Jerry Brown, one of the worst governors for fish, water and the environment in California history, spoke to world leaders at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City on September 23 in a cynical attempt to greenwash his deplorable environmental record.
During his U.N. address, Governor Brown touted California’s controversial carbon trading policies as an example of “innovative climate strategies.”
“The California story is a very hopeful one,” Brown gushed. “It’s a story of Republican and Democratic governors pioneering innovative climate strategies. It’s not been easy, it’s not without contest, but we’re making real progress.”
“I believe that from the bottom up, we can make real impact and we need to join together,” added Governor Brown. “We’re signing MOUs with Quebec and British Columbia, with Mexico, with states in China and wherever we can find partners, because we know we have to do it all.”
Brown’s remarks at the summit are available here.
In a video message ahead of the Summit, Brown claimed, “We are carrying on because we know in California that carbon pollution kills, it undermines our environment, and, long-term, it’s an economic loser. We face an existential challenge with the changes in our climate. The time to act is now. The place to look is California.”
Yes, California, now under attack by the anti-environmental policies and carbon trading greenwashing campaign by Governor Brown, is definitely “the place to look” for one example after another of environmental destruction.
Once known as “Governor Moonbeam” for his quirkiness and eccentricities during his first two administrations from 1975 to 1983, has in his third administration transformed himself into “Big Oil Brown.”
According to Jessie McKinley in the New York Times, The “Governor Moonbeam” nickname “was coined by Mike Royko, the famed Chicago columnist, who in 1976 said that Mr. Brown appeared to be attracting ‘the moonbeam vote; which in Chicago political parlance meant young, idealistic and nontraditional.”
Thirty-eight years later, Oil Change International, a research, communication, and advocacy organization focused on “exposing the true costs of fossil fuels and facilitating the coming transition towards clean energy” has given Brown a new nickname, “Big Oil Brown,” for the large contributions he has received from oil companies and his support of fracking. The web page dedicated to “Big Oil Brown” features Jerry attired in a suit and cowboy hat like a Texas oil baron right next to an oil rig.
“California’s Governor Jerry Brown has a problem: he wants to be seen as a climate champion who understands the science and takes this crisis seriously. At the same time, he just proposed new fracking rules in California that would amount to a gift to Big Oil. He can’t have it both ways,” according to the web page.
The group has also created a spoof ad about “Jerry Brown’s Frackwater Cologne.”
Leaders of environmental organizations, Indian Tribes and fishing groups are upset that Brown signed Senator Fran Pavley’s Senate Bill 4, the green light for fracking bill that clears the path for expanded fracking in California, in September 2013. The last minute amendments to the bill by the oil industry were so odious that they spurred the League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense Fund to withdraw their support at the last minute for the already weak legislation.
The bill made California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review of fracking permits optional and prevents imposing a moratorium on fracking for 15 months.
Big Oil strongly supported the amended version of Senate Bill 4 that Brown signed. Just ask Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association and former chair of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, who praised the governor’s signing of Senate Bill 4 for creating the “environmental” platform to expand fracking in California.
“With the signing of Senate Bill 4, California has the toughest regulations of hydraulic fracturing and other energy production technologies in the country,” said Reheis-Boyd. “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
Brown has received over $2 million from Big Oil
Brown signed the bill after receiving at least $2,014,570.22 from fossil fuel interests since his race for Attorney General in 2006.
In the 2014 election cycle, four oil companies have contributed a total of $161,000 to the Brown campaign to date, according to Oil Change International. Occidental Petroleum has given $27,200, the maximum legally allowed. Edison and Chevron have both contributed $27,200 twice, once for the primary election and another for the general election. Phillips 66 has nearly maxed out with a $25,000 contribution. Fossil fuel industry contributions in 2010 Governor’s race were $198,451.22.
Proposition 30, one of the Governor’s signature policy initiatives in 2012, was also heavily funded by Big Oil. The oil and gas companies contributed over $1,118,418 to the campaign, including $500,000 from Occidental Petroleum.
It gets worse. Opponents of Proposition 1, the controversial State Water Bond, on September 20 criticized Governor Jerry Brown and the backers of Prop. 1 for taking over $2.8 million raised to enact a tax increase for public education through Proposition 30 and diverting it to their campaign to pass “the biggest dam-building program in California history!”
Carolee Krieger, No on Prop. 1 leader and California Water Impact Network (CWIN) Executive Director, said, “The governor is using a legal loophole to divert donations for public education to back his deadbeat dams, pork programs and subsidies for huge agribusiness. None of the donors of this $2.8 million left over from Prop. 30 could have had any idea their money would be spent on this water bond.”
In addition, fossil fuel industry interests have donated $355,000 to Brown’s two Oakland charter schools since 2006. In 2013 alone, Occidental Petroleum gave The Oakland Military Institute $150,000 at Brown’s behest.
Brown backs carbon trading, Delta death tunnels
But the Governor’s signing of the green light to fracking bill is just one of the many attacks on the environment that Brown has engaged in.
Governor Brown is an avid supporter of the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation+) that allows Northern Hemisphere polluters to buy forest carbon offset credits from the global South. Brown is trying to link an agreement among Chiapas, Mexico; Acre, Brazil; and California, to AB32, which commits to a 25% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions for 2020, and an 80% reduction for 2050).
Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, exposed the impact of Brown’s REDD policies on the environment and Indigenous Peoples when he spoke at a protest against Brown’s failed environmental policies in San Francisco on October 17, 2013 when Brown was slated to receive environmental leadership award by the Blue Green Alliance. Brown didn’t show up, probably because of those, including Goldtooth and Michael Preston of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, who gathered outside to protest the event.
