Western States Petroleum Association Continues to Top California Lobbying Expenses

Repost from CounterPunch

Western States Petroleum Association Continues to Top CA Lobbying Expenses

By Dan Bacher, August 19, 2016

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the most powerful corporate lobbying group in Sacramento, continued to dominate the lobbying spending in Sacramento in the second quarter of 2016.

“If you can count on anything, it’s WSPA (Western States Petroleum Association) throwing down some serious cash on lobbying,” said Stop Fooling California in their latest newsletter, the Crude Truth. “And this quarter was no exception.”

At the helm of WSPA is President Catherine Reheis-Boyd, former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called “marine protected areas in Southern California. The “marine protected areas” created under her “leadership” fail to protect the ocean from fracking, offshore oil drilling, oil spills, pollution, military testing, energy projects and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering.

Reheis-Boyd, who continually pushes for the evisceration of California environmental laws and the expansion of fracking and offshore oil drilling in California, also served on the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.

The group broke down some alarming Big Oil lobbying figures for the 2015-16 Legislation Session:

• WSPA ranks #1 among lobbying spenders this session, paying $2.2 million to KP Public Affairs, the top-grossing lobbying firm in California.

• WSPA has spent over $3 million so far in 2016, and $14 million since January 2015.

• Overall, the oil lobby has spent nearly $28 million to date in the 2015-16 legislative session.

“That’s an average of over $50,000 per day since January 1, 2015, and includes the $6.3 million in lobbying expenses reported so far in 2016 (over $1 million per month in 2016),” the group said. “If you’re into math, that translates into Big Oil spending $39 per asthmatic child in California to deny their right to breath clean air.”

• Chevron has spent $5.5 million so far in the 2015-16 session. Chevron ranks #5 among all lobbyists in the current session. “If there is any doubt that lobbying equals real influence, look no further than SB32, a bill setting a 40 percent emissions reduction target below 1990 levels by 2030, which may be punted into the next legislative session,” the group added.

For lobbying “its face off,” Stop Fooling California awarded WSPA their latest “Scummy” award.

WSPA and Big Oil wield their power in five major 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.

Powering California: Big Oil teams up with LA Times

Stop Fooling California’s previous “Scummy” award went to “Powering California” for its new videos praising oil and attacking green energy.

“You may remember Powering California,” the group said. “It’s a front group of Occidental Petroleum’s spinoff company California Resources Corp. (yes, that’s complicated on purpose), which teamed up with the Los Angeles Times’ ‘content solutions’ team to spread industry propaganda last year.”

“Powering California is back, now with a series of videos, at the exact time California is debating critical legislation that will determine our climate future, in California and in other states,” Stop Fooling California said.

As Media Matters for America reported: “Powering California is out with a series of new videos praising oil and attacking clean energy sources. One of the videos baselessly asserts that ‘renewable energy can’t replace oil,’ falsely claims wind energy is ‘expensive,’ and bombastically declares that ‘oil and natural gas are woven into the fabric of America.’ Another video features feel-good man-on-the-street interviews with paid actors touting California’s oil and gas industry.” (http://mediamatters.org/blog/2016/07/25/party-conventions-big-oil-s-media-manipulation-strategy-full-display/211879)

Consumer Watchdog: Fossil fuel industry has donated $9.8 to Jerry Brown

Meanwhile, Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica-based consumer organization, on August 10 released an alarming report claiming that oil, gas and utilities gave $9.8 million to Governor Jerry Brown and his causes, often within days of winning big favors.

“The timing of energy industry donations around important legislation and key pro-industry amendments, as well as key regulatory decisions in which Brown personally intervened, raises troubling questions about whether quid pro quos are routine for this administration,” said consumer advocate Liza Tucker, author of the report, in a press release. “While Brown paints himself as a foe of fossil fuels, his Administration promoted reckless oil drilling, burning dirty natural gas to make electricity, and used old hands from industry and government, placed in key regulatory positions, to protect the fossil fuel-reliant energy industry.”

In spite of its reputation as a green state, California under Governor Jerry Brown is the third biggest oil state in the nation and a promoter of some of the most environmentally devastating policies in the country.

The Governor is promoting as his legacy the Delta Tunnels/California Water Fix, the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history that poses a huge threat to the ecosystems of the Sacramento, San Joaquin, Klamath and Trinity river systems. As Brown relentlessly pushes the tunnels plan, his administration is overseeing water policies that are driving winter run-Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt and other species closer and closer to extinction.

Jerry Brown also oversaw the “completion” of faux “marine protected areas” under the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, overseen by the WSPA president and other corporate interests, in December 2012.

Brown has also promoted carbon trading and REDD policies that pose an enormous threat to Indigenous Peoples around the globe; has done nothing to stop clearcutting of forests by Sierra-Pacific and other timber companies; backs the weakening of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA); presided over record water exports from the Delta in 2011; and oversaw massive fish kills of Sacramento splittail and other species in 2011.

Brown may spout “green” rhetoric when he flies off to climate conferences and issues proclamations about John Muir Day and Earth Day, but his actions and policies regarding fish, water and the environment are among the worst of any Governor in recent California history. That’s why to anybody familiar with the real record of Governor Jerry Brown, Consumer Watchdog’s “Dirty Hands” report is no surprise.

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

 

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    Oakland: Utah scraps $53 million plan to ship coal to city

    Repost from the East Bay Times

    Oakland: Utah scraps $53 million plan to ship coal to city

    By David DeBolt, 08/19/2016 06:11:11 PM PDT

    OAKLAND — Four Utah counties have withdrawn their plan to spend $53 million in state money to ship coal to Oakland, an official said this week.

    Carbon County Commissioner Jae Potter’s announcement Wednesday comes less than two months after the Oakland City Council voted 7-0 to ban the storage and handling of coal and petroleum coke in its city.

    Potter said the four coal-producing counties will reapply in about a year with a more detailed application. The rural counties continue to support the project and may ask to ship other products like potash through Oakland, Potter said.

    File photo: Anti-coal demonstrators rally in front of City Hall before a special council meeting on the shipping and storage of coal on