Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio are climate crusaders. They don’t just passively pledge their support to environmental efforts a few minutes every year. Day in and day out, they’re advocating for green policies and fighting the fossil fuel industry.

Their fame as actors gives them the newsworthy leverage that other activists don’t have.

In the US state of New York, Ruffalo was an influential voice leading up to the statewide ban on fracking.

Recently, he called on British Prime Minister David Cameron to ban fracking too.

Now he’s gathering support in Los Angeles to put pressure on fracking interests, which have big plans for the city. Ruffalo has rallied more than 150 actors, screenwriters, directors, producers and other members of Hollywood to join a group against fracking called Hollywood United.

The group’s website says, “The oil industry has exploited our state for too long. Hollywood, as the most iconic and historic industry California has ever known, is now speaking out to stop climate change and protect our health and environment.”

Hydraulic fracking is the process of drilling into the earth and using a high pressured mixture of water, sand and chemicals to force gas up and out of the ground.

The tremendous pressure involved can lead to ruptures and leakages that contaminate groundwater sources and soil. Opponents say the health and environmental risks are severe and far too clear to permit new projects.

Last year, a fracking project led to one of the biggest environmental disasters in California history. For months, it spewed 111,000 pounds of methane gas every hour, which has turned the surrounding Aliso Canyon into a partial ghost town.  

Plus, fracking generates an enormous amount of wastewater that has to be disposed of somehow. In Oklahoma, for instance, drilling companies usually pump this water back into the ground, pressing it as deep as it can go. As soil is moved around to accommodate the water, fault lines can potentially get agitated, leading to earthquakes. For example, Oklahoma went from a handful of earthquakes per year prior to fracking, to thousands per year after fracking.

Even more fundamentally, fracking takes us in the wrong direction no matter how you look at it. Fossil fuels have to stay in the ground. They can’t keep being extracted. New sites can’t keep being opened. The world is reaching the limit of acceptable emissions levels. By banning extraction efforts in certain areas, the pressure will be on energy companies to invest in eco-friendly alternatives, and, eventually, these investments will lead to a new, better, status quo.

Los Angeles is sitting on a lot of decommissioned oil fields. Most of these sites are really complex underground, making extraction difficult. In the past few years, oil companies have quietly returned to sites to frack by shooting plastic pellets and acid to break through the dirt and gunk in the way.

Image: Vasco Lucas Nunes

The pace of oil field openings is staggering in a state that presents itself as environmentally progressive.

“This governor [Jerry Brown] is adding 300 new wells a month to California’s drilling,” Ruffalo said. “He is the most drilling-friendly governor in the United States at this moment.”

According to Good, 3,000 oil wells are active in Los Angeles County. Together, they yield 230 million barrels of crude oil per year.

Los Angeles has the chance to set an example for the nation and the world by rejecting new oil bids inside the city and even closing down existing sites.

Leonardo DiCaprio is working with Ruffalo to advocate against fracking in LA.

The city is in the process of hiring a petroleum administrator to oversee all oil projects, something that had been sorely missing.

If Ruffalo and his team are successful, they’ll help appoint a commissioner who has a strong environmental record and who can stand up to the oil industry.


Defend the Planet

Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio bring fight against fracking to Los Angeles

By Joe McCarthy