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Big Oil’s Revolving Door in California

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the most powerful corporate lobbying group in Sacramento, announced the hiring of former Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno) as Senior Vice President, Policy and Strategic Affairs, on March 27.

In Perea’s new role, he will advise WSPA on public policy and legislative matters in California, according to a statement from Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association and former Chair of the privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create so-called “marine protected areas” in Southern California.

Perea joins four other recent additions to the WSPA staff, including three public relations specialists and an in-house general counsel, as the oil industry gears up to further expand its already huge influence and power in California politics.

WSPA ranked number one in lobbying expenses for all organizations in California during the 2015-16 legislative session, spending a total of $18.7 million. It also ranked first in spending among the state’s oil industry lobbying organizations in the state during the session, with Chevron finishing second among oil industry spenders with $7 million.

“The members and employees of our industry and the thousands of small businesses that join us in fueling California’s economy deserve the best team possible representing them in Sacramento and all around the state,” Reheis-Boyd said. “Henry brings us unique expertise. He understands our state, our industry and how smart public policy can ensure California’s continued leadership in environmental protections while maintaining a diverse, vibrant economy.”

During his career in the legislature, Perea became known as the leader of the so-called “moderate Democrats,” those legislators most friendly to the interests of Big Oil, Big Ag and other corporate lobbies.

Besides being an ally of the oil industry, Perea was also a strong supporter of Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels plan, co-authoring a pro-tunnels opinion piece in the Fresno Bee with California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird on August 22, 2015. “I am pleased to join WSPA and help tell the important story of the petroleum industry and the role it plays in our economy,” Perea said in a statement. “California is a state known for innovation, leadership and opportunity, values WSPA’s members have brought to our state for generations.”

Prior to joining WSPA, Perea was Senior Director with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America where he oversaw public policy issues in California, Arizona and Nevada. Perea represented the 31st Assembly District (Fresno-area) in the California State Assembly from 2010 to 2015.

Perea’s first day at WSPA will be May 1, 2017.

In addition to Perea, WSPA also recently hired four other staff members to increase its already enormous influence over the Governor’s Offices, state regulatory agencies and the Legislature. The communications department added three new team members in March.

“Our industry has a great story to tell and we have hired a team with the talent and enthusiasm to do it effectively,” Reheis-Boyd explained. “We sought best-of-class talent, and we found it.”

Kevin Slagle will lead communications efforts for WSPA as Vice President, Strategic Communications, a newly created position.

“He brings more than two decades of wide-ranging public affairs, public relations, and issues management experience for clients throughout the West. Before joining the team at WSPA, Kevin was a senior vice president at Ogilvy Public Relations in Sacramento for five years,” said Reheis-Boyd.

Kara Siepmann joins the WSPA communications team as the manager, Media Relations.

“Kara has a wealth of experience with marketing and advertising campaigns, public affairs, and media relations and served as commander of the 69th Public Affairs Detachment in the California Army National Guard,” stated Reheis-Boyd.

Julie Berge will serve as the Manager, Public Relations, on the communications team.

“Julie brings 15 years of experience in all areas of corporate communications, public affairs and media relations. She most recently was a Social Media and Brand Communications Manager at VSP Global,” said Reheis-Boyd.

“I’m thrilled to have a team with such experience and previous success join us,” Reheis-Boyd said. “We welcome Kevin, Kara, and Julie to the WSPA family.”

The Association has also created a new post, In-House General Counsel for the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), hiring Oyango Snell,

“Oyango is an outstanding attorney with extensive and successful experience in working with industries like ours,” Reheis-Boyd said. “He will play a key role at WSPA as we confront the complex legal challenges facing our members.”

Oyango is moving from Washington D.C., where he currently serves as Counsel, State Government Relations, for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI). Prior to joining PCI, Oyango “spent his professional career in state government relations in both the public and private sectors in Columbus, Ohio,” according to WSPA.

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) describes itself as “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 California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, and Nevada.”

