top
Newswire
Calendar
Features
From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature
Related Categories: California | Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections
Bill to stop Trump's offshore drilling plan passes through California Senate
by Dan Bacher
Friday Jun 1st, 2018 10:02 AM
If these two bills make it out of the Legislature unscathed and go to to the Governor’s Desk, it would be the first time since 2016 that legislation officially opposed by the powerful oil industry is approved by the California Legislature, due to the inordinate influence by Big Oil in state politics.

Map: In May 2015, the big oil spill off Refugio Beach in San Barbara County fouled four California "marine protected areas." One of the untold stories about the spill was how the so-called "marine protected areas" impacted by the spill were created under the helm of the Western States Petroleum Association president, the former chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, who also serves as the lobbyist for the Plains All American Pipeline Company.
sm_debg4vzvwai23oj.jpg
The California State Senate voted 24 to 8 on May 30 to approve legislation sponsored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (Santa Barbara) to thwart the Trump Administration’s proposal to open new oil drilling leases in federal waters off the California coast.

Senate Bill 834 prohibits the construction of pipelines and other infrastructure needed to support new federal oil development off the California coast, effectively halting such expanded drilling efforts, according to a statement from Jackson’s Office. 

“The Trump Administration’s proposal to dramatically expand offshore oil drilling is dangerous, reckless, and a direct threat to our coastal communities,” said Senator Jackson. “California must stand firm in our opposition to this expansion, which could devastate our marine ecology, public health, and coastal economy.” 

Senator Jackson’s Senate Bill 834 is the reintroduction of a bill that stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee last year, due to the avalanche of Big Oil lobbying money that hit the Capitol in 2017. The three top oil industry lobbying organizations alone pumped a total $17.6 million into lobbying legislators and other state officials last year.

SB 834, jointly authored by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Garden), now moves to the Assembly.

AB 1775, a similar measure by Assemblymember Al Muratushi (D-Torrance), passed off the Assembly floor on May 30. Jointly authored by Assemblymember Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), AB 1775 now goes to the Senate.  

“The legislation will protect the California coast by prohibiting the State Lands Commission from approving any new leases for pipelines, piers, wharves, or other infrastructure needed to support new federal oil and gas development in the three-mile area off the coast that is controlled by the state,” according to a statement from Muratsuchi’s Office. “It would also prohibit any lease renewal, extension or modification that would support the production, transportation or processing of new oil and gas.”

If these two bills make it out of the Legislature unscathed and go to to the Governor’s Desk, it would be the first time since 2016 that legislation officially opposed by the powerful oil industry is approved by the California Legislature, due to the inordinate influence by Big Oil in state politics.

Brown administration has expanded offshore drilling in state waters 

In 1994, the Legislature passed the California Coastal Sanctuary Act that prohibits new oil and gas leases in the state’s coastal waters, with some exceptions. Unfortunately, the Brown administration has overseen a massive expansion of offshore drilling in state waters under existing leases.   

In February 2017, an analysis of Department of Conservation data by the Fracktracker Alliance revealed that Governor Jerry Brown’s oil and gas regulators approved 238 new offshore oil wells in state waters under existing leases off Los Angeles and Ventura counties from 2012 to 2016, an increase of 17 percent. Roughly 171 of them were still active as of a year ago. To read the complete report, go to: http://www.fractracker.org/...

The current expansion of oil drilling in state waters, combined with the possibility of new offshore oil drilling leases in federal waters, poses an enormous threat to the marine ecosystem and California’s coastal economy. California’s coastal economy produces approximately $44.5 billion in GDP each year and employs nearly a half a million people in the state.  

While the legislation is specifically designed to counter the threat to the marine ecosystem posed by the Trump plan to open up new federal offshore drilling leases, it could help efforts by environmentalists, Tribes and fishermen to stop new offshore offshore drilling in state waters under existing leases.

“The passage of these bills will provide political leverage to begin to address the dangers of new development associated with currently existing leases in both state and federal waters off the coast of California -- but it is narrowly and explicitly designed to address the immediate offshore drilling expansion threat from the Trump-Zinke plan,” said Gary Hughes of Friends of the Earth US. “This is a step worth celebrating as an important step to protect our oceans, and we need to keep working hard to challenge extreme fossil fuel energy extraction and processing in California."

Big Oil lobby opposes the legislation

A coalition of conservation, fishing, environmental justice and consumer groups and Tribes backs Jackson and Muratushi’s bills, but the Western States Petroleum Association, the California Chamber of Commerce and California Independent Petroleum Association and other oil industry supporters oppose the legislation.

The Western States Petroleum Association claims that “specifically this bill (SB 834) repeals existing authority from the [commission] to issue, renew, modify, or extend a lease or conveyance for oil and natural gas production if the lease would result in an increase of production from federal waters.” WSPA argues that:

• “SB 834 takes authority away from the commission on state tidelands leases.
• SB 834 contains undefined, overbroad language ending existing production onexisting leases (and notes the uncertainty over how an “increase” in productionwould be determined).
• SB 834 could force unintended environmental and fiscal consequences by avoiding the use of safer pipelines to transport oil, potential revenues losses and litigation expense.”   

The threat of new federal drilling leases and the continuing expansion of drilling in state waters are just two of the many threats by the fossil fuel industry that California faces. Marine deliveries of oil by huge oil tankers also continue to threaten Californias fisheries and the ocean ecosystem.

“Though receiving less attention than current and proposed offshore oil drilling operations, marine deliveries by oil tanker have historically been, and are increasingly, a major mode of transport for the petrochemical industry in California,” wrote Gary Hughes. “ In fact, in 2017 California set a new record high for imports of foreign sourced crude oil to the refinery sector in the state.”  To read the article, go to: medium.com/… 

Background: Big Oil Money dominates California politics

Although California’s coastal economy produces approximately $44.5 billion in GDP each year and employs almost half a million people, that hasn’t stopped the oil industry from drilling new offshore wells that pose a great threat to the fish, wildlife and ecosystem of the state’s coastal waters.

That’s because Big Oil dominated three out of the four top spots of expenditures by all lobbying organizations in 2017, the year that the oil industry-written AB 398 passed through the Legislature and Jackson’s bill blocking new federal offshore drilling went into the suspense file.

Outspending all of their competition, Chevron placed first with $8.2 million and the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) placed second with $6.2 million. Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company finished fourth with $3.2 million.  

That’s a total of $17.6 million dumped into lobbying by the three top oil industry lobbying organizations alone. That figure exceeds the $14,577,314 expended by all 16 oil lobby organizations in 2016.  

In a major conflict of interest that exemplifies Big Oil’s enormous influence over California’s environmental processes, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, served as the chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called “marine protected areas” in Southern California waters from 2009 to 2012. She also served on the task forces to create “marine protected areas” on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast from 2004 to 2012.

With a Big Oil lobbyist serving at the helm of a “marine protection” panel and Governor Jerry Brown’s oil and gas regulators approving 238 new offshore oil wells in state waters under existing leases from 2012 to 2016, it is very clear that California is very far being being the “green leader” that state officials claim that it is.