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Oil Money Out, People Power In

California is often portrayed as the nation’s “green leader,” but the reality is much different.

California is in fact the third largest oil producing state in the nation — right behind Texas, the number one state,  and North Dakota, the number two oil producer.

Over the 2015-2016 Legislative Session, the oil industry spent a historic $36.1 million to lobby California lawmakers.  During the last 6 years, the industry has spent $122 million in Sacramento, more than any other interest group.

The Western States Petroleum Association (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.

“This spending spree has paid huge dividends for these companies, allowing them to dismantle and crush any meaningful legislation that might significantly curb their power to drill and pollute in California,” said David Braun, www.rootskeeper.org. “Pay-to-play politics has allowed the dirtiest polluters in the world to legally poison our communities and exacerbate the climate crisis.”

“This is why we are calling on Governor Jerry Brown and our state legislators to stop taking money from the oil industry, and to prioritize the health and safety of their constituents over the oil industry’s profits. And on May 20th, we are taking our message to the streets of Sacramento to demand that our elected officials take a stand with the people of California, and stop taking dirty oil money,” said Braun.   

“As guardians of the public trust, the lack of action from our governor and our legislators our to protect the public is unacceptable,” emphasized Braun. “You can’t take industry money and do their bidding, while saying you are a climate or environmental champion at the same time. We need champions who are looking out for the people, not the oil industry and their profits. Until the flow of money into our elected officials pockets stops or is seriously curtailed, nothing is going to change.”

“Our elected leaders need to make their primary allegiance clear: is it to the oil industry or to the health and safety of their constituents? The days of having it both ways have to come to an end,” Braun said.

Braun urged people to join a diverse array of activists on May 20 from 12 PM to 3 PM for the “Oil Money Out, People Power In” March and Rally in Sacramento, beginning and ending at the Governor’s Mansion, 1526 H Street.

“We are marching to the convention center in Sacramento during the California Democratic Party state convention to call on Governor Jerry Brown and members of our state legislature to take the pledge to stop taking money from the oil industry – the most powerful lobbying group in Sacramento,” explained Braun.

For more information about the campaign and the upcoming march and rally, please visit: www.oilmoneyout.com

Background: California oil lobby tops spending in 2015-16 session with $36.1 million

This is a revised transcript of a speech I gave at the end of the Changefest rally held on the north steps of the State Capitol on January 21 and at a Sacramento Climate Coalition meeting in Sacramento on February 4:

In spite of California’s reputation as a “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.

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 an  American Lung Association report. “That’s enough money to buy 103,000 goats,” reported Stop Fooling California, stopfoolingca.org.

The Western States Petroleum Association (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 this session.

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

In the seventh quarter alone, WSPA dumped $2.6 million into lobbying legislators and state officials while billionaire Tom Steyer’s Next Generation Climate Action spent an unprecedented $7.3 million, almost 3 times the oil industry group’s expenses.

The spending by Steyer’s group helped propel the passage of Senate Bill 32, legislation that reduces greenhouse gas level to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, 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.

Western States Petroleum Association: Sacramento’s most powerful corporate lobbying group

Although the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) is the largest and most powerful corporate lobbying group in the West and California, its enormous influence appears to be one of our state’s best-kept secrets. It has spent more than other lobbying organization in Sacramento in recent years to exert control over the Governor’s Office, regulatory agencies and the State Legislature.

Big Oil, along with Big Ag, Big Pharma, Big Timber and other corporate interests, dominate politics in California, as well as in Washington, D.C., as evidenced by President’s Donald Trump’s nomination of EXXON CEO Rex Tilleson as Secretary of State,  Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator, and other oil and energy corporation shills to his cabinet. The appointment of oil industry officials and their allies to California regulatory panels has been standard practice in California for many years.

The Western States Petroleum Association is 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.

WSPA’s membership includes a who’s who oil, energy and pipeline corporations including Aera Energy LLC, Chevron, Californian Resources Corporation (formerly Occidental Petroleum), ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Noble Energy, Inc., Phillips 66, Plains All American, Inc. Shell Oil Products US, Tesoro Refining and Marketing and Valero.

From January 1, 2009 to November 8, 2016 alone, the oil industry spent $112,371,214 on lobbying expenses in California, according to a report, “The Chevron Way: Polluting California and Degrading Democracy.” The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) Sydney Office produced the report, in collaboration with a coalition of conservation, consumer and environmental justice groups.

The Western States Petroleum Association led the oil industry lobbying expenses with $49,491,104 during this period, followed by Chevron with $24,035,901 and Phillips 66 with $4,821,144.

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.

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.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) in September 2016 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.”

You can download “Brown’s Dirty Hands” at: www.consumerwatchdog.org/dirtyhands

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.  Read the report “How Green Is Jerry Brown?” at: www.consumerwatchdog.org/isbrowngreen

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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