Oil Lobby Sets New Spending Record in Sacramento

Western States Petroleum Association spent $6.1 million in just three months. 

The new numbers for the amount of money spent on lobbying in Sacramento in the first three months of 2014 just came in from the Secretary of State's Office, and guess who finished first?

Yes, holding fast to number one is that august body of environmental stewardship known as the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), "making sure lawmakers don't forget about the Big Oil little guy," according to Stop Fooling California.

The Western States Petroleum Association, the most powerful corporate lobbying group in Sacramento, spent $6.1 million in just 3 months. Amazingly, this is more money than the association has spent in any one year over the past five years!

The organization spent $5,331,493 in 2009, $4,013,813 in 2010, $4,273,664 in 2011, $5,698,917 in 2012 and $4,670,010 in 2013.

In spite of all of this money spent, a bill imposing a moratorium on fracking and acidizing for oil extraction in California passed through the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on April 30 by a 5 to 2 vote. Senators Mark Leno, Jerry Hill, Loni Hancock, Hannah-Beth Jackson and Fran Pavley voted for Senate Bill 1132, while Senators Ted Gaines and Jean Fuller voted against it.

Authored by Senators Holly Mitchell and Mark Leno, SB 1132 would require the Natural Resources Agency to facilitate an "independent scientific study" on well stimulation treatments (fracking and acidizing) and their hazards and risks to natural resources and public, occupational, and environmental health and safety by January 1, 2015.

"People must come before profits," said Senator Mitchell after the vote. "My community needs jobs, but those jobs need to be safe for workers and surrounding communities."

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association and former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called "marine protected areas" in Southern California, wasn't very happy with the results of the Committee vote, especially after her organization spent $6.1 million lobbying at the Capitol over the past three months. You can bet that her association and the oil companies will spend many millions more to defeat this bill in the Legislature in coming months.

In her blog on the WSPA website Reheis-Boyd stated, "The passage of Senate Bill 1132 from the Senate's Environmental Quality Committee is neither a surprise nor an indication that this poorly written legislation is gaining support."

While the theater of SB 1132 plays out in Sacramento, SB 4 is already the law of the land throughout California. Last year, Governor Brown signed into law regulations that received strong bipartisan support in the Assembly and Senate. Many of those 'rallying' around SB 1132 voted for SB 4, the strongest and most stringent regulation on hydraulic fracturing in the country.

Anti-oil activists are attempting to push hydraulic fracturing moratoriums in Sacramento and in local governments throughout the state - a strategy that just suffered a major setback. Their tactics include spreading misinformation about water use, chemicals, industry transparency, and jobs.

Shockingly, the anti-oil camp's attacks on oil production reached new lows last week when several of the leading anti-oil groups took aim at petroleum industry workers when they dismissed as unwanted and unworthy the hundreds of thousands of jobs our industry supports. This disappointing tactic was summed up in the headline of a recent letter to the Los Angeles Times: 'Some jobs aren't worth it.'

Of course the petroleum industry cares about California's environment and water supply. This is why we believe SB 4 provides important and necessary oversight. Hydraulic fracturing is not just a new industry fad that was concocted for the sole purpose of harming humanity. The reality is quite the opposite. Lost in the hysteria is the historic fact that hydraulic fracturing has been employed in California for nearly six decades without environmental incident or hazard. It is why the United States is experiencing a welcome and rewarding energy renaissance that is benefiting consumers nationwide and dramatically improving our nation's energy security."

Yes, Reheis-Boyd and her industry really "care" about California's environment and water supply. That's why she and her cohorts on the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force made sure that the questionable "marine protected areas" created in Southern California under her "leadership" fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, corporate aquaculture, military testing and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

Reheis-Boyd, state officials and MLPA advocates ensured that these alleged "marine protected areas" were good for big oil and ocean industrialists - and bad for fishermen, tribal gatherers and the public trust.

In one of the biggest conflicts of interest in recent California history, Reheis-Boyd also "served" on the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces to create so-called "marine protected areas" on the North Coast, North Central Coast and Central Coast. She also currently sits on a federal "marine protected areas" panel.

As she was serving on these panels, the oil industry was engaging in a frenzy of environmentally destructive fracking operations off the Southern California coast, as revealed in an Associated Press and Freedom of Information Act investigation last year.

The process that Reheis-Boyd oversaw created "state marine reserves" that violate the traditional gathering rights of the Yurok Tribe and other California Indian Tribes to harvest seaweed, mussels and fish, as they have done for thousands of years. In addition, the privately funded process rejected numerous requests by Yurok Tribe scientists and lawyers to present scientific studies that countered the terminally flawed and incomplete "science," based on flawed assumptions.

As Frankie Joe Myers, Yurok Tribe member and Coastal Justice Coalition organizer, said before a direct action protest against the MLPA Initiative in Fort Bragg in July 2010, "The whole process is inherently flawed by institutionalized racism. It doesn't recognize Tribes as political entities, or Tribal biologists as legitimate scientists."

More recently, the industry that Reheis-Boyd says "cares about California's environment and water supply" was engaged in over 100 violations of California's new public disclosure rules for fracking and other dangerous oil production methods. The violations were uncovered by a Center for Biological Diversity analysis of records from the state, the oil industry and South Coast air quality regulators.

In a letter to Governor Jerry Brown, the Center pointed out that state regulators with the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources have failed to disclose legally mandated reports for 47 frack jobs and notices for more than 100 uses of other risky oil production techniques.

"This lack of disclosure underscores the failure of current regulations and the need for strong action that will protect public health and safety and the environment," the letter says.

"Californians are in the dark about dangerous fracking in their communities because Gov. Brown's oil regulators won't follow their own minimal notification rules," said Center attorney Hollin Kretzmann in a statement. "These regulatory failures are another reminder of the urgent need to halt fracking to protect our air and water from contamination. Gov. Brown must recognize that halting fracking and the other dangerous well stimulation methods is the only way to protect Californians."

The problems revealed by the Center's analysis include the following:

• Missing Fracking Reports: At least 47 frack jobs conducted in Southern California in January and February do not have a well stimulation report on DOGGR's website, despite a requirement that such documents be posted 60 days after the fracking event.

• Late posting: Dozens of other fracking reports were posted late - and only after the Center informed state officials of the unlawful delay.

• Missing chemical data - Other fracking reports are missing critical information, including the chemical composition of fracking waste fluid and where this fluid was disposed of. A Kern County oil company was recently fined for disposing of such fracking wastewater in an unlined pit.

• Missing Acidizing Notices: The state's website does not show notices for 57 uses of acidization in Orange and Los Angeles counties. Acidizing uses high quantities of hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acids in combination with other harmful chemicals to dissolve oil-bearing formations underground.

• Missing Gravel Packing Notices: Gravel packing, a well stimulation method that uses dangerous chemicals, has occurred in Orange and Los Angeles counties approximately 51 times so far this year, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Yet state oil regulators have not posted a notice of a single instance of gravel packing from anywhere in the state, despite regulations requiring such notification.

A recent Center report also found that fracking, acidizing and gravel packing operations employed 12 dangerous "air toxic" chemicals hundreds of times in the Los Angeles Basin over a period of a few months.

If the petroleum industry really "cares about California's environment and water supply" like Reheis-Boyd claims it does, why did the industry engage in 100 violations of California's new public disclosure rules for fracking and other dangerous oil production methods, as documented in the Center for Biological Diversity's report?

You can bet that Reheis-Boyd's group and Big Oil will continue to spend millions this year to defeat Senate Bill 1132 and any other bill that challenges their plan to frack California. A ground breaking report released on April 1, 2014 by the ACCE Institute and Common Cause reveals that Big Oil spent $123.6 million to lobby elected officials in California over the past 15 years, an increase of over 400 percent since the 1999-2000 legislative session, when the industry spent $4.8 million.

The report also examines historical campaign contributions by the largest firms in the oil and gas industry. Over the last fifteen years, Big Oil has spent $143.3 million on political candidates and campaigns - nearly $10 million per year and more than any other corporate lobby.

When combined, Big Oil's lobbying spending and campaign spending in Sacramento amounts to $266.9 million over 15 years.

Yet this is mere pocket change, the "cost of doing business" for the oil industry, since the industry makes many billions of dollars in profits every year as gas prices soar for consumers at the pumps. The oil industry has made over $31 billion in profits in 2014 to date.

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