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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections
Phil Isenberg on Board of Bechtel Foundation-Funded PPIC
The relationship between Bechtel and the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) is so close that the PPIC's conference center is named the "Bechtel Conference Center."
Photo of Bechtel Conference Center by PPIC.
Phil Isenberg on Board of Bechtel Foundation-Funded PPIC
by Dan Bacher
Phil Isenberg, then Chair of the Delta Stewardship Council, on September 11, 2013 joined the Board of Directors of the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), a self-described "nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank" that exerts considerable influence over public policy in the state.
Isenberg has served in leadership roles in both the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create so-called "marine protected areas" in California and planning processes promoting the construction of the peripheral tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
"Phil Isenberg has served since 2010 as chair of the Delta Stewardship Council, which was created by the state legislature to achieve the coequal goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem," according to a press release from the PPIC. "He was chair of the California Marine Life Protection Act Blue Ribbon Task Force and chairman of the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force, whose recommendations provided much of the structure for the major changes in water policy enacted in 2009."
The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, funded by the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, created a network of questionable "marine protected areas" that fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, corporate aquaculture, military testing and and all human impacts other than fishing and gathering. From 2004 through 2006, Isenberg chaired the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force for the Central Coast, the first "study region" where the alleged "marine protected areas" were imposed.
The Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force chaired by Isenberg from 2007 to 2008 cleared the path for the construction of the peripheral tunnels under the current Bay Delta Conservation Plan and the water bond/water policy legislation of 2009. The peripheral tunnels promoted by Isenberg will hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead,Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperil steelhead and salmon on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.
Previously, Isenberg served as a member of the Assembly, representing parts of Sacramento, Contra Costa, and San Joaquin Counties. He was also mayor of Sacramento and a Sacramento City Council member.
On the same day that Isenberg joined the PPIC Board, Donna Lucas, CEO and president of Lucas Public Affairs, was elected board chair and Patrick Murphy, professor of politics at the University of San Francisco, joined PPIC as director of research and senior fellow. "The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) welcomed three distinguished Californians into key leadership roles today," the press release claimed.
Isenberg is currently the Vice-Chair of the Delta Stewardship Council. Under his leadership, the Council last spring produced a Delta Plan and an Environmental Impact Report that were so terminally flawed that an array of parties, ranging from the Westlands Water District to fishing groups, were forced to file lawsuits contesting the documents.
On 17 June 2013, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, California Water Impact Network, AquAlliance, Friends of the River, Center For Biological Diversity and Restore the Delta filed lawsuit against the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan and EIR. The lawsuit alleges numerous explicit violations of the statutory requirements of the Delta Reform Act, CEQA and Public Trust Doctrine.
"The Delta Plan violates CEQA in ten different ways," said Michael Jackson, the Attorney for the five groups. "It fails to achieve the co-equal goals of Delta ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability established by the Act. The Delta Plan may be the most incomplete environmental document I’ve even seen."
"The council ignored three critical documents they were obligated to use: a State Water Resources Control Board water flow recommendation; a Department of Fish and Wildlife report on biological objectives, and the Delta Protection Commission’s economic sustainability report. In all three cases, the documents were inconvenient to the approval of the tunnels," Jackson concluded.
In addition to Isenberg, Lucas and Mark Baldassare, the PPIC president and CEO, the current PPIC board members are: Ruben Barrales, president and CEO of GROW Elect; María Blanco, vice president of civic engagement at the California Community Foundation; attorney Brigitte Bren; Walter B. Hewlett, chair of the board of directors at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; author and farmer David Mas Masumoto; Steven Merksamer, senior partner at Neilsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Gross & Leoni, LLP; Kim Polese, chairman of ClearStreet, Inc.; and Thomas Sutton, retired chairman and CEO of the Pacific Life Insurance Company.
PPIC reports, conference center funded by S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation
Opponents of the peripheral tunnels aren't surprised by Isenberg's appointment to the board of PPIC, since the PPIC has sponsored several S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation-funded studies promoting the construction of the Delta tunnels in recent years.
