How Oil Lobbyists Are Writing California’s Environmental Laws

Catherine Reheis Boyd, the chair of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, apparently believes that oil industry lobbyists should not only oversee the implementation of California environmental laws, but write them also!

On July 12, Schwarzenegger’s “marine guardian,” the president of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), told Sacramento Bee reporter Rick Daysog the following nugget of environmental wisdom, in reference to AB 32 (the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006):

“I’m not going to say we love this thing, but if that’s the way the state wants to go … we want to make sure that we write regulations that we can comply with and are feasible to do.”

Hold on there, Catherine – I thought that the Legislature and public officials, not oil lobbyists, were supposed to write laws! Not only are you a key official responsible for overseeing the MLPA, but you now consider yourself charged with the task of writing California’s environmental laws also?

Schwarzenegger appointed the oil industry superstar to oversee the implementation of the MLPA for the South Coast. She also sits on the MLPA task force for the North Coast and and sat on the task force for the North Coast

While she is willing to kick Indian Tribes, fishermen, divers and seaweed harvesters off the water to create so-called marine protected areas (MPAs), she has proclaimed numerous times in recent months the need for new oil drilling off the California coast. Incredibly, she does this as the worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. history, the BP Oil Gusher, continues to ravage the Gulf of Mexico and its fishing communities.

Reheis-Boyd, who was apparently installed on the three MLPA panels to make sure that marine reserves don’t intrude upon the oil industry’s present oil drilling operations and future plans, is no Rachel Carson or John Muir. Maybe I’m missing something, but calling for new oil drilling off the California coast doesn’t seem like marine “protection” to me.

For example, in her latest commentary on the association’s website, http://www.wspa.org, Reheis-Boyd stated, “WSPA has not taken a position on specific offshore projects. But we have been vocal about our views that California businesses and consumers would benefit from development of the huge reserves of petroleum off the California coast, in both state and federal waters.”

Then on June 22 in an op-ed on the Noozehawk website, Reheis-Boyd attempted to gloss over the public outrage over the BP Gulf Oil Gusher by touting the “very good” safety record of the oil industry.

“We realize that recent events in the Gulf of Mexico have shaken public confidence in our industry’s ability to produce oil safely,” she said. “However, our industry’s safety record around the world, around the United States and here in California has been very good.”

Reheis-Boyd should try to tell the fishermen and residents of Gulf Coast communities now devastated by the daily carnage in the BP disaster about the oil industry’s “very good” safety record. But she doesn’t care about these communities, just as she doesn’t care about the coastal Indian Tribes, fishermen, divers and coastal communities threatened by false marine “protection,” Schwarzenegger-style.

The MLPA was a landmark law signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999. Unfortunately, the MLPA Initiative under Schwarzenegger has nothing to do with real marine protection, since oil drilling, water pollution, wave energy projects, habitat destruction and all other human uses of the ocean other than fishing have been completely taken off the table. The panels that designate marine reserves are overseen by oil industry, marina development, real estate and other corrupt corporate interests.

However, the most shameful thing about this process is how the representatives of “Big Green” environmental NGOs such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Conservancy and League of Conservation Voters have shamelessly greenwashed Schwarzenenegger’s MLPA fiasco, continually claiming that it is an “open and transparent process.” These folks apparently think that there is nothing wrong with oil industry, real estate, marina development and other big business interests dominating what passes for marine “protection” in California.

The MLPA was designed to protect ocean resources, but tribal leaders in the Coastal Justice Coalition say that the current initiative is “an attempt by the Schwarzenegger Administration to greenwash his legacy.” In a protest challenging MLPA officials, 40 members of local American Indian Tribes took over the MLPA Science Advisory Team meeting in Eureka on June 29, demanding that they not be blamed for the decline in ocean fisheries.

“We gathered and harvested the ocean’s bounty for thousand of years in a sustainable manner,” said Frankie Joe Myers, a Yurok ceremonial leader and member of the Coastal Justice Coalition. “For California to blame Tribes for it’s reckless mis-management of our fisheries for the last century is simply appalling,”

The MLPA, funded privately by the Resources Legacy Fund Fund Foundation, paves the way for deep water drilling off the California coast while trying to kick tribes, the stewards of the ocean for thousands of years, off their traditional gathering sites on the coast. The MLPA represents elitism, racism and environmental injustice at its worst – and Tribes, fishermen, seaweed harvesters and real environmentalists will continue to resist this insidious program to privatize the oceans!

DAN BACHER can be reached at: Danielbacher@fishsniffer.com





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Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento. He can be reached at: Dan Bacher danielbacher@fishsniffer.com.

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