Natural Resources Secretary Laird announces MLPA ‘Partnership Plan’

Brown-Laird-SalazarJohn Laird (center), California Secretary of Natural Resources, flanked by Governor Jerry Brown and former Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, speaks in the press conference in July 2012 to promote the proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels, a process intimately linked with the MLPA Initiative through leadership, greenwashing goals, funding and violation of Tribal rights. Photo by Dan Bacher.

 

by Dan Bacher

If you just yearn to hear proponents of corporate greenwashing, neo-liberal environmental policies and the alleged “marine protected areas” created under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative spout their disinformation, you should attend the next meeting of the California Ocean “Protection” Council (OPC) at the Secretary of State’s Office in Sacramento on Tuesday, December 2.

John Laird, the California Secretary for Natural Resources and Chair of the Ocean Protection Council, announced that the final Draft MPA (Marine Protected Areas) Partnership Plan is now available online and will considered for adoption at the meeting.

“I am happy to announce that the final DRAFT version of ‘The California Collaborative Approach: Marine Protected Areas Partnership Plan’ (Partnership Plan) is now available on the OPC website,” said Laird.

Yes, I bet Laird is very “happy” that the draft plan for the “Partnership Plan” that attempts to legitimize the questionable “marine protected areas” created under the privately funded MLPA Initiative is now available.

One thing that you can be sure won’t be discussed at the upcoming OPC meeting is the fact that Ron LeValley, the co-chair of the MLPA Initiative “Science” Advisory Team for the North Coast that oversaw the crafting of alleged “marine protected areas” that violate the gathering and fishing rights of the Yurok and other Tribes, is now in federal prison for conspiracy to embezzle over $850,000 from the Yurok Tribe!

(https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/05/23/18756161.php?)

Rather than discussing this draft plan, the members of the Commission should instead ask for a review of the alleged MLPA “science” in light of the fact that LeValley, the head science official for the North Coast MLPA process, was involved with a scheme to embezzle money through false invoices for scientific “spotted owl surveys” that were never conducted!

Nor will you hear any of the OPC members or MLPA Initiative proponents demand that the fake “marine protected areas” be made into authentic ones by banning fracking, offshore oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture and other industrial and government impacts on the ocean and marine life. Isn’t it time that the OPC show a little courage and finally put the “protection” into “marine protected areas?”

Laird and other MLPA Initative advocates have continually claimed that the process “respected” Tribal gathering rights, but that claim has no basis in fact, since the MLPA Initiative prohibits Tribal fishing and gathering in the State Marine Reserves created under the Initiative.

In the 2014 election edition of the Yurok Today newsletter, Yurok Tribe Vice Chairperson Susan Masten summarized the position of the Yurok Tribe, the largest tribe in California with over 5000 members, regarding the MLPA Initiative:

“The State of California is beginning to implement the so-called Marine Life Protection Act. From the very start, the Tribe has not supported this initiative because it does not recognize the Tribe’s inherent hunting and gathering rights. Also, the Act lacked the sophistication required to properly steward the diverse ecosystems on the Yurok coastline. 

Since time immemorial, the Yurok Tribe has practiced a highly effective method of marine resource management, which has ensured an abundance of sea life to sustain our people. The Creator gave us the right to properly harvest marine resources in the coastal areas within Yurok Ancestral Territory. With this right, comes a great duty to protect and conserve these resources. To that end, we are developing our own marine life management program, based on our traditional knowledge of ocean ecosystems as well as western science.”   

The MLPA Initiative, called an “open, transparent and inclusive” process by Laird, other state officials and corporate “environmentalists,” was anything but. The process was characterized by its private funding by the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation; its failure to create authentic marine protected areas; numerous conflicts of interests including the leadership of the South Coast process by the President of the Western States Petroleum Association; incomplete and terminally flawed science; and violation of traditional Tribal gathering rights.

The problem is that “the California Collaborative Approach: Marine Protected Areas Partnership Plan” while it makes for some interesting reading, does nothing to address any of these “inconvenient truths.” The 46-page plan accepts as legitimate the questionable “marine protected areas” created under an illegitimate process – and serves to only greenwash a process based on bad science and public policy, rather than attempting to deal with the MLPA Initiative’s “inconvenient truths.”

For example, the use of private funding, the basis of the Initative’s myriad of problems, will be encouraged in the monitoring phase, according to Page 33 of the plan:

“Private philanthropy actively supported the design and designation phases and now the management of California’s MPA network. There is an opportunity for private philanthropy to become involved in financially supporting management of various scales. Currently, private donors can support registered 501(c)(3) organizations that are partnering to support management. In the future, however, additional mechanisms may be established to increase opportunities for giving.”  

That sounds just “great.” All we need is more Walton Family Foundation-funded groups like the Ocean Conservancy and Nature Conservancy to be overseeing the monitoring of MPAs!

Laird’s leadership role in pushing the creation of fake “marine protected areas” that fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, corporate aquaculture, military testing and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering is part of the overall Brown administration neo-liberal “environmental” vision that favors Big Oil, corporate agribusiness, corporate polluters, greedy billionaires and the 1 percent over the public trust and the people of California.

Laird is one of the worst Secretaries or Natural Resources for fish, water and the public trust in California history. Besides greenwashing fake marine “protection,” Laird has been a relentless proponent of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels, the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history.

He also presided over the record water exports and a record massacre of Sacramento splittail, a unique fish species found only in the Central Valley and Delta, in 2011. He has also presided over the catastrophic decline of Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other species in the past several years, due to massive pumping of Delta water to corporate agribusiness interests, Southern California water agencies and oil companies conducting fracking and steam injection operations during a drought.

He is also a big advocate of policies that have emptied Northern California reservoirs during a drought, further imperiling already struggling populations of Sacramento River winter run Chinook, spring Chinook and fall and late fall Chinook salmon populations.

The final draft of the “California Collaborative Approach: Marine Protected Areas Partnership Plan” is now  available at: http://www.opc.ca.gov/webmaster/ftp/pdf/agenda_items/20141202/Item5-master-final-partnership-plan.pdf

For more information about the MLPA Initiative, read my investigative piece, The Five Inconvenient Truths of the MLPA Initiative: https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/05/25/18737342.php

Here’s the memo from Laird with the OPC meeting agenda:

TO:                  California Ocean and Coastal Community

FROM:            John Laird, Secretary for Natural Resources and Chair, Ocean Protection Council

DATE:            November 21, 2014

SUBJECT:      Final Draft MPA Partnership Plan available on OPC Website

I am happy to announce that the final DRAFT version of “The California Collaborative Approach: Marine Protected Areas Partnership Plan” (Partnership Plan) is now available on the OPC website. Please see Item 5 on the agenda for new materials regarding the Partnership Plan: http://www.opc.ca.gov/2014/11/ocean-isprotection-council-meeting-december-2-2014/ 

The final draft will be considered for adoption, along with the proposed Resolution, at the December 2, 2014 OPC public meeting in Sacramento, CA.  The agenda is below, and I hope to see you there. The Partnership Plan will also be considered for endorsement by the Fish and Game Commission on December 3, 2014 in Van Nuys, CA. 

