Brown appoints crony Conservation chair; Oil industry led fishing closures start Jan. 1

Debra Bowen and Mark Nechodom  (Photo: José Luis Villegas, Sacramento Bee)

by Dan Bacher

In a move that reeks of political cronyism and nepotism and demonstrates the inordinate power of the oil industry in California, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Secretary of State Debra Bowens’s husband, Mark Nechodom, to Chair California’s Department of Conservation on December 28.

Nechodom, 56, replaces Derek Chernow, the acting director of the Department who Brown fired in a major environmental scandal last month. Brown fired Chernow and Elena Miller, who oversaw oil drilling operations in California, amidst claims by the oil industry and their political allies that the two officials weren’t granting permits quickly and easily enough.

Nechodom, of Sacramento, has served as senior advisor to the undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture since 2010. From 2008 to 2010, he was acting director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Environmental Markets and senior climate policy advisor for the U.S. Forest Service from 2006 to 2008.  He was a senior scientist and policy advisor at the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station from 1998 to 2006.  Marc Nechodom received his doctorate in political science from the University of California, Santa Cruz.  He is a Democrat.

The position requires Senate confirmation, and the compensation is $136,156.

Nechodom has apparently been appointed by Brown to streamline the permitting process to the benefit of the oil and gas industry – and to the detriment of fish, wildlife, the environment and the people of California.  This is yet one more example of how Brown, in the service of the Wall Street 1 percent, is a disaster for the environment and the 99 percent of Californians.

“Democratic state Sen. Michael Rubio and Republicans Rep. Kevin McCarthy, state Sen. Jean Fuller and Assemblywoman Shannon Grove engaged the governor personally over a permitting backlog they say has stalled local job growth,” according to .

“That’s not something you just ignore,” Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association told the Californian.

“She and others said it was no coincidence that Elena Miller’s ouster Thursday as state oil and gas supervisor came just a week after the top executives at Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum Corp. and Denver’s Berry Petroleum Co. said they faced slowdowns in getting permits from California regulators — a reference to Miller’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources,” according to the Californian.

It is also no coincidence that Reheis-Boyd, who put pressure on Brown to fire the two officials for actually doing their job, chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force – that created fake “marine protected areas” that will go into effect on the Southern California Coast on January 1.  The MLPA Initiative, in a classic case of corporate greenwashing, was funded by private interests through the shadowy ‘Resources Legacy Fund Foundation.’

While the corporate media, Wall Street and Walmart-funded NGOs are gushing about so-called “marine parks” and “Yosemites of the Sea” – which go into effect on January 1, they refuse to acknowledge the key leadership role of oil lobbyist Catherine Reheis-Boyd – in the creation of “marine protected areas” that fail to protect the ocean from oil.

Reheis-Boyd, President of the ‘Western State Petroleum Association,’ and other corporate operatives on the ‘task force,’ made sure that the “marine protected areas” do nothing to regulate oil and gas drilling, military testing, corporate aquaculture, wind and wave energy projects or any other human impacts on the ocean  – besides fishing and diving.

Reheis-Boyd, a strange “marine guardian” indeed, praised Brown’s firing of Mark Nechodom’s predecessor as Chair of California’s Conservation Department in Bloomberg News .

“Oil companies are ‘extremely happy’ about the governor’s decision, Catherine H. Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, a Sacramento-based trade group, said yesterday in a telephone interview,” reported Bloomberg News. ‘They have been extremely frustrated dealing with an agency that in the past had a wonderful working relationship with industry.'”

You can bet that Reheis-Boyd and other ocean industrialists, along with their corporate “environmental” NGO allies, will be also very happy that about the questionable “marine protected areas” that will kick fishermen off the water but do nothing to provide true, comprehensive protection for Southern California marine waters starting New Year’s Day.

Jerry Brown and his Resources Secretary John Laird are not just continuing Schwarzenegger’s abysmal legacy by fast-tracking the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral canal and implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative. They are in fact surpassing Schwarzenegger in some areas, including authorizing the record export of water out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta this year and presiding over the record “salvage” of over 11 million fish, including 9 million Sacramento splittail, at the Delta death pumps this year.


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