Lobbyist for oil pipeline company oversaw creation of fouled marine protected areas

Santa Barbara oil spill

By Dan Bacher

The head of the same oil industry trade association that lobbies for the Plains All  American Pipeline corporation, whose corroded pipeline rupture caused a massive oil spill off Refugio State Beach on May 19, is the very same person who chaired the panel that created the so-called “marine protected areas” that have been fouled with crude oil.

“Plains All American, the owner of the pipeline, is a member of the Western States Petroleum Association,” proclaimed Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) in her blog post responding to the spill on May 19. (https://www.wspa.org/…)

In a huge conflict of interest, Reheis-Boyd served as the chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called marine “protected areas” (MPA) in Southern California, including four MPAs being fouled by the spill. She also served on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast from 2004 to 2012, as well as on a federal marine protected areas panel from 2003 to 2014.

The oil spill that resulted in over 20,000 gallons of oil fouling over 9 miles of ocean, took place after a badly corroded pipeline burst off Refugio State Beach.

A wildlife update on June 9 from International Bird Rescue revealed the oil spill’s enormous cost to seabirds and mammals. Wildlife experts have counted 60 live and 161 dead seabirds and 46 live and 87 dead sea mammals to date.

Of course, the big impact to the many species of fish, invertebrates and the delicate ecosystem, including those living in the “Yosemites of the Sea,” will last for many years to come.

The cost of cleaning up the oil spill that fouled beaches last month on the California coast has reached $62 million so far, a pipeline company representative told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

Patrick Hodgins, the Plains All American Pipeline’s on-scene coordinator, said the clean up costs are running at $3 million a day, and “there is no timetable for when the cleanup will be complete.” (http://theweek.com/…)

Yet in the reports from the Associated Press, other mainstream media and most of the “alternative” media you won’t see one word about one of the most important aspects of this oil spill – that Reheis-Boyd, the WSPA President and a lobbyist for Plains All American Pipeline and other oil companies, served as the Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create the same “marine protected areas” that are now being fouled by crude oil.

Four “marine protected areas” created under her “leadership” – the Goleta Slough, Campus Point, Naples and Kashtayit State Marine Conservation Areas – are now imperiled by the oil spill that started at Refugio State Beach on Tuesday, May 19,  devastating over 9 miles of the Santa Barbara County Coast.

Nor will you see in the mainstream media any mention of the fact that Plains All American CEO Greg Armstrong raked in over $5 million in compensation last year and is guaranteed $29 – $87 million in golden parachute cash while oil from a rupture in his company’s shoddy pipeline is fouling the beaches and ocean waters for 9 miles off the Santa Barbara County coastline.

Santa Barbara spill can’t be addressed without discussing Big Oil capture of regulators

I have discussed this in previous articles, but it important to discuss this once again because the mainstream media and most “alternative” media are censoring any discussion of one of the key issues in the spill – oil industry lobbyist oversight of what passes for “marine protection” in California.

We can’t effectively address the Santa Barbara disaster without discussing the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, a controversial “public-private partnership” between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation (RLFF) that was supposed to create a network of “marine protected areas” along the California coast.

During the MLPA Initiative process from 2004 to 2012, state officials and initiative advocates made sure that Big Oil and other corporate polluters weren’t impacted by the creation of alleged “marine protected areas” along the California coast.

In an article published widely in June 2010, environmentalists and representatives of fishing groups warned that the “marine protected areas” created under the MLPA Initiative don’t protect the ocean from oil spills and pollution. (http://yubanet.com/…)

“These marine protected areas, as currently designed, don’t protect against oil spills,” said Sara Randall, then the program director of the Institute for Fishery Resources and Commercial Fishermen of America. “What’s the point of developing marine protected areas if they don’t protect the resources?”

In violation of the provisions of the landmark Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) of 1999, the “marine protected areas” failed to protect the ocean from oil spills, oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture, military testing and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

Of course, MLPA Initiative advocates neglected to address why Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the Western States Petroleum Association President, was allowed to not only chair the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, but to sit on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast, as well as on a NOAA federal marine protected areas panel. (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/…)

In yet another big conflict of interest, the WSPA President’s husband, James Boyd, served on the California Energy Commission from 2002 to 2012. From 2007 to 2012, he served as the Commission’s Vice Chair, the second most powerful position on the Commission! (http://www.energy.ca.gov/…)

Founded in 1907, WSPA is the oldest petroleum trade association in the United States. WSPA represents “companies that account for the bulk of petroleum exploration, production, refining, transportation and marketing in the five western states of Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington,” according to the WSPA website.

The companies represented by WSPA are a who’s who of the oil industry: Aera Energy LLC, Alaska Tanker Company, Berry Petroleum, BP, California Resources Corporation, Chevron Corporation, Chevron Pipelines, Chevron Shipping, ConocoPhillips,ExxonMobil, ExxonMobil Pipelines, HollyFrontier, Noble Energy, Inc., Olympic Pipeline Company, Pacific Operators Offshore, Phillips 66, Plains All American Inc., Santa Maria Energy, LLC, SeaRiver Maritime, Inc., Seneca Resources Corp., Shell Oil Products US, Shell Pipeline, Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company, US Oil & Refining, Valero, Venoco, Inc. and Western Refining.

WSPA is the most powerful corporate lobbying group in Sacramento – and tops the list every year for the most money spent by any any organization lobbying state officials. WSPA set a new record for lobbying in Sacramento in 2014 when it spent over $8.9 million lobbying California officials. The group heads the campaign to expand fracking in California, to stop a bill that protects marine protected areas from oil spills and oil drilling, and to eviscerate the state’s clean air and water laws.

Unfortunately, as we can see from the current oil spill disaster off the coast of Santa Barbara, the state and federal regulatory agencies and the MLPA Initiative’s so-called “marine protected areas” weren’t able to prevent a big oil spill like the one now taking place from occurring – and the fishermen, Tribal members and grassroots environmentalists who criticized oil industry lobbyist oversight of the MLPA Initiative process were absolutely right about their fears that the highly-touted “Yosemites of the Sea” wouldn’t protect the ocean.

This disaster could have been averted if the pipeline had an automatic shut-off valve and the regulators had done their job to properly inspect the pipeline, but they didn’t. The disaster could have also been averted if oil spills and pollution were completely banned in the MLPA Initiative’s “marine protected areas,” forcing state and federal officials to take greater measures to stop an oil spill from fouling MPAs.

Now you will see the federal and state regulatory agencies pointing fingers at each other as to who is to “blame” for the spill when it is the entire regulatory apparatus, now captured by Big Oil, that is really responsible for the spill.

For more information, read my investigative piece in the East Bay Express about oil industry money and power in California at: http://www.eastbayexpress.com/…

To make matters worse, these same agencies, ranging from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), the federal agency that permits offshore drilling, to the California Coastal Commission, failed to stop oil companies from fracking the ocean off California over 200 times over the past 20 years.

Pipeline company has had 175 incidents since 2006

The company that owns the pipeline involved in the major oil spill in Santa Barbara has had 175 incidents (mostly oil spills) nationwide since 2006, including 11 in California, according to a Center for Biological Diversity analysis of federal documents! (http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/…)

But ultimately, the people responsible for the Santa Barbara Oil Spill of 2015 are the state and federal officials who have allowed the oil industry to hijack what passes for “marine protection” in California – and who have let the oil industry get away with fracking the heck out of Southern California marine waters while engaging in very lax enforcement of environmental laws, including effective inspections of oil pipelines.

If the regulators had not been controlled by the regulated, this pipeline spill might have been prevented.

On a positive note, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) joined legislators from coastal areas around California and Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) on June 9 to announce the creation of the Senate Select Committee on the Refugio Oil Spill, which she will chair.

The public must exert pressure on this committee to make sure that all aspects of the complicity between regulatory agencies and the oil industry involved in this spill are thoroughly investigated by this committee/ (http://www.dailykos.com/…)

Take Action: Avaaz, a “global web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision making everywhere,” is now calling California Attorney General Kamala Harris and local District Attorney Joyce Dudly to file civil and criminal charges against Plains All American and its CEOs in a petition campaign. This is a campaign that I strongly support:https://secure.avaaz.org/…

You can view an eyewitness video on the oil spill by Madeline Stano of the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment at: https://youtu.be/…

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