OPC Meeting Agenda

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

1:00 pm

Secretary of State’s Office – Main Auditorium

1500 11th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814

 

John Laird, Secretary for Natural Resources, Council Chair

Matt Rodriquez, Secretary for Environmental Protection

John Chiang, Chair of the State Lands Commission

Fran Pavley, State Senator

Toni Atkins, State Assemblymember

Geraldine Knatz, Public Member

Michael Brown, Public Member

 

1.      Welcome and Council Member Announcements

Secretary Laird, Council Chair

2.      Report from the Executive Director

Cat Kuhlman, Executive Director, OPC

3.      Report from the Science Advisor

Skyli McAfee, Executive Director, California Ocean Science Trust

ACTION ITEM

4.      Consideration and possible selection of two new members to the Ocean Protection Council Science Advisory Team

Skyli McAfee, Executive Director, California Ocean Science Trust

 

5.      Consideration and possible approval of the “The California Collaborative Approach: Marine Protected Area Partnership Plan”

Liz Parissenti, Sea Grant Fellow, OPC and Cyndi Dawson, Marine Protected Areas Policy Advisor, OPC

6.      Consideration and possible selection of grants for the second round of the Local Coastal Program Sea-level Rise Grant Program; consideration of an interagency agreement for the California Coastal Commission to manage these grants on behalf of the OPC.

Abe Doherty, Climate Change Policy Advisor, OPC

INFORMATIONAL ITEMS

7.      Update on the Thank You Ocean Campaign - Miho Umezawa, Project Manager,   Thank You Ocean Campaign

8.      Public Comment on non-agenda items

9.      Arrangements for Next Meeting and Adjournment

Date and Location TBD.

 NOTES

Agenda items may be re-ordered at the discretion of the council chair.

Please fill out a Request to Speak card to provide public comment on non-agenda items or on a specific agenda item.  Comment on agenda items will be taken following each item.

Comments may be sent by email to: COPCpublic@resources.ca.gov. Written public comment must be received by 4 pm on November 24 to be included in the materials provided to the council prior to the meeting.  Materials received after that date will be distributed to the council at the beginning of the meeting. Oral and written comments will be accepted at the meeting. 

Questions about the meeting or agenda can be directed to Joanna Stone at (916) 653-0537 orjoanna.stone@resources.ca.gov

Any person who has a disability and requires accommodation to participate in this council meeting should contact Ms. Stone no later than five days prior to the meeting.

 

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30,000 Californians demand that Gov.”Big Oil Brown” halt offshore fracking

This rampant fracking has only become possible because of the cozy relationship between federal and state regulators and the oil industry, the largest and most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento. The American Lung Association’s Center for Tobacco Policy and Organizing has just released a new report revealing that the oil industry spent $70 million on lobbyists in California since 2009.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife map of so-called “marine protected areas” created on the South Coast under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative. While the President of the Western States Petroleum Association Chaired the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force to create alleged “marine protected areas” in Southern California, the oil industry was fracking like crazy in the Santa Barbara Channel.

 360_oil_rig_0707

by Dan Bacher

The state and federal governments have been in collusion with Big Oil in California for decades – and people concerned about the future of fish, wildlife and the oceans are fed up with the fact that Southern California’s oceans were fracked at least 203 times over the past 20 years.

Citing fracking pollution’s threats to coastal communities and marine wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity on Wednesday, November 12 delivered a petition signed by more than 30,000 people urging Governor Jerry Brown to halt offshore fracking in California’s coastal waters.

The petition was released the same week that a new report by American Lung Association’s Center for Tobacco Policy and Organizing revealed that the oil industry from July through Sept 2014 spent an amazing $7.1 million lobbying legislators in Sacramento.

“California’s coast is a natural treasure, upon which millions of people and animals depend. But now oil companies are threatening entire ecosystems by intensifying drilling with toxic fracking techniques,” the petition says.

It urges Brown to “act now to halt this dangerous practice and preserve our oceans for future generations.”

“Thousands of people are urging Gov. Brown to stop offshore fracking before dangerous chemicals or an oil spill inflict catastrophic damage,” said Miyoko Sakashita, the Center’s Oceans director. “Fracking offshore and onshore poses a toxic threat to our air, water and wildlife. The governor can end fracking in California and reject oil development plans that would frack federal waters off our coast.”

The Center wants Brown to halt offshore fracking in state waters under the Emergency Service Act, which authorizes the governor to impose a broad array of measures to protect the health and safety of state residents. Federal law also gives governors a special say in offshore oil and gas decisions that Brown could use to fight fracking in federal waters in the Santa Barbara Channel, according to Yamashita.

Yamashita said oil companies have fracked hundreds of wells off California’s coast and the oil industry has federal permission to annually dump more than 9 billion gallons of wastewater, including chemical-laden fracking fluid, directly into the ocean off California’s coast.

This rampant fracking has only become possible because of the cozy relationship between federal and state regulators and the oil industry, the largest and most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento.

“The California Coastal Commission, meeting this week in Half Moon Bay, has struggled to determine the full extent of offshore fracking, which involves blasting water and industrial chemicals into the seafloor at pressures high enough to crack rocks and release oil and gas,” according to Sakashita.

Offshore fracking is no surprise

The intensive fracking taking place off the California coast is no surprise to grassroots environmentalists, fishermen and Tribal leaders who challenged the corrupt Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.

In one of the biggest conflicts of interest in recent California history, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and leader of the campaign to expand offshore oil drilling and fracking in California, CHAIRED the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create fake “marine protected areas” on the South Coast. She also served on the task forces to create the alleged “marine protected areas” on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.

This is not just a case of where the regulated have captured the regulators. In the case of the MLPA Initiative, the regulated – a big oil lobbyist and other corporate interests – actually served as the regulators!

The MLPA Initiative, funded by the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, created so-called “marine protected areas” that fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and Tribal gathering. These “marine protected areas” are good for Big Oil, polluters and corporate interests – and bad for sustainable fishermen, tribal gatherers and the public trust.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and media investigations by Associated Press and truthout.org reveal that the ocean has been fracked at least 203 times in the past 20 years, including the period from 2004 to 2012 that Reheis-Boyd served as a “marine guardian.” (http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/10/19/calif-finds-more-instances-of-offshore-fracking/3045721/)

The Western States Petroleum Association that Reheis-Boyd heads is the most powerful corporate lobbying group in California. The association spent over $4 million, a new record, for the three month period from July 1 through September 30. (http://truth-out.org/news/item/27373-western-states-petroleum-association-spent-4-million-lobbying-this-summer)

New report documents Big Oil’s increase in lobbying expenses!

The American Lung Association’s Center for Tobacco Policy and Organizing has just released a new report revealing that the oil industry spent $70 million on lobbyists in California since 2009. (See the in-depth analysis here:http://www.lung.org/associations/states/california/advocacy/climate-change/oil-industy-lobbying-report.pdf).

