750 million gallons of water to use for fracking.
But in reality, the gains, if any, are temporary while the damage can be long lasting and potentially irreversible.
There are smarter, more sustainable ways to boost California's economy than giving away our state's water that, once spoiled, can never fully recover.
The only way to sustain California's rich natural bounty is to ban fracking.
Kristin Lynch is the pacific region director for Food & Water Watch. She lives in Orinda.