In spite of California’s dubious reputation as the nation’s “green leader,” Big Oil is the largest corporate lobby in the state and exerts enormous influence over the Governor’s Office, Legislature and regulatory agencies. California is the third biggest oil producer in the U.S., exceeded only by Texas (first) and North Dakota (second).

As usual, the California Oil Lobby was the biggest spender in the 2015-16 legislative session, spending an amazing $36.1 million as of December 31, 2016.

The spending amounts to $1.5 million per month — nearly $50,000 per day — over the last two years. The $36.1 million surpassed the $34 million spent in the prior session, according to a report by the American Lung Association in California.

The huge lobbying spending spree by Big Oil and WSPA during the 2015-16 session resulted in the defeat or gutting of virtually every bill that the oil industry opposed, including legislation, SB 788, to ban oil drilling in a state marine reserve that was created under the helm of the WSPA President. (leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/…)

The one exception was in the session’s seventh quarter when billionaire Tom Steyer’s Next Generation Climate Action spent an unprecedented $7.3 million lobbying for Senate Bill 32, legislation that reduces greenhouse gas level to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. That’s almost 3 times the $2.6 million that WSPA spent that quarter. The spending by Steyer’s group was largely responsible for the passage of SB 32, in spite of strong opposition by the oil industry.

Since the 2007-08 Session, the oil industry has spent $133 million in lobbying in California.

Background: the five ways Big Oil exerts its influence

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

Big Oil and other corporate advocates have dominated appointments to Commissions and regulatory panels in California under Governors Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown, ranging from the Department of Conservation, to the California Public Utilities Commission, to the California Energy Commission, to the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force.

In a classic case of the “fox guarding the hen house, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Forces to create faux “marine protected areas” in Southern California from 2009 to 2012 at the same the oil industry was fracking South Coast ocean waters.

Reheis-Boyd, appointed by Schwarzenegger, also served on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast, and North Coast from 2004 to 2012. These so-called “Yosemites of the Sea” fail to protect the ocean from fracking, offshore oil drilling, oil spills, pollution, military testing and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering.

It gets worse. Reheis-Boyd’s husband, James D. Boyd, first appointed by Governor Davis, sat on on the California Energy Commission from 2002 to 2012, including serving as Vice-Chair of the Commission from 2/2007 to 1/2012.

In September 2016, the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) opened an investigation into the California Democratic Party in response to a report by a prominent consumer group, Consumer Watchdog, claiming that the party acted as a “laundry machine” to funnel donations from oil, energy and utility companies to Brown’s 2014 election campaign.

In the “Brown’s Dirty Hands” report, Consumer Watchdog revealed that that twenty-six energy companies including the state’s three major investor-owned utilities, Occidental, Chevron, and NRG—all with business before the state—donated $9.8 million to Jerry Brown’s campaigns, causes, and initiatives, and to the California Democratic Party since he ran for Governor for his third term. Donations were often made within days or weeks of winning favors. The three major investor-owned utilities alone contributed nearly $6 million.

“Occidental’s attorney, former Governor Gray Davis, successfully pressured Brown to fire two oil and gas regulators who wouldn’t grant oil waste injection permits without proof that aquifers would not be contaminated,” according to the group. “Two months later, when Brown’s new interim oil and gas supervisor granted Occidental a permit without an environmental review, Occidental contributed $250,000 to Prop 30, Brown’s ballot measure to raise taxes, then another $100,000 two weeks later to his favored Oakland Military Institute. Seven months later, Occidental made a second $250,000 donation to Prop 30.”

More recently on February 6, twelve public interest groups, led by Consumer Watchdog and Food & Water Watch, unveiled a comprehensive report card on the Brown Administration’s environmental record revealing that he falls short in six out of seven key areas, including fossil fuel generated electricity, oil drilling, and coastal protection.

There is no doubt that Big Oil and other corporate interests dominate politics in California and Washington — and that we must relentlessly work to get Big Oil out of politics by supporting efforts like the Move to Amend, movetoamend.org, and the California Clean Money Campaign, www.caclean.org.

More articles by:

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

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