In the last three months alone, the oil industry has spent an unprecedented $7.1 million lobbying elected officials with a major focus on getting oil companies out of a major clean air regulation.

The oil industry spending total from July through Sept 2014 amounts to an amazing $2.4 million/month, $78,000/day, $3,200/hour, $54/minute and $1/second!

And this doesn’t include spending on ballot measures or the recent election, including Chevron spending $3 million (unsuccessfully) to elect “their” candidates to the Richmond City Council. Big Oil also dumped $7.6 million into defeating a measure calling for a fracking ban in Santa Barbara County and nearly $2 million into an unsuccessful campaign to defeat a measure banning fracking and other extreme oil extraction techniques in San Benito County.

The report documented record money spent on lobbying by the oil industry through the first 9 months of 2014. Big Oil has spent $13.6 million lobbying elected officials so far this year:
• This surpassed the prior record ($13.5 million) seen in all of 2013.
• The industry pent $1.5 million per month lobbying in 2014.
• Oil interests represented 17 percent of all lobbying in California last quarter.

The report also revealed huge increases in July-September 2014 compared to previous quarters. Big Oil made significant increases in spending in 2014 as the legislative session came to a close and as the industry intensified its anti-AB 32 campaign:
• The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), whose president oversaw the creation of so-called “marine protected areas” in Southern California, spent $4 million in the last three months alone, more than twice historical levels
• WSPA spent more than $7 million so far in 2014, leading all statewide lobbying by a wide margin
• WSPA paid nearly $2.5 million to KP Public Affairs in 2013-14, the state’s highest paid lobbying firm.
• Eight oil interests spent their most ever lobbying in California
• Four broke annual spending records in just 9 months.
• Phillips66 (4), Chevron (6) and Valero (9) are also all among the top ten lobbying spenders from July-Sept 2014.
• Phillips66 spent $880,000, 4 times over its recent average
• Valero spent $542,000 in 3 months – more than the prior 42 months combined.

Data source: Secretary of State’s online campaign finance/lobbying disclosure database

For more information, go to: http://www.lung.org/associations/

 

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California bill to ban oil drilling in marine protected area fails!

 “Only in California would a Legislator have to author a bill to ban offshore oil drilling in a “marine protected area.”"

vandenberg.l

“Even the slightest chance of an oil spill in a Marine Protected Area far outweighs any potential benefit to the state,” said State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson.

source: indybay.org

by Dan Bacher

Only in a Big Oil state like California would a lawmaker have to author a bill to ban offshore oil drilling in a “marine protected area.” And only in a Big Oil state like California would the Legislature vote against a bill to stop oil drilling in a “marine protected area.”

That’s right – State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson’s bill to ban offshore oil drilling from an area of state waters in the Santa Barbara Channel known as Tranquillon Ridge stalled on the Assembly Floor on the evening of August 26, effectively killing the bill for the year, due to massive opposition by the oil industry.

The bill, SB 1096, would have protected the Vandenburg State Marine Reserve, created under the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, and the rest of the Tranquillon Ridge from offshore oil drilling plans.

The vote was 29-36, according to Senator Jackson’s office.

Ayes included Ammiano, Bloom, Bonta, Buchanan, Campos, Chau, Chesbro, Dababneh, Dickinson, Fong, Garcia, Gatto, Gomez, Gordon, Levine, Lowenthal, Mullin, Muratsuchi, Nazarian, Pan, John A. Pérez, V. Manuel Pérez, Rendon, Skinner, Stone, Ting, Wieckowski, Williams, Yamada and Atkins.

Noes included Achadjian, Allen, Bigelow, Bocanegra, Bonilla, Chávez, Conway, Cooley, Dahle, Donnelly, Fox, Frazier, Beth Gaines, Gonzalez, Gorell, Gray, Grove, Hagman, Harkey, Jones, Linder, Logue, Maienschein, Mansoor, Medina, Melendez, Nestande, Olsen, Patterson, Perea, Quirk-Silva, Ridley-Thomas, Salas, Wagner, Waldron and Wilk.

No Votes were recorded by Alejo, Bradford, Brown, Ian Calderon, Daly, Eggman, Hall, Roger Hernández, Holden, Jones-Sawyer, Quirk, Rodriguez and Weber.

“I’m disappointed in what happened tonight, but remain committed to protecting this area of our Santa Barbara coastline from the impacts of new offshore oil drilling for the long haul,” said Jackson (D-Santa Barbara). “I will continue to pursue avenues to protect Tranquillon Ridge, which inspires us with its beauty and biological diversity, and helps drive our local economy with tourism and hospitality jobs and thousands of visitors to our area.”

“I’m proud to be a co-author of SB 1096, because I believe that protecting our sensitive coastal habitat is of the utmost importance to our economy and our environment,” said Assemblymember Das Williams (D-Carpinteria). “I will continue to work with Senator Jackson to fight for those protections.”

The failure of the bill sheds the spotlight on two glaring loopholes in the implementation of California environmental law – one in the California Coastal Sanctuary Act and the other in the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative’s creation of “marine protected areas”

In 1994, declaring that “offshore oil and gas production in certain areas of state waters poses an unacceptably high risk of damage and disruption to the marine environment of the state,” the California Legislature banned any new offshore oil and gas leases when it passed the California Coastal Sanctuary Act.

But a loophole in state law left Tranquillon Ridge, which extends into state and federal waters, with reserves that are currently being tapped in federal waters from Platform Irene, uniquely vulnerable to offshore drilling. Senate Bill 1096 would have repealed this loophole, found in Public Resources Code 6244, according to a statement from Jackson’s Office.

“’Even the slightest chance of an oil spill in a Marine Protected Area far outweighs any potential benefit to the state,” Jackson said. (see: LINK)

The second loophole is in the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative that created the Vandenberg State Marine Reserve and other “marine protected areas” in California waters.

Fishermen, Tribal leaders and grassroots environmentalists have repeatedly criticized the controversial MLPA Initiative for creating questionable “marine protected areas” that fail to protect the ocean from oil drilling, fracking, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

In one of the most overt conflicts of interest in recent California history, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, chaired the MLPA Initiative’s “Blue Ribbon Task Force” to create alleged “marine protected areas” in Southern California. Reheis-Boyd, who is leading the campaign to expand fracking and offshore oil drilling in California, also served on the “task forces” to create marine protected areas on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.

The Coastal Justice Coalition, a group of members of the Yurok, Hoopa Valley, Karuk and other Tribes who agree that the State of California has no right to regulate tribal gathering, exposed this loophole in the MLPA Initiative when they stated, “Protected areas would allow for deep water drilling yet would ban tribal gathering,” in a news release issued in June 2010. (see: LINK)

MLPA “Initiative” officials let the oil industry, corporate polluters and ocean industrialists off the hook in a strange new concept of “marine protection” during the controversial, privately sponsored implementation of the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA).  Oil drilling would only have been banned in one state MPA, the “Vanderberg State Marine Reserve,” if Jackson’s bill had passed.

