Former MLPA Chair’s Big Oil Lobbying Group Tops Session Spending

posted in: Spotlight | 0

Western States Petroleum Association Finishes Second in 7th Quarter CA Lobbyist Expenses

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) usually captures the top spot in the quarterly lobbying expenses listed on the California Secretary of State’s website, but Tom Steyer’s Next Generation Climate Action, a campaign committee, actually beat the oil industry trade association in spending in the seventh quarter of the 2015-2016 Legislative Session.

WSPA dumped $2.6 million into lobbying legislators and state officials in the seventh quarter, while Steyer’s group spent an unprecedented $7.3 million, almost 3 times the oil industry group’s expenses.

In spite of WSPA finishing second in lobbying expenditures last quarter, the California Oil Lobby remains the biggest spender in the 2015-16 legislative session, spending an amazing $32.4 million so far. “That’s the equivalent of dropping $50,750 EVERY DAY since January 1, 2015,” reported Stop Fooling California,

“$32,400,000 is enough money to get Netflix and chill for 270,000 years, buy 648 refurbished DeLoreans, Give away 81 thousand iPad airs, get 92,571 goats, see Beyonce’s Formation World Tour 11,571 times, buy 16,200 Portuguese Water Dogs and go tandem skydiving 155,024 times,” the group noted.

If you were to have $32.4 million in 1 dollar bills, end to end they’d stretch the distance of 50 marathons. Stacked, they would reach the height of 50 marathons. “That’s a ton of money,” the group stated. “Actually it’s 35 tons of money, if you’re weighing it.”

WSPA has spent a total of $16,619,272 in the first seven quarters of the 2015-2016 session, the most of any lobbying organization. (

“So far this legislative session, the biggest spender is the oil industry’s lobbyist, the Western States Petroleum Association,” Stop Fooling California said. “And that should come as no surprise. They’ve regularly bought this honor, having single-handedly spent more than $60 million lobbying in California since the passage of AB 32.”

The spending by Steyer’s group helped propel the passage of Senate Bill 32, legislation that reduces greenhouse gas level to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, in spite of strong opposition by the oil industry. Prior to the passage of this bill, virtually no legislation opposed by the oil industry in the past few years was able to make it out of the Legislature without being gutted, as in the case of Senate Bill 4, considered the “greenlight for fracking” bill by anti-fracking activists.

“The passage of SB 32 is not a reason to celebrate,” said Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, after the vote in September. “It is unfortunate it went this direction. The rushed vote was deliberately schemed in order to cover-up today’s terrible cap-and-trade auction results.”

“The lack of accountability and transparency in this sort of maneuver is embodied in SB 32. There is no accountability in providing blank check authority to a state bureaucracy. Furthermore, SB 32 puts accessible and reliable energy at risk. Today is, in fact, a setback for California’s global leadership on climate change,” she claimed.

The Western States Petroleum Association is a “non-profit trade association that 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:

Deep Regulatory Capture Exposed

In a shocking example of deep regulatory capture that state officials and some environmental NGOs don’t want to discuss, WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create questionable “marine protected areas” in Southern California from 2009 to 2012 as the oil industry was fracking coastal waters. She also served on the task forces to create “marine protected areas” on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast from 2004 to 2012. (

The “marine protected areas” created under her helm fail to protect the ocean from fracking, offshore oil drilling, oil spills, pollution, military testing and other human impacts other than sustainable fishing and gathering. While Reheis-Boyd played a leadership role in the creation of the state’s questionable “marine protected areas,” her husband, James Boyd, was vice-chair of the California Energy Commission from February 2007 to January 2012 after serving as a commission member from February 2002 to January 2007. (

In 2014, I called Zeke Grader, the long time executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations who passed away in September 2015, about a bill sponsored by Senator Hannah Beth Jackson to protect a marine protected area, the Vandenberg State Marine Reserve, from oil drilling, due to loopholes in both the California Coastal Sanctuary Act and the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative. Grader, who supported the bill, pointed out how the very need for the bill “highlights what a failure the MLPA Initiative was.”

“If these are true marine protected areas, then 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.

Jackson’s bill failed to make it out of the legislature, due to opposition by WSPA and the oil industry. Intense oil industry lobbying also prevented a similar bill (SB 788), sponsored by Senator Mike Mike McGuire to permanently protect our coast from new offshore oil drilling, from being approved by the Legislature the following year. (

So here we have the case of a Big Oil lobbyist, Reheis-Boyd, who served at the helm of a process to create alleged “marine protected areas,” opposing a bill that would protect a no-take State Marine Reserve from environmentally destructive oil drilling!

Big Oil allowed to take living marine resources in “marine protected area”

The collusion between the oil industry, state officials and MLPA Initiative advocates as a Big Oil lobbyist oversaw the crafting of “marine protected areas” in Southern California was inadvertently revealed in a March 10, 2012 article in the Santa Barbara Independent. (

The official language for the marine protected area in the Isla Vista area of Santa Barbara County, the Campus Point State Marine Conservation Area, reads, “Take of all living marine resources is prohibited, except for take pursuant to operation and maintenance of artificial structures inside the conservation area … ”

“The caveat, allowing marine resources to be taken near artificial structures, exists to allow oil production representatives the ability to maintain equipment, including pipelines, located in this area,” the article by Cat Heushul stated.

I realize that the oil industry needs to maintain its equipment near “artificial structures.” However, I find it ironic and disturbing that anglers are prevented from fishing in this so-called “Yosemite of the Sea” and “underwater park” off Isla Vista while the oil industry is allowed to “take” living marine resources. Meanwhile, state officials and MLPA Initiative advocates praised the tainted Big Oil lobbyist-overseen process as “open, transparent and inclusive.”

In spite of California’s “green” image, the state is the third largest oil producer in the nation, right behind North Dakota (second) and Texas (first) – and where the regulatory apparatus has been captured by Big Oil, Big Ag and other corporate interests. For my in-depth investigation on the five ways WSPA and Big Oil have captured California politics, go to:

Tom Steyer is single biggest donor in 2016 election

Tom Steyer, a former hedge fund manager and founder of Next Generation Climate Action, the group topping lobbying expenses in the seventh quarter of the legislative session, describes himself as “a business leader and philanthropist who believes we have a moral responsibility to give back and help ensure that every family shares the benefits of economic opportunity, education, and a healthy climate.”(

He is the single biggest donor in the 2016 election in the nation to date. “By the time he’s done, Steyer will have spent more than $75 million on this year’s elections – much of it on ads, starring him, to mobilize millennials for progressive causes,” reported CBS news. (

Steyer said his Next Generation Climate Action has registered almost 750,000 new California voters this year. He is also backing or opposing a number of California propositions on the November’s ballot.

Steyer donated $25,000 to support Governor Jerry Brown’s water bond, Proposition 1, a water grab for corporate agribusiness and Southern California water agencies, in the 2014 election.

Speaking of propositions, you can watch Consumer Watchdog’s new animated short, “Who’s Behind the Props?,” that explains this election’s 17 ballot measures and each prop’s top financial backers in two and a half minutes: