So why, you may ask, was a Central Valley farmer and agribusiness executive called upon to lead the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative’s efforts to protect the ocean? And why was the president of the largest petroleum association on the West Coast allowed to serve on it’s highest committee, the BRTF?
In the last two posts, we’ve examined possible conflicts of interest in the top echelons of the MLPAI “Initiative.” But it doesn’t end there. The two named officials have known each other for decades.
While introducing the so-called “Blue Ribbon Task Force” in November 2009, MLPAI Executive Director Ken Wiseman said of BRTF member Catherine Reheis-Boyd:
“Cathy and I actually met 30 years ago when we were young professionals in Kern County working on air quality problems, and I’ve had the privilege to work with Cathy, who is respected across the board in her work in Sacramento for finding great public policy….”
Although the Noyo News has not yet ascertained what kind of work Ken Wiseman and Catherine Reheis-Boyd were doing thirty years ago, it is known that Kern County is the largest producer of electricity from natural gas in the state.
As we have mentioned in earlier posts, the PR and management firm Kearns and West was running the MLPAI process, as a privately-paid contractor. Kearns and West specializes in representing natural gas and electric utilities throughout the West. See: Who Is Kearns and West?
Whether ocean conservationists like it or not, identifiable special interests are constantly working behind the scenes on behalf of their friends and corporations. These competing interests are not concerned with fisheries management, or ocean harvesting issues. Their interest is in gaining access to natural resources.
Some of the competing interests for ocean resources we have identified so far are: oil, natural gas, water and energy. We have shown a historical interest in drilling for oil and natural gas off the North Coast. We have also identified conflicting water resource issues.
Other newly competing interests now include: wind and wave energy projects, “fish farms,” and US Navy war games off the coast – all threatening local marine life.
The use and extraction of marine resources has a direct adverse affect on ocean ecology, well beyond the already regulated pressures of fishing and seafood gathering. Yet the MLPAI failed to adequately deal with any the above issues. Why? Was it because special interests were in charge?
The representatives of those who stand to benefit from the extraction of resources, both past and present, are now in top positions of this marine protection “Initiative.” With no official oversight, it’s been up to journalists and astute citizens to ask questions – questions that never saw the light of day during the MLPAI public management campaign.
During the MLPAI “process,” voices questioning conflicts of interest were effectively silenced. Citizens who complained were labeled “anarchists” or “conspiracy theorists.” They were marginalized and ignored by the MLPAI private contractors, scientists, paid organizational representatives, and “stakeholders.”
Whether it’s the oil and natural gas deposits that lie underwater off the North Coast, or the rivers and streams that are the spawning and rearing pools for salmon, it appears entirely possible that important aspects of ocean protection were kept off the table intentionally.
As shown at the beginning of this three-part section, proof of wrong-doing is not necessary in identifying conflicts of interest. Simply to show such conflicts exist is enough for legitimate questions to be asked – and answered.
There was absolutely no government oversight over this privately funded process, which claims to protect our ocean resources, by giving them away.
A fox-guarding-the-henhouse scenario has been allowed to go unchecked.
As for the truth behind this dubious set of circumstances?
Only time will tell.