Oil companies have made numerous attempts over the years to tap into Tranquillon Ridge’s offshore reserves from state waters. Since 2003, an oil development proposal has been pursued by Sunset and Exxon to drill into Tranquillon Ridge reserves from an onshore location at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

“Slant drilling from onshore into offshore waters raises significant concerns about possible oil spills, impacts on marine life, air and water pollution, and contributions to global climate change,” according to Jackson’s Office.

On September 28, 1997, a discharge of at least 163 barrels of crude oil occurred from a rupture in a 20-inch offshore pipeline emanating from Platform Irene off the Santa Barbara County coast near Vandenberg Air Force Base, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The spill resulted in the fouling of approximately 17 miles of coastline, and caused an impact to a variety of natural resources, including seabirds, sandy and gravel beach habitats, rocky intertidal shoreline habitats, and use of beaches for human recreation (LINK).

Zeke Grader, Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), praised Senator Jackson for sponsoring the bill – and said the necessity of having to sponsor a bill like this to protect a marine protected area from oil drilling bill “highlights what a failure the MLPA Initiative was.”

“If these are true marine protected areas, they why are we allowing drilling and other insults to the ocean in them?” asked Grader. “The whole MLPA Initiative was a phony process that provided an opportunity for Big Green and government bureaucrats to write press releases claiming these were ‘protected areas’ when in reality the fishermen and Tribes got screwed. We should have bans on oil drilling in all of the marine protected areas.”

The time to ban offshore oil drilling, fracking, pollution, corporate aquaculture, military testing and other harmful activities to marine life in all “marine protected areas” created under the MLPA Initiative is long overdue. The oil industry’s inordinate influence over the MLPA Initiative and other environmental processes, the Legislature and the Governor’s Office is due to the enormous amount of money that the oil industry dumps into campaign contributions and lobbying in Sacramento every year.

A report released on April 1, 2014 by the ACCE Institute and Common Cause reveals that Big Oil has spent $143.3 million on political candidates and campaigns – nearly $10 million per year and more than any other corporate lobby – over the past fifteen years. (see: LINK)

But Big Oil exerts its influence not just by making campaign contributions, but also by lobbying legislators at the State Capitol. The oil industry spent $123.6 million to lobby elected officials in California from 1999 through 2013. This was an increase of over 400 percent since the 1999-2000 legislative session, when the industry spent $4.8 million. In 2013-2014 alone, the top lobbyist employer, Western States Petroleum Association, spent $4.7 million.

Conflict of Interest

In one of the worst cases of Conflict of Interest in California or U.S. history, WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd was serving on “task forces” to “protect” the ocean, while her very own oil industry was conducting environmentally destructive hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations off the Southern California coast. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and media investigations by Associated Press and truthout.org reveal that the ocean has been fracked at least 203 times in the past 20 years, including the period from 2004 to 2012 that Reheis-Boyd served as a “marine guardian.” (LINK)

Bill Supporters and Opponents:

Supporters of the bill included the Environmental Defense Center (sponsor), Asian Pacific Environmental Network, AZUL, California Coastkeeper Alliance, California Coastal Protection Network, California League of Conservation Voters, California State Grange, Salud Carbajal, First District Supervisor, County of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria Valley Association, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment, Community Environmental Council, Citizens for Responsible Oil & Gas, Clean Water Action, Earthworks, Environment California, Environmental Working Group, Food and Water Watch, Get Oil Out!, Heal the Ocean, Cathy Murillo, Mayor Pro-Tem, City of Santa Barbara, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Conservancy, San Diego 350.Org, Santa Barbara Audubon Society, Sierra Club California, Surfrider Foundation, WILDCOAST and 350 Santa Barbara.

Opponents included the California Chamber of Commerce, California Independent Petroleum Association, California Manufacturers & Technology Association, Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business, Concerned Taxpayers, I.N.C., Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association, Santa Barbara County Technology and Industry Association, Sunset Exploration and the Western States Petroleum Association.

Vandeberg SMR Background:

Vandenberg State Marine Reserve (SMR) is a marine protected area (MPA) located offshore of Vandenberg Air Force Base, near the city of Lompoc on the Central Coast. The MPA covers 32.84 square miles.

Vandenberg SMR is supposed to “protect” all marine life within its boundaries and fishing and take of all living marine resources is prohibited. However, the “marine reserve,” like others established under the MLPA Initiative, doesn’t ban oil drilling, fracking or pollution.

Vandenberg SMR was established in September 2007 in a controversial public-private partnership between the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. It was one of 29 marine protected areas adopted during the first phase of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative.

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BLM ends fracking ban in California

Oil Wells

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will resume issuing oil and gas leases next year for federal lands in California after a new study found limited environmental impacts from fracking and other enhanced drilling techniques, the agency said Thursday.

The move will end a halt that has stood since a federal judge ruled in 2013 that the federal agency failed to follow environmental law in allowing an oil extraction method known as fracking on public land in Monterey County.

The study released Thursday was conducted for the BLM by the state-created California Council on Science and Technology. It concluded the current level of fracking and other so-called well-stimulation techniques by drillers to get more oil out of rock formations did not seem to be poisoning water supplies or increasing earthquake risks in the state.

That is partly because fracking and other methods used in California differ from those in some other states, the researchers concluded.

Fracking involves extracting oil and gas from rock by injecting high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals. California drilling typically uses less water and a greater concentration of chemicals in fracking, and drilling is shallower, researchers said. California’s different geology also limits the impacts of fracking, they said.

Researcher Jane Long, who led the steering committee that oversaw the study, acknowledged in a phone call with reporters that researchers had drawn their conclusions while lacking some key information.

The oil and gas industry, for example, is not required to disclose all the chemicals, including toxic ones, used in fracking, although a new state law that goes into effect next year mandates that disclosure.

“The conclusions we reached are based on the data available,” Long said. “We recognize the data is incomplete.”

The Center for Biological Diversity, one of the environmental groups that sued the BLM over the Monterey County fracking, said it was premature for the government to resume selling oil and gas leases before it had harder data.

“This report raises grave concerns about fracking pollution’s threat to California’s air and water, but it also highlights that government officials have never collected the data needed to determine the risks to our state,” Kassie Siegel, director of the center’s climate law institute, said in a statement.

Researchers also cast doubt on projections by the U.S. Energy Information Administration on potential oil reserves in California’s Monterey Shale, a geological formation that’s drawn much interest from oil and gas companies. Early projections of massive amounts of oil in the shell were highly skewed, and more examination is needed before reaching any conclusion, the study said.

The Associated Press

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Bay Delta Conservation Plan Delayed!

“This is not unexpected because we knew the environmental documents were fatally flawed.  The problem is that that they can’t fix the BDCP because the project can’t meet the requirements of the Endangered Species Act and other state and federal environmental laws.” - Tom Stokely, Water Policy Analyst with the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN)

caleen_sisk_and_jessica_lopezCaleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, and Jessica Lopez, Chair of the Concow Maidu Tribe, at a protest against the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels at the State Capitol in Sacramento on July 29. Photo by Dan Bacher.