“Despite being awarded, as I speak, for his supposed environmentalism, Governor Brown is moving ahead with a policy that grabs land, clear-cuts forests, destroys biodiversity, abuses Mother Earth, pimps Father Sky and threatens the cultural survival of Indigenous Peoples
This policy privatizes the air we breathe. Commodifies the clouds. Buy and sells the atmosphere. Corrupts the Sacred.
This policy is called carbon trading and REDD. REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation. But REDD really means Reaping profits from Evictions, land grabs, Deforestation and Destruction of biodiversity. REDD does nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at source. And REDD may result in the biggest land grab of the last 500 years.”
Brown has also rushed the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels, a $67 billion boondoggle that will hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt and numerous other fish species, as well as imperiling salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath Rivers. The plan would take large tracts of fertile Delta farmland out of production in order to irrigate drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, all under the guise of “habitat restoration.”
Every scientific panel, ranging from the Independent Delta Science Board to the National Academy of Sciences, has criticized the flawed “science” behind the twin tunnel plan.
More recently, the state and federal governments decided to delay the proposed project following the 43-page comment letter by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) slamming the Bay Delta Conservation Plan’s draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS).
The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) said the controversial plan to construct two 35-mile long tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to divert Sacramento River water to “agricultural plantations” in the deserts of southern California “was placed on life support” when the California Department of Water Resources announced that a revised EIR/EIS would be delayed until sometime in 2015.
“BDCP’s friends and family anxiously expressed hope that an infusion of additional millions of dollars and months of treatment would enable the project to recover,” quipped Bill Jennings, CSPA Executive Director. “However, the EPA comments coming on top of some 4,500 pages of searing reviews by municipalities, counties and water agencies that would be adversely impacted by the project, almost 2,000 pages of highly critical comments by environmental and fishing organizations, hundreds of pages of harsh analyses by government agencies and stinging comments from many thousands of California citizens reveal that BDCP is suffering from a congenital terminal illness.
Brown administration exported record amounts of Delta water
The Brown administration also authorized the export of record water amounts of water from the Delta in 2011 – 6,520,000 acre-feet, 217,000 acre feet more than the previous record of 6,303,000 acre feet set in 2005 under Schwarzenegger. Most of this water went to corporate agribusiness, including mega-farmers irrigating unsustainable, selenium-laced land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
The record water exports spurred massive fish kills at the state and federal Delta pumps. The Brown administration “salvaged” a record of nearly 9 million Sacramento splittail and over 2 million salmon, steelhead, striped bass, largemouth bass, threadfin shad, white catfish and sturgeon in the Delta export pumping facilities in 2011. Since the actual number of fish killed in the pumps is at least 5 to 10 times those reported, the actual number of fish killed is probably 55 million to 110 million.
More recently, Governor and the Obama administration oversaw the systematic emptying of Folsom and other northern California reservoirs last year during a record drought, imperiling struggling salmon and steelhead populations and local water supplies.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, the Brown and Obama administration’s anti-fish and pro-agribusiness policies have resulted in pushing Delta fish populations closer to extinction. A Delta fish survey released by the California Department of Wildlife in January 2014 confirms the continuing collapse of the ecosystem of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas.
The 2013 indices (a relative number of abundance) for Delta smelt, a federal and state endangered species, and American shad were the second lowest in the 46 years of the survey. The striped bass index was tied for third lowest, while the longfin smelt and threadfin shad indices were the eighth and fifth lowest, respectively, according to Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.
Oil lobbyist-overseen marine “protection”
Brown has also forged ahead with one of the worst environmental programs of the Schwarzenegger regime, the privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative. In one of the most egregious conflicts of interests in modern California history, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), chaired the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, as well as serving on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.
It is no surprise that the alleged “marine protected areas” fast-tracked under the Schwarzenegger and Brown administrations fail to protect the ocean from pollution, fracking, offshore oil drilling, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering.
In fact, a Freedom of Information Act and Associated Press investigation last year revealed that Southern California marine waters were fracked at least 203 times in the past 20 years.
Much of the fracking took place while the Western States Petroleum Association president was overseeing the creation of the oil industry-friendly “marine protected areas.” Does anybody think there might have been a conflict of interest here?
Brown’s relentless march to environmental destruction
Other abysmal environmental policies of the “Green Energy Governor” include the following:
Department of Conservation Shake-Up: Brown fired Acting Director Derk Chernow and Oil and Gas Supervisor Elena Miller and appointed oil industry-friendly Mark Nechodom in 2011, amidst claims by the oil industry and their political allies that the two officials weren’t granting permits quickly and easily enough. As a result, risky injection oil drilling permits increased by 18 percent.
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA): Brown is trying to weaken or even eliminate CEQA, one of California’s greatest environmental laws, to fast-track big developments for giant corporations like Walmart, Berkshire Hathaway, General Electric, Valero and Chevron.
Clear cutting in the Sierra Nevada: Brown is doing nothing to stop Sierra Pacific Industries from clear cutting forests, destroying wildlife habitat, and contributing to climate change.
“Theme Park” Wetlands: The Department of Fish and Wildlife under the Jerry Brown administration is working with the Annenberg Foundation to bulldoze a section of the Ballona Wetlands to build an interpretive center and help with the “restoration” of the land around the center. As I have documented in article after article, Brown, rather than a being an “environmental leader” or “climate leader” as some proclaim, appears to be on a relentless march to the destruction of fish, water and the environment. He has definitely earned the nickname of “Big Oil Brown.”
For more information about Brown’s abysmal environmental policies, go here.
Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento. He can be reached at: Dan Bacher firstname.lastname@example.org.