by Dan Bacher
A new report released by the American Lung Association reveals that the oil industry lobby, the biggest corporate lobby in California, has spent $45.4 million in the state since 2009.
The report was unveiled at a crucial time in California environmental politics – just a couple of weeks after Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 4, the green light to fracking bill, and less than 10 months after a network of so-called “marine protected areas” created under the “leadership” of a big oil industry lobbyist and other corporate operatives was completed on the California coast.
“As a visitor to this blog, you know that the American Lung Association in California Center for Tobacco Policy and Organizing produces compelling reports on Tobacco Money in Politics to highlight the money the tobacco industry spends lobbying state officials,” according to William Barrett (http://blog.center4tobaccopolicy.org/?p=1485). “Just as tobacco companies pour millions into lobbying and public relations to deflect attention away from the dangerous health impacts of smoking, oil companies are investing a fortune on lobbying to undermine clean air policies and protect the market for their polluting products.”
Through June of 2013, Big Oil has spent over $5 million on lobbying California policy-makers – and that doesn’t include donations to political campaigns, according to Barrett.
The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the lobbying organization for California oil interests headed by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the former chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, has spent over $20 million since 2009.
WSPA is again leading all spending to influence California politics. The association spent the most of any organization in first six months of 2013, $2,308,789.95, to lobby legislators and other state officials, according to documents filed with the California Secretary of State. (http://cal-access.sos.ca.gov/Lobbying/Employers/Detail.aspx?id=1147195&session=2013&view=activity)
Chevron, the state’s largest and wealthiest corporation, is not far behind, spending over $1.3 million in the first six months of 2013. The company is infamous for its environmentally destructive practices in California and throughout the world.
The San Ramon-based company, falsely portrayed in its omnipresent ads as an “environmentally friendly” company, is responsible for one of the largest environmental disasters in history – the deliberate dumping of a massive amount of oil pollution in the Ecuadorean Amazon. Chevron was found guilty in February 2011 and ordered to pay $18 billion to clean up, according to the Rainforest Action Network. The judgment was upheld by an appeals court in January 2012. (http://ran.org/chevrons-toxic-legacy-ecuador#ixzz2grovNXMs).
“Given the major oil lobbying push in the Capitol at the end of the legislative session in early September, it will not be a surprise if this trend holds,” Barrett forecasted.
“Imagine spending $20 per minute, every day, every week, every month for over four years,” added Barrett. “Sounds impossible doesn’t it? Well, California’s oil industry lobbyists in Sacramento have done just that. Since 2009, oil lobbyists have spent $45 million to keep us addicted to fossil fuels and maintain a monopoly over our transportation choices. Sound familiar?”
The blog closes with a quote by the association’s late President and CEO, Jane Warner: “Much like tobacco companies want to keep smokers dependent on their deadly product, the oil industry wants to keep California dependent on oil – an expensive, dirty and limited resource that damages health.”
While this report is invaluable in exposing the oil industry’s monetary influence in California politics, the association fails to mention one of the largest, most explosive environmental scandals of the past decade – the key leadership role that, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, played in creating fake “marine protected areas” in California.
Background: Big Oil’s Big Grip on California Politics
A media investigation by the Associated Press and truthout.org recently revealed that oil companies are conducting fracking (hydraulic fracturing) operations in federal waters in the fish and wildlife-rich Santa Barbara Channel, where a 1969 oil spill polluted coastal waters and beaches with millions of gallons of oil. “Federal officials cannot even say how often fracking has happened in California’s offshore waters,” a news release from the Center for Biological Diversity said.
The recent relevation that California’s coastal waters are being “fracked” takes place in the larger context of the oil industry’s enormous influence on California environmental processes. The oil industry, now the most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento, exceeds corporate agribusiness, the computer and software industry, the film and television industry, the aerospace industry and other major corporate players in California politics in the power that it wields.
The association now has enormous influence over both state and federal regulators. Oil and gas companies spend more than $100 million a year to buy access to lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento, according to Stop Fooling California, an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse Californians.
Robert Gammon, East Bay Express reporter, revealed that before Governor Jerry Brown signed Senator Fran Pavley’s Senate Bill 4, Brown accepted at least $2.49 million in financial donations over the past several years from oil and natural gas interests, according to public records on file with the Secretary of State’s Office and the California Fair Political Practices Commission. (http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/fracking-jerry-brown/Content?oid=3726533)
“Of the total, $770,000 went to Brown’s two Oakland charter schools — the Oakland School for the Arts and the Oakland Military Institute,” said Gammon “The other $1.72 million went to his statewide political campaigns for attorney general and governor, along with his Proposition 30 ballot-measure campaign last year.”
While feigning opposition to the bill even after oil industry-friendly amendments effectively eviscerated the already weak legislation, Reheis-Boyd issued a statement on September 20, the day the Brown signed SB 4, gloating about how the legislation will clear the path to expanding the environmentally destructive oil extraction process in California.
“While SB 4’s requirements went significantly farther than the petroleum industry felt was necessary, we now have an environmental platform on which California can look toward the opportunity to responsibly develop the enormous potential energy resource contained in the Monterey Shale formation,” said Reheis-Boyd. (http://www.wspa.org/blog/post/statement-wspa-president-catherine-reheis-boyd-signing-sb-4)
Cover-up of oil lobbyist’s role in marine ‘protection’ continues
The oil industry not only exerts influence by direct contributions to political campaigns, but by getting its lobbyists and representatives on key panels like the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force.
Inexplicably, reporters from the mainstream media and most of the “alternative” media, in their reporting on fracking, the oil industry and the network of so-called “marine protected areas” created under the MLPA Initiative, have failed to mention a crucial component of the industry’s influence on California politics – how the head oil industry lobbyist, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, oversaw what passes for “marine protection” in California.
I’m puzzled as to why these reporters omit any reference to one of the biggest environmental scandals of the past decade, one that has a direct bearing on the fracking of California – the fact that Reheis-Boyd served as chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force to create alleged “marine protected areas” in Southern California. She also served on the North Coast, North Central Coast and Central Coast task forces from 2004 to 2011, from the beginning of the process to the end of the process. (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/brtf_bios_sc.asp)
Why don’t these publications acknowledge that Reheis-Boyd served as a state official in a process that created fake “marine protected areas” that fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, wind and wave energy projects and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering? If this isn’t a major conflict of interest, I don’t know what is!
State officials and representatives of corporate “environmental” NGOs embraced the leadership of Reheis-Boyd and other corporate operatives who served on the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces to create “marine protected areas” that fail to actually protect the ocean. By backing her leadership as a “marine guardian,” they helped to increase the influence of the Western States Petroleum Association and the oil industry.
The California Coastal Commission and other state officials acted “surprised” when FOIA documents revealed that Southern California coastal waters have been fracked at least 12 times – after the proverbial fox was guarding the hen house since 2004. Well, independent investigative reporters like David Gurney and myself warned, again and again, that this would happen when an oil industry lobbyist was in charge of marine “protection.”
Why are both the mainstream media and much of the “alternative” media so afraid to even mention one of the biggest environmental conflict-of-interest scandals of the past decade in California? Something is very, very wrong here.
For more information about the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, go to:http://intercontinentalcry.org/the-five-inconvenient-truths-about-the-mlpa-initiative/
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