By Dan Bacher

State officials announced Wednesday that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels will be delayed and a new plan, EIR/EIS and implementing agreement will be drafted, followed by the beginning of a new public comment period.

The decision was made after the state and federal agencies received an avalanche of thousands of public comments, the vast majority sharply criticizing the plan and accompanying environmental documents for an array of flaws.

“The Department of Water Resources and the other state and federal agencies leading the Bay Delta Conservation Plan will publish a Recirculated Draft BDCP, Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS), and Implementing Agreement (IA) in early 2015,” according to yesterday’s announcement on the BDCP website. “The agencies are currently reviewing the comments received through the public comment period that ended on July 29, 2014. The scope of the partially recirculated draft documents will be announced in approximately six to eight weeks.”

The recirculated documents will include those portions of each document that “warrant another public review” prior to publication of final documents. The public will also have the opportunity to review the final documents prior to their adoption and any decisions about the proposed actions.

Restore the Delta and other opponents of the environmentally destructive peripheral tunnels hailed the delay and redrafting of its Draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan EIR/EIS and a new public comment period. The opponents said the delay and redrafting of the governor’s water tunnels plan shows it is “fatally flawed, does not meet state or federal standards, and lacks a financing plan.”

“The delay in the BDCP shows that it is fatally flawed. There is no financing plan. They cannot finance it because the water is not there,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of RTD. “Delaying the BDCP will not change the fundamental flaws underlying it: it doesn’t pencil out, there is no surplus water for export, and you can’t restore the San Francisco-San Joaquin Delta estuary by draining water from it. The delay shows the power of public engagement. Thousands of pages of comments were turned in, everything from simple statements from citizens to complex analyses by experts.”

Barrigan-Parrilla said the EIR/EIS is “fatally flawed” due to its failure to include a viable funding plan, exclusion of any true no-tunnels alternatives, failure to comply with the Endangered Species Act as evidenced by numerous scientists’ red flags, misrepresenting taking water to be a “conservation” plan, secret BDCP planning with the exporters and their consultants, and lack of public outreach to non-English speakers.

Tom Stokely, Water Policy Analyst with the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN), said he was not surprised with the delay in the BDCP and accompanying federal documents.

“This is not unexpected because we knew the environmental documents were fatally flawed,” said Stokely. “The problem is that that they can’t fix the BDCP because the project can’t meet the requirements of the Endangered Species Act and other state and federal environmental laws.”

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels will hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperil salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers. Under the guise of habitat “restoration,” The $67 billion project will take vast tracts of Delta farmland, among the most fertile on the planet, out of production in order to deliver subsidized water to corporate agribusiness interests irrigating toxic, drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

 

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Tribal members rally in Sacramento to stop Klamath River fish kill

800_crowd_shotby Dan Bacher

Over 200 Tribal members and their allies from the Trinity and Klamath river watersheds held a four-hour protest at the Bureau of Reclamation offices in Sacramento on Tuesday, August 19 to urge them to release more water from upriver dams to stop a massive fish kill.

Members of the Yurok, Klamath and Karuk tribes, as well as leaders of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, displayed an array of signs and banners with slogans including “Fish Need Water,” “Let The River Flow,” “Give Us Our Water, ” “Save The Salmon,” “Tribal Rights Are Non Negotiable,” “Release The Dam Water,” “Undam the Klamath – Free the Trinity,” “Fish Can’t Swim In Money,” and “Westlands Sucks The Trinity Dry.”

They demanded increased water releases, known as preventative flows, from Lewiston Dam into the Trinity River, the largest tributaryof the Klamath River, to prevent a fish kill from taking place in the currently warm and low water conditions. They also asked federal officials to release more water from Iron Gate Dam on the Klamath.

Participants ranging from young children to elders protested Reclamation’s recent decision to withhold these emergency releases until large numbers – approximately 50 adult dead salmon per mile of river – are documented.

They urged the Bureau to increase water releases from the dams so that a fish kill on the lower Klamath, like the one of September 2002 when over 68,000 fish perished, doesn’t occur again.

“We need 25 to keep the fish alive,” they chanted, referring to their demand that the federal agency release 2500 cfs to the river. After holding signs and banners and chanting slogans in front of the federal building complex, they marched to the back to try to meet with Bureau officials.

The federal officials allowed six people to meet with David Murillo, Mid-Pacific Regional Director of the Bureau of Reclamation, about releasing the flows. Murillo didn’t commit to increased flows, but said he would make a decision the following day, August 20 after a meeting of state, federal and Tribal scientists about the flows in Eureka Tuesday.

Lois Moore, Bureau spokesman, said that no decision had been made at press time.

“The biologists from the different federal and state agencies and tribes had a discussion today to produce information for Murrillo to make a decision. Everybody understands how important this water flow is, not only to the fish and the environment but to the tribes,” Moore stated Tuesday.

After the Tuesday meeting at the BOR offices, Danielle Vigil-Masten, Chair of the Hoopa Valley Tribe, said she was “very disappointed.”

“It still feels like they gave us the run around,” said Vigil-Masten. “Scientists have said that the fish need water. Hundreds of people came here today to get an answer. David Murrillo said he would have an answer tomorrow. Prevention of a fish kill is the answer and it seems like nobody cares.”

Frankie Joe Myers of the Yurok Tribe Watershed Restoration Program said he was “cautiously optimistic” after the meeting.

“He listened to us as for as long as we wanted to talk, although we were originally scheduled for just 30 minutes. We told him we wouldn’t leave the office until we got a response. He said we could stay in the office as long as we wanted and we wouldn’t get arrested,” said Myers.

Chook Chook Hillman, Karuk tribal member, said, “He heard us. We asked him if irrigators are willing to die for water like the rest of us are. He listened, but there were no guarantees. We didn’t want to leave without getting an answer.”

“The tribes asked for bare bones to prevent a fish kill,” he said, “just flows of 2500 cfs.”

“I told Murillo that if there is a fish kill, he is responsible for genocide,” said Annelia Hillman, a member of the Klamath Justice Coalition and Yurok Tribe.

Emergency flow releases from Lewiston Dam would take four days to reach the struggling Klamath River salmon, according to a statement from the Klamath Justice Coalition. Fisheries biologists commonly agree that by the time the emergency flows are triggered and the water has traveled from the dam, it would be too late to prevent a large-scale fish die-off. Tribal members say Reclamation is ignoring the beginning stages of a disaster.

“Fish are pooled up at cold water tributaries because the water in the river is so warm and polluted,” said Hoopa Valley Tribal member, Kayla Brown. “These fish are diseased and dying. Once the disease starts to spread, it can’t be stopped and we will have a fish kill on our hands, courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation.”

The protesters said five times more water is diverted to the Sacramento Basin for Central Valley irrigators than is released into the Trinity River.

Rally organizers and participants also said they support Klamath River fisheries biologists’ assertion that a minimum of 2,500 cubic feet per second be maintained near the mouth of the Klamath River. This can be achieved if the Bureau of Reclamation approves preventative releases from Lewiston Reservoir on the Trinity.