The PPIC's most recent report, "Paying for Water in California," is supported with funding from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and the California Water Foundation, an initiative of the Resources Legacy Fund. (http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=1086)
The relationship between the Bechtel Foundation and PPIC is so close that the PPIC's conference center is named the "Bechtel Conference Center."
According to the PPIC website, "The Bechtel Conference Center is designed to serve as both a meeting place and a learning center for nonprofit organizations, highlighting the value that PPIC places on civic engagement, consensus-building, and respect for different perspectives. The center was made possible by a gift from the Stephen Bechtel Fund and opened in spring 2011. In its design and operation, the center reflects the values that PPIC and the Bechtel family place on environmental and technological innovation." (http://www.ppic.org/main/confcenter.asp)
Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr. is the son of Stephen David Bechtel, Sr. and grandson of Warren A. Bechtel who founded the Bechtel Corporation. His San Francisco-based foundation, the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, has as its overall mission, "to support well-managed non-profit organizations that provide quality programs and create significant sustained benefits in areas of special interest to the Founders and Directors."
However, its real mission appears to be the greenwashing of one of the most environmentally destructive corporations on the planet. The Bechtel Corporation, one of the world’s largest engineering and construction firms that was instrumental in the "reconstruction" of Iraq, is a leading advocate throughout the world of the privatization of water systems. It was Bechtel that sued the country of Bolivia for canceling a contract there sponsored by the World Bank. (http://www.counterpunch.org/2008/07/22/bechtel-and-the-big-dig/)
A CorpWatch report, "Profiting from Destruction," provides case studies from Bechtel’s history of operating in the water, nuclear, energy and public works sectors. These case studies reveal a legacy of unsustainable and destructive practices that have reaped permanent human, environmental and community devastation around the globe. Letters from "Bechtel affected communities" included in the report provide first-hand descriptions of these impacts, from Bolivia to Native American lands in Nevada.
The report reveals a 100-year history spent capitalizing on the most brutal technologies, reaping immense profits and ignoring the social and environmental costs. For more information, go to http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=6975
PPIC works in close partnership with Center for Watershed Sciences
The PPIC also works in close partnership with the U.C. Davis Center for Watershed Sciences (https://watershed.ucdavis.edu/about/partners), which received a "gift" of $10 million from the Bechtel Foundation in September 2013 "to expand its scientific research and public engagement capabilities on the state's increasingly difficult water problems."
"The University of California, Davis, will build on its success as a center for problem-solving research on California's critical water issues thanks to a $10 million gift to the Center for Watershed Sciences," according to a UC Davis news release. (http://news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=10673)
Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, who will be forever remembered as the "Pepper Spray Chancellor" for her role in suppressing Occupy protests at U.C. Davis in 2011 and 2012, claimed, "UC Davis has a long history of providing vital scientific and policy support for addressing water problems critical to the health and prosperity of Californians. This support will enable the university to expand this important work and further scientific discovery of this precious and limited resource."
Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences, and Jeffrey Mount, center co-founder and a PPIC senior fellow, are strong advocates for the construction of the peripheral tunnels. In an Associated Press interview on Dec. 9, 2013, Lund claimed the goal of the state's Bay Delta Conservation Plan is not to increase the amount of water being sent to cities and Central Valley farms, but to make the conveyance "less environmentally damaging."
"This is really not about taking additional water from other water users ... it's just shifting the place of diversion," Lund said. "You can never have no impact when doing (something like this), but you're changing the impacts and transforming them for something that's less bad for the native fish." (https://watershed.ucdavis.edu/news/2013/12/11/lund-delta-tunnels-really-not-about-taking-more-water-others)
More information about the PPIC board is available at http://www.ppic.org
ABOUT PPIC: "PPIC is dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research on major economic, social, and political issues. The institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett. As a private operating foundation, PPIC does not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor does it endorse, support, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office."