Big Oil defeats California bill to ban new offshore oil drilling

posted in: Ocean and Bays, Spotlight | 0

Showing the enormous power of the oil industry in California despite the state’s “green” image, every bill except one opposed by the powerful oil industry has failed to make it out of the state legislature this year and during the 2015-2016 session.

The latest victim of intense lobbying by Big Oil is Senate Bill 188, a bill authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) to prohibit new pipelines or other infrastructure needed to support new federal oil and gas development.

Senator Jackson introduced SB 188 in response to President Donald Trump’s recent executive order opening the door to expanded offshore oil and gas drilling in federal waters off the California coast.

“The oil industry killed that bill,” Senator Jackson told the Sacramento Bee on September 1. “They are far too powerful.”

The defeat of the bill is a big victory for the oil industry and the Trump administration. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the California Independent Petroleum Association, the California Chamber of Commerce and California Manufacturers & Technology Association spent big money lobbying to defeat the legislation.

A long list of environmental, consumer, fishing and indigenous groups supported the legislation, including the California Coastkeeper Alliance, Environmental Defense Center, Defenders of Wildlife, Food and Water Watch, Friends of the Earth,  Seventh Generation Advisors, Sierra Club Califronia, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation.

The Committee on Appropriations, chaired by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, held the bill in suspension during their hearing on Friday, September 1. Gonzalez Fletcher’s Office declined to comment on the bill in response to a phone call and email.

Before the bill died in Appropriations, the bill passed through the Assembly Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 7 to 3 on July 10.    

Senate Bill 188, jointly authored by Senate Leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), would protect the California coast by “prohibiting the State Lands Commission from approving any new leases for pipelines, piers, wharves, or other infrastructure needed to support new federal oil and gas development in the three mile area off the coast that is controlled by the state.”

Jackson said it would also prohibit any lease renewal, extension or modification that would support the production, transportation or processing of new oil and gas.

“California cannot control what happens in federal waters,” Jackson explained in July after the bill passed through through the Resources Committee. “But three miles from shore, where our power and jurisdiction lie, we can and will take strong and unequivocal action. SB 188 will prevent us from taking a step backward into the outdated, dirty and destructive energy policies of the past, and protect our coast from potential oil spills which could devastate our multi-trillion dollar coastal economy, our coastal waters and our marine life.”

“SB 188 will ensure that California – not the federal government – has the final say in preventing oil and gas production from further disrupting our state’s marine environment, and putting our residents’ health at risk,”  said de León.

Jackson said she intends to revive the bill next year, in spite of it being put in the suspense file this year.

California’s vibrant coastal economy produces approximately $44.5 billion in GDP each year and employs nearly 500,000 people in the state, according to Jackson. The coastal economy employs people in the sportfishing, commercial fishing, recreational, boating, hotel, tourism and other industries.

Big Oil is the most powerful lobby in Sacramento and the Western States Petroleum Association is the most powerful lobbying organization. Big Oil spent over $10.8 million in lobbying in the second quarter of 2017 to pass Jerry Brown’s environmentally unjust cap-and-trade bill, AB 398, through the legislature, as well as to lobby against SB 188.

The San Ramon-based Chevron and subsidiaries topped all other lobbyists in the state with $6,153,952 spent, followed by the Sacramento-based WSPA with $2,528,751 and the San Antonio-based Tesoro Refining and Marketing Co. LLC with $2,193.489.

In their articles about the defeat of SB 188, both the Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times failed to mention that the same Big Oil lobbyist that led the campaign to defeat SB 188 and pass AB 398 also chaired a powerful marine protection panel in Southern California in a classic example of the “fox guarding the hen house.”

That’s right — Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create alleged “marine protected areas” in Southern California from 2009 to 2012. She also served on the task forces to create so-called “marine protected areas on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast from 2004 to 2012. (…)

These faux “marine protected areas” created under her watch fail to protect the ocean from offshore oil drilling, fracking, oil spills, pollution, military testing and all human impacts other than sustainable fishing and gathering.

Fishing organizations, Tribal leaders, and grassroots environmentalists strongly opposed Reheis-Boyd’s leadership role in the privately funded process, while state officials and corporate “environmental” NGO representatives claimed that the process she oversaw was “open, transparent and inclusive,” even though it was anything but.

Background: Big Oil spent $36.1 million lobbying in 2015-16 session

The California Oil Lobby was the biggest spender in the 2015-16 legislative session, spending an amazing $36.1 million on lobbying over the two-year period. Based on the oil industry lobbying over the past two quarters, it looks like the industry may set a new spending record this session.

Big Oil spending last session amounted to $1.5 million per month — nearly $50,000 per day. The $36.1 million surpassed the $34 million spent in the prior session, according to an American Lung Association report. To read the complete report, go to: 

WSPA was the top overall oil industry spender during the 2015-16 session, spending $18.7 million. As is normally the case, WSPA ranked #1 among all lobbying spenders last session. In the seventh quarter alone, WSPA dumped $2.6 million into lobbying legislators and state officials.

Chevron, the second overall oil industry spender, spent $7 million in the 2015-16 session. It spent $3 million in 2016 alone, sixth among all lobbyists in the session.

The only bill opposed by the oil industry that made it out of the legislature to be signed by Governor Jerry Brown was Senate Bill 32, legislation that reduces greenhouse gas level to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The reason for the bill’s passage was because billionaire Tom Steyer’s Next Generation Climate Action spent  $7.3 million lobbying for the bill in the seventh quarter of the session.

Since the 2007-08 Session, the oil industry has spent over $146 million in lobbying in California when you include the figures for the first two quarters of 2017.

WSPA and Big Oil use their money and power in 5 ways: through (1) lobbying; (2) campaign spending; (3) creating Astroturf groups: 4) working in collaboration with media; and (5) getting appointed to positions on and influencing regulatory panels.

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