Nat Pennington, Fisheries Biologist for the Salmon River Restoration Council, emphasized, “Klamath River flows are lower than they were during the 2002 fish kill. River temperatures are consistently higher than the acute stress level for Chinook salmon at seventy-two degrees Fahrenheit. If this trend continues, a large-scale fish kill is likely and the Klamath could loose the entire run.”

Karuk tribal member Molli White said, “Reclamation says they need the water for Sacramento River salmon, but our rivers are actually being exported to meet the demands of corporate agriculture like the Westland’s Water district.”

White noted that California’s almond growers are projecting an eight percent increase in the 2014 harvest while the rest of California experiences a devastating drought year.

Recent USDA data reveals that California almond growers, one of the major recipients of exported Trinity River and Delta water, will harvest a record 2.1 billion pounds this year. The National Agricultural Statistics Service’s estimate is up 5 percent from last year’s crop and 8 percent from the initial 2014 forecast on May 1. If this figure hold ups as the harvest proceeds, it would exceed the record of 2.03 billion pounds in 2011. (http://www.modbee.com/2014/06/30/3417479/usda-forecasts-record-almond-crop.html#storylink=cpy)

“The argument that the Bureau makes that they need flows for endangered salmon in the Sacramento is totally bogus,” said Zeke Grader, Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), who attended the protest in solidarity with the Tribes. “The water from the Trinity is shipped south not for endangered salmon, but for ‘endangered’ almonds.”

When the dams and diversion tunnels were built on the Trinity, laws were set up to protect the river and fish before exporting water to the Central Valley, according to the Klamath Justice Coalition. These laws established that fish, and the tribes that depend on them, are the top priority for the Trinity River flows.

Klamath Justice Coalition members have made it clear that Tribal people and traditional fishermen will not give up until Reclamation releases water.

“We’re fighting so my son, Sregon, doesn’t have to worry about water being in the river,” Frankie Joe Myers explained. “The Klamath fish kill of 2002 was devastating for our tribal communities and to the West Coast Fisheries. Previously, Tribes, fisheries scientists, and the Department of the Interior have worked together to avert fish kills by releasing preventative flows during drought years. We need these releases now more then ever.”

Caleen Sisk, Chief of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, concluded, “It is all about showing up, standing up, and speaking up for SALMON! Salmon is water and water is salmon….we are nothing without both!”

Follow the Klamath Justice Coalition on twitter at #releasethewater #savethesalmon #stopafishkill #neveragain

For information about current river conditions and fisheries health visit:
http://www.kbmp.net/collaboration/kfhat

For more information visit http://klamathjustice.blogspot.com/

Video b-roll and photos are available at:
http://www.dropbox.com/sh/inlrbwrdwr76yrg/AABQS4cGakSkNhy0Eg85kYQNa
VIDEO b-roll
http://www.dropbox.com/sh/jsdhlwgrn6gjavc/AAB9UUIsly-zZyUg40oe8Jisa

 

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Big Oil has spent $63 million on lobbying in Sacramento since 2009!

Only in the oil-soaked politics of “Green California” would an oil lobbyist charged with the task of creating “marine protected areas” go on record against protecting a “state marine reserve” from oil drilling!

big_oil_1

by Dan Bacher

While there are many powerful industries based in California, ranging from the computer and high tech industry to corporate agribusiness, no industry has more influence over the state’s environmental policies than Big Oil.

An ongoing analysis of reports filed with the California Secretary of State shows that the oil industry, the largest and most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento, collectively spent $63,947,616 lobbying California policymakers between January 1, 2009 and June 30, 2014.

The Western States Petroleum Association, led by President Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the former chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create so-called “marine protected areas” in Southern California, topped the oil industry lobby spending with $26,969,861.

“The oil industry is spending over $1 million per month lobbying Sacramento, with the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) as the second overall leading spender so far in 2014 with almost $3 million spent in the past six months,” according to Stop Fooling California (http://www.stopfoolingca.org), an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies efforts to mislead and confuse Californians. “Chevron, with $1.3 million spent so far in 2014, is also among the top five. If money speaks, Big Oil has the loudest voice in politics.”

WSPA was California’s second overall leading lobbyist spender, with $1.5 million spent in the second quarter of 2014. This is the second largest quarter going back to January 2009.

WSPA is on pace to exceed the previous annual (2012) total in 2014. So far this session, WSPA has paid over $2 million to KP Public Affairs, the state’s highest paid lobbying firm, during the current (2013-14) legislative session, according to the group. WSPA spent $4,670,010 on lobbying in 2013 and $5,698,917 in 2012.

Chevron is the fifth overall spender in California through the second quarter of 2014, having spent $784,757 over the past quarter, an increase of nearly $300,000 over the prior quarter.

Since 2009, WSPA ($27 million) and Chevron ($14.7 million) accounted for $42 million, two-thirds of the industry total.

The other “Dirty Dozen” spenders in the oil industry since 2009 were:
• BP – $3,407,467
• AERA Energy – $2,678,910
• Occidental – $2,678,910
• ConocoPhillips – $2,352,767
• Exxon – $2,297,452
• Shell – $2,258,610
• CIPA – $1,916,231
• Phillips66 – $1,715,416
• Fueling CA – $669,049
• CIOMA – $523,069

The money that the Western States Petroleum Association and other members of the oil lobby spend is well spent, since it has allowed Big Oil to sabotage state and federal laws protecting the air, water and environment. In 2013, the oil industry added poison pill amendments to gut an already weak fracking bill, Senator Fran Pavley’s Senate Bill 4, in order to clear the path to the expansion of fracking operations in California.

WSPA and other oil industry interests also were able to defeat a bill, sponsored by Senators Holly Mitchell and Mark Leno, to impose a moratorium on fracking in the state. In fact, the Legislators who voted against the bill received 14 times the amount of money from Big Oil that those who voted yes received from the industry. (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/06/07/18757051.php)

But oil industry influence extends behind the money it spends on lobbying and political campaigns. Oil industry officials have also sat on key panels crafting environmental regulations in California and the U.S.

For example, WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd, in one of the biggest conflicts of interest in California history, chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create alleged marine protected areas in Southern California. (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/brtf_bios_sc.asp)

She also served on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast, as well as on a federal NOAA marine protected areas committee.

The “marine protected areas” that she and other task force members helped to create fail to protect the ocean from fracking, offshore oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering.

While Reheis-Boyd served on the task forces to “protect” the ocean, the same oil industry that the “marine guardian” represents was conducting environmentally destructive hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations off the Southern California coast. Documents recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and media investigations by Associated Press and truthout.org reveal that the ocean has been fracked at least 203 times in the past 20 years, including the period from 2004 to 2012 that Reheis-Boyd served as a “marine guardian.”

Stop Fooling California recently pointed out that the former Chair of the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force opposes a ban on offshore drilling in the Vandenberg State Marine Reserve.

“Big Oil, we know you’re no stranger to conflicts of interest. But you have outdone yourself this time!” the group stated.

The campaign was referring to WSPA’s opposition to Senate Bill 1096, a bill to ban offshore oil drilling in state waters in the Santa Barbara Channel known as Tranquillon Ridge. (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/06/26/1309891/-Bill-to-ban-oil-drilling-in-marine-protected-area-passes-committee)

You can’t make this stuff up. Only in the oil-soaked politics of “Green California” would an oil lobbyist charged with the task of creating “marine protected areas” go on record against protecting a “state marine reserve” from oil drilling!

However, the money Big Oil spends on lobbying and campaign contributions is just chump change for them, since the oil companies continue to post mind-boggling profits every year. The top five oil companies made over $93 billion in profits in 2013 and have made over $58 billion in profits this year to date. (http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2014/02/10/83879/with-only-93-billion-in-profits-the-big-five-oil-companies-demand-to-keep-tax-breaks/)

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My Letter to the Navy

1972391_629774337095129_635233175_nYou still have until Wednesday, April 16th at 1:59 AM CST to submit your public comments regarding the U.S. Navy’s “Northwest Training and Testing” Environmental Impact Statement.  My letter to the Navy appears below.

To:

U.S. Naval Command, Northwest
1101 Tautog Circle, Suite 203
Silverdale, WA  98315 -1101 

April 11, 2014

Dear United States Navy, 

I am writing to say that I think your EIS claiming zero (0) mortalities for marine mammals and other species of birds and fish from proposed Naval Training and Testing activities in the Pacific Northwest region is not only inaccurate, but also extremely dishonest.  It is disheartening that the U.S. Navy so disrespects both the public and the natural world, they would produce such a short-sighted and deceitful report.  As you are well aware, the Navy has more honestly predicted huge destruction and harm to all forms of marine life resulting from similar activities in other regions.  Whales, dolphins, porpoises, and other marine mammals are particularly vulnerable.

Though I know it probably seems outside the realm of possibility for the self-interest of the Navy, I want to propose the idea of establishing an international treaty banning submarine warfare entirely.

It has become plainly evident that the first beings to suffer from mankind’s madness for constant naval warfare will be the whales, dolphins and marine mammals.  They simply are not able to withstand this constant onslaught of underwater noise and shock waves in an arms race of stealth submarines, with the super high-powered sonar and other weapons that are used to detect and destroy them.

We either continue on the course towards the annihilation and extinction of the whales, or we come to our senses and ban submarine warfare entirely.

The Navy could take a pro-active role in enforcing such a treaty, by making sure no nation continues on the path of using submarines to patrol the oceans in the name of war.

I hope you will seriously consider this idea, and that such a treaty will be enacted while there are still whales and dolphins to share our oceans.

Respectfully,

David R. Gurney

<————>

Please write your own comments and mail them to this address:

Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Northwest
Attention: Ms. Kimberly Kler – NWTT EIS/OEIS Project Manager
1101 Tautog Circle, Suite 203
Silverdale, WA 98315-1101

Or, you can electronically submit your public comments on the Navy’s proposed Training and Testing in the Pacific Northwest, by going to their website:

http://nwtteis.com/GetInvolved/OnlineCommentForm.aspx

color-navy-whales-web

 

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Oil Lobby spending in California increases by 400 percent

The rise of oil industry spending documented in the report corresponds directly with the increase in fracking in Monterey Shale deposits in Kern County, coastal areas and Southern California ocean waters – and the creation of so-called “marine protected areas” that fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, military testing and all human impacts other than fishing and gathering.

Oil companies have fracked offshore wells at least 203 times over the past 20 years in the ocean near California’s coast, from Seal Beach to the Santa Barbara Channel, according to a Freedom of Information Act Request and media investigation by the Associated Press and truthout.org last year.bil_oil_floods_the_capitol_4.1.14v2.pdf_600_

Oil Lobby spending in California increases by 400 percent

by Dan Bacher

A ground breaking report released on April 1, 2014 by the ACCE Institute and Common Cause reveals that Big Oil spent $123.6 million to lobby elected officials in California over the past 15 years, an increase of over 400 percent since the 1999-2000 legislative session, when the industry spent $4.8 million.

The report, “Big Oil Floods the Capitol: How California’s Oil Companies Funnel Funds Into the Legislature,” highlights the growing influence of the Oil and Gas Lobby in Sacramento, including the increasing power of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA). The analysis examines the broad and expanding scope of the oil and gas industry’s spending in Sacramento as the industry gears up to expand fracking (hydraulic fracturing) operations in California facilitated by the passage of Senator Fran Pavley’s Senate Bill 4 last September.

The report also examines historical campaign contributions by the largest firms in the oil and gas industry. Over the last fifteen years, Big Oil has spent $143.3 million on political candidates and campaigns – nearly $10 million per year and more than any other corporate lobby.

The report also exposes how the oil and gas lobby has spent nearly $15 million to influence Sacramento lawmakers halfway through the 2014-15 legislative session. The record is $25.5 million, set in 2011-12.

As one of the few journalists willing to expose the power of the oil industry in California in recent years, I am very pleased that Common Cause and ACCE have put together this invaluable report that confirms what I’ve been saying all along – that the oil industry has overwhelmed and corrupted the political process, including hijacking what passes for “marine protection” and “environmental protection” in California.

The report was unveiled as the arrests of three State Senators on criminal charges in recent months have put the spotlight on corruption and influence peddling at the State Capitol.

On March 29, the State Senate voted to suspend Senators Leland Yee, Ron Calderon and Rod Wright, who are being prosecuted in separate criminal cases, after Yee refused to resign. Yee was arrested on federal charges of accepting bribes and coordinating an international gun-running operation,revealed in an affidavit that read like a bizarre crime novel. (http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2014/03/28/california-senate-votes-to-suspend-leland-yee/)

One of the three Senators, Rod Wright, received more oil industry money, $83,100, than any other legislator during the 15-year period, according to the report.

“On the heels of 3 California Senators facing separate accusations of influence peddling and unethical behavior, it has never been more important to shine a light on the money that industries like Big Oil spend to advance their agenda,” said Vivian Richardson, community leader and Board Chair of ACCE, in a news release announcing the publication of the report. “We’ve had enough of this ‘pay to play’ system in which money talks – it’s time for our elected officials to listen to the people of this state, and make Big Oil pay their fair share.”

“This report highlights a growing problem in Sacramento – the millions of dollars of campaign contributions and lobby spending by special interests in Sacramento, and the possible influence that goes along with it,” summed up Sarah Swanbeck, coauthor of the report and policy advocate for California Common Cause. “It is time for lawmakers to consider how these types of legal spending by special interests drown out the voice of average Californians and what legislative action can be taken to correct this imbalance.”

Chevron tops campaign contributions with $71.2 million

The report explains how key members of Big Oil. including Chevron, Exxon, Aera Energy and Occidental Petroleum, are some of the largest corporations in California. “And these big corporations spend big time,” Richardson and Swanbeck note.

The top five oil and gas industry campaign contributors from 1999 to 2013 were Chevron, $71.2 million; Aera Energy, $33.8 million; Occidental, $14.5 million; ConocoPhillips, $6.4 million; and Tesoro $3.4 million. Big Oil spent a whopping $143.3 million on political candidates and campaigns, nearly $10 million per year, over the past 15 years.

“Companies like Chevron and Aera have gone to great lengths to influence candidates and initiative campaigns in California elections,” the report states.

Environmental justice and indigenous groups accuse the San Ramon based-Chevron of environmental racism, ranging from the adverse health impacts of the pollution caused by the operation of its refinery in Richmond, California to its dumping of toxic waste in indigenous communities in the the Amazon River Basin in Ecuador.

The report also documents how individual legislators have received tens of thousands from Big Oil over their careers. Over the last 15 years, the top five currently serving legislative recipients are: (1) Senator Rod Wright ($83,100), (2) Assemblymember Isadore Hall, III ($80,600), (3) Senator Jean Fuller ($76,850), (4) Assemblymember Henry Perea ($73,050), and (5) Senator Bob Huff ($69,400).

This report profiles the top recipients, as well as those legislators who are facing a vote on the Oil and Gas Extraction Tax (Senate Bill 1017) this April.

But direct contributions are not the only way Big Oil dominates politics in Sacramento – the industry also spends millions on lobbying those same politicians every year.

Price tag for lobbying totalled $123.6 million

“In addition to its political contributions,” the report continues, “Big Oil exerts considerable influence lobbying in Sacramento. Big Oil employs high profile, high powered lobbyists to ensure their interests are represented.”

In the past 15 years, the price tag for these lobbyists has totaled $123.6 million. In 2013-2014 alone, the top lobbyist employer, the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), headed by President Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the former chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create fake “marine protected areas” in Southern California, spent $4.7 million.

To make things worse, the oil lobby presence in Sacramento is growing, as evidenced by the industry’s successful campaign last year to defeat all fracking bills except one, Senator Fran Pavley’s Senate Bill 4, an oil industry-friendly bill that gives the green light to increased fracking in California. The legislation was opposed by the vast majority of conservation and environmental justice groups in California – but supported by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund and the California League of Conservation Voters until the the last minute, when they withdrew their support after amendments were added.

“So far during the 2013-2014 session, the Oil and Gas lobby has spent nearly $15 million in Sacramento,” the report revealed. “Only halfway through the session, and with expenditure rates typically increasing late in the legislative season when more bills are up for a final vote, California is on track to surpass the roughly $25.5 million spent on lobbying in the 2011-2012 legislative session.”

Similarly, the number of oil and gas industry lobbyists in Sacramento has gone from 22 lobbyist employer organizations registered with the FPPC in 1999-2000 to 32 registered sector for the current legislative session (2013-2014), according to the report.

Yet for the oil industry this money is mere chump change, the cost of doing business. Big Oil’s estimated profits in 2014 to date are $24,978,007,900, based on information from the Center for American Progress.

The 2013 profit totals for the big five oil companies combined – BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Shell – were $93 billion, or $177,000 per minute. (http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2014/02/10/83879/with-only-93-billion-in-profits-the-big-five-oil-companies-demand-to-keep-tax-breaks/)

As Big Oil spending rises, fracking increases

The rise of the oil industry spending documented in the report corresponds directly with the increase in fracking in Monterey Shale deposits in Kern County, coastal areas and Southern California ocean waters – and the creation of so-called “marine protected areas” that fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution military testing and all human impacts other than fishing and gathering.

Oil companies have fracked offshore wells at least 203 times over the past 20 years in the ocean near California’s coast, from Seal Beach to the Santa Barbara Channel, according to a Freedom of Information Act Request and media investigation by the Associated Press and truthout.org last year. (http://bigstory.ap.org/article/calif-finds-more-instances-offshore-fracking) Much of the fracking took place while WSPA President Reheis-Boyd was chairing the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force and serving on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast Task Forces.

The Common Cause/ACCE Institute report’s data and charts also make it perfectly clear that the oil industry spending on campaigns and lobbying correlates directly with the rise to power and influence by Reheis-Boyd and her service as a “marine guardian”on federal and state marine protected area panels, as revealed by the chart on page 12 of the document.

Mainstream media outlets have failed to cover one of biggest environmental scandals in California history, Reheis-Boyd’s chairing of the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create alleged “marine protected areas” in Southern California from 2009 to 2012, as well as her “service” on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast task forces from 2004 to 2012. MLPA Initiative advocates falsely portrayed the process as “open and transparent” and based on “science” when it was anything but. (http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/03/28/big-oil-lobbyist-serves-on-federal-marine-protected-areas-panel/)

The report also counteracts the attempts of state officials and corporate “environmental” NGOs to portray a false image of a “Green California” where no one single interest dominates. David Helvarg, in a recent article on the National Geographic website praising the so-called “marine protected areas” created under the privately-funded MLPA Initiative, claims:

“With its ports, the U.S. Navy, fishermen, surfers and the coastal tourism industry, marine science centers and more no single special interest can dominate ocean policy. And it is where you have single interests dictating policy in places like Louisiana with oil and gas or Florida with real-estate developers that you see coastal seas in decline,” said Helvarg. (http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2014/03/21/the-ocean-comes-to-sacramento-2/)

This statement avoids addressing the fact that the oil industry is the largest corporate lobby in California, one that dominates environmental politics like no other industry does – and that California is much closer to Louisiana and Florida in its domination by corporate interests than some California politicians and corporate “environmentalists” would like to think.

You can read the full report at; http://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/makebankspay/pages/266/attachments/original/1396393828/Bil_Oil_Floods_the_Capitol_4.1.14v2.pdf

Brown’s tunnels will provide water for fracking

As the oil industry plans the expansion of fracking under Senate Bill 4, Governor Jerry Brown is fast tracking the widely-contested Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels.The proposed tunnels would divert Sacramento River water for use by corporate agribusiness interests, Southern California water privateers and oil companies expanding fracking and steam injection operations. The construction of the twin tunnels would hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperil salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

Restore the Delta and Food and Water Watch revealed on March 4 that much of the area that the oil industry could frack for oil and natural gas in California is located in and near toxic, drainage-impaired land farmed by corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/03/05/18751984.php)

The same Governor promoting the peripheral tunnels and the expansion of hydraulic fracturing recently declared a drought emergency in California. A broad coalition of environmentalists, fishermen and Tribal leaders is demanding immediate halt to water-intensive fracking.

According to Oil Change International, “This drought is already devastating farmers livelihoods, causing an increased risk of wildfires, and threatening our water supplies. So why is the Governor still allowing fracking to take place? Fracking wells can consume between 2 and 10 MILLION gallons of water in their lifetime.”

In spite of false claims by the mainstream media and state officials that California is a “green state” and an “environmental leader,” the Golden State has become an “oilogarchy.”

If you want to take action and help fight the flood of dirty energy money in California, go to: http://www.bigoilbrown.org/#take-action

 

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