LOS ANGELES - Gov. Jerry Brown called on California Democrats on Saturday to join him on a "crusade" against climate change, even as a rift between Brown and environmental activists over hydraulic fracturing gained heightened attention.
Environmentalists frustrated with Brown's permissiveness of the controversial form of oil extraction held signs and chanted just feet from the podium where Brown addressed delegates, prompting him to engage them directly.
"All you guys who like to make noise, just listen a moment," Brown said.
He said "Californians, and most of you included, are driving over 330 billion miles a year," urging environmentalists to focus on a range of issues, not only hydraulic fracturing. He said the "challenge here is gigantic" and that California is "leading the way."
Brown has been heckled at public events by environmental activists since he signed legislation last year establishing a permitting system for fracking, but never before have the activists managed to engage him during such a a major speech.
"You can be sure that everything that needs to be done to fight climate change that we can accomplish, we'll do it," Brown said. "And I ask all of you, every one of you in this room, to join in a crusade to protect our climate, to find other ways of mobility, and to make sure this California dream is alive and well both now and for generations to come."
At the end of his address, he said, "Thanks a lot, and keep protesting, but add a bunch of more stuff."
Brown's speech comes after months of fundraising and his long-anticipated announcement a week ago that he will seek re-election.
The frustration of environmental activists over hydraulic fracturing can be awkward for Brown, who was celebrated by environmentalists when he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983. It is unlikely to hurt him in the election, however. Brown has raised more than $18 million and faces two lesser-known and underfunded Republicans, Twin Peaks Assemblyman Tim Donnelly and former U.S. Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari.
Still, the protest appeared to annoy California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton. He told delegates when Brown finished speaking, "Just in the future, don't come up with signs."
PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown looks at protesters opposing fracking after his speech at the California Democrats State Convention on Saturday, March 8, 2014, in Los Angeles. AP Photo/ Jae C. Hong