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A prominent California oil industry lobbyist not only served as a high ranking official overseeing the creation of marine protected areas in California, but also currently sits on a federal marine protected areas advisory panel, according to information published on the NOAA website.
In one of the biggest conflicts of interest in recent California history, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called “marine protected areas” in Southern California from 2009 to 2011.
During the period from 2004 to 2012, she also served on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast. Under her leadership, she and other corporate interests made sure that oil industry operations, including fracking operations in Southern California waters, weren’t impacted at all by the creation of “marine protected areas.”
While grassroots environmentalists, Tribal leaders and fishermen have blasted Reheis-Boyd’s leadership role in what passes for “marine protection” in California, few people are aware of her service on a federal marine protected areas panel also.
The National Marine Protected Areas Center website lists Reheis-Boyd as a member of a 20 member MPA (Marine Protected Areas) Advisory Committee.
According to the website, the Committee members “include representatives from different geographic regions, including the Great Lakes and U.S. territories. They represent a wide variety of interests including resource management (state, territory, and tribal), science (economics, anthropology, and marine sciences), policy (environmental and social), and industry (commercial and recreational fishing, oil and gas production, shipping and ports, and recreation and tourism).”
The website explains the purpose of the Advisory Committee:
“The Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Federal Advisory Committee is mandated by Executive Order 13158 and is supported by the National Marine Protected Areas Center. It is made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds and experience, who represent parties interested in the use of MPAs as a management tool. Committee members, 30 in all, are appointed by the Secretary of Commerce, and serve four-year, non-renewable terms. They represent a broad stakeholder community, including scientists, academia, commercial fishermen, anglers, divers, state and tribal resource managers, the energy and tourism industries, and environmentalists, among others.
In addition, nine federal agencies are represented by non-voting ex-officio members of the committee.
The committee’s role is to provide expert advice and recommendations to the Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior on implementation of aspects of Section 4 of Executive Order 13158, the heart of the national MPA initiative.
The committee functions solely as an advisory body, complying fully with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) of 1972 (5 U.S.C. App. 2).”
Interestingly, while the biographies of other members of the committee are listed on the website, Reheis-Boyd’s biography isn’t listed. The website states, “Bio coming soon.”
The first MPA Federal Advisory Committee was appointed by the Secretary of Commerce in 2003 and met for the first time in June 2003.
Reheis-Boyd’s presence on both state and federal marine protected area panels is very alarming when you consider that Reheis-Boyd is the head lobbyist for fracking and offshore oil drilling in California.
In her latest post on the WSPA blog, the oil lobbyist/”marine guardian” slams the Carson City Council’s vote to impose a moratorium on fracking and oil exploration in the city, following in the wake of the LA City Council’s vote to ban fracking.
Reheis-Boyd claims that Carson’s action has “no scientific basis,” in spite of a plethora of studies, reports and videos documenting the environmentally destructive impact of fracking on groundwater supplies, rivers, wildlife, fish and human health, and claims the campaign was instigated by “outside groups”
Reheis-Boyd said, “The Carson City Council’s vote to stop all oil and natural gas exploration and production activities is an alarming development. The Council’s action appears to be a response to outside groups with little connection to the local community that are pursuing an aggressively anti-oil and natural gas agenda.
There is no scientific basis for the Council’s action. Hydraulic fracturing has been used safely and effectively to produce oil in California for more than 60 years without any harm to water supplies, air quality, or other environmental resources. It is unfortunate the City Council was persuaded to take the precipitous action by the outside advocacy groups using false and misleading information. In fact, Oxy has repeatedly stated that hydraulic fracturing will not be used for this project and has asked the City of Carson to withdraw hydraulic fracturing from the project’s scope.
It is even more alarming that the Council acted to halt all oil and natural gas drilling, even that which does not utilize the hydraulic fracturing technology. The decision will deprive the city of the significant revenue it would otherwise receive from those prohibited activities, revenues that could have been used to support police, fire and other local services.”
Besides writing numerous posts on her WSPA blog, Reheis-Boyd has become a media super star, penning numerous opinion pieces and letters in the mainstream media, and is frequently quoted in the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Associated Press and other major media outlets. Of course, these corporate media outlets fail to mention that Reheis-Boyd has served as a state and federal “marine guardian” who led the panel that developed so-called “marine protected areas” in Southern California.
Corporate “environmental” NGO representatives and state officials have continually gushed that the privately-funded MLPA Initiative created “underwater parks” and “Yosemites of the Sea.”
In fact, the alleged “marine protected areas” in state waters developed under the leadership of the big oil industry lobbyist and her collaborators on the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force fail to protect ocean from oil drilling, fracking, pollution, corporate aquaculture, wind and wave energy projects, military testing and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering.
While Reheis-Boyd apparently doesn’t wield the same power on the federal marine protected area advisory committee that she did as Chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force to create “marine protected areas” in Southern California’s state marine waters, the fact the oil lobbyist has served on a federal panel charged with advising the federal government on MPAs is disturbing, to say the least.
In both cases, this is a classic example of the “fox guarding the hen house” – and how big money purchases political power in California and the U.S.
Caleen Audrey Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, said allowing a big oil industry lobbyist to serve on state and federal “marine protected area” panels is “outright WRONG.”
“How can this continue to be overlooked and allowed? Where is the public on these things? When will the public refuse to accept this outright WRONG? The Mega Corporations have loop holes to provide funding and personnel to government to run their billion dollar destructive project through. It is so sad the public has no recourse because they are held hostage and want the two bit jobs!”
WSPA Leads Spending on Lobbying
The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) that Reheis-Boyd heads is the most powerful corporate lobbying organization in Sacramento. The organization spent over $4.67 million, more than any other interest group, while lobbying state government in 2013, according to data released by the Secretary State’s Office and compiled by the Capitol Morning Report.
Reheis-Boyd led the successful campaign last year by the oil industry to defeat all one bill to ban or regulate the environmentally destructive practice of fracking.
The oil industry added last minute amendments to Senator Fran Pavley’s already weak legislation to regulate fracking in California, Senate Bill 4, last September, making an already bad bill even worse. Governor Jerry Brown signed the legislation, dubbed by environmentalists the “green light for fracking” bill, on September 20.
Another oil company giant, Chevron Corporation and its subsidiaries, spent $3.95 million, the third most spent by any group on lobbying state government in 2013.
A report released last year by the American Lung Association revealed that the oil industry lobby spent $45.4 million in the state in just the period between January 1 2009 and June 30, 2013. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) has spent over $20 million since 2009 to lobby legislators.
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.
Governor Jerry Brown, a strong supporter of the environmentally destructive practice of fracking, has become known as the “Big Oil Brown.” Robert Gammon, East Bay Express reporter, revealed that before Governor 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.
Conflicts of Interests Abound in California Environmental Politics
Reheis-Boyd’s role as a “marine guardian” for both the state and federal governments is just one example of the many conflicts of interests that infest environmental politics in California. These conflicts of interest include the following:
• The Governor’s appointment of Laura King Moon, a lobbyist for the state’s water exporters, as Chief Deputy Director for the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) in September 2013. Before her appointment, she served as a project manager for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan while “on loan” from the State Water Contractors, as chief deputy director for Department of Water Resources. (https://www.counterpunch.org/2013/09/20/gov-brown-appoints-water-lobbyist-to-california-department-of-water-resources/)
• The resignation of State Senator Michael J. Rubio in February 2013 to go work in a “government affairs” position for Chevron. Rubio, who was leading the charge to weaken the landmark California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and make it friendlier to corporations, claimed he resigned in order to spend more time with his family.
• The Department of Water Resource’s hiring of Susan Ramos “on loan” from the Westlands Water District, the “Darth Vader” of California water politics, to serve as “a liaison between all relevant parties” surrounding the Delta Habitat Conservation and Conveyance Program (DHCCP) and provide “technical and strategic assistance” to DWR.
• The failure of Katherine Hart Johns, Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board member, to report her husband’s separate property interest in his lobbying firm, California Resource Strategies, Inc., on her 2006, 2007, and 2008 annual Statements of Economic Interests. The California Fair Political Practices Commission fined Hart Johns only $600 for this overt conflict of interest, in a classic example of how violators of state ethics and environmental laws often get off with a mere “slap on the wrist.”
Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento. He can be reached at: Dan Bacher firstname.lastname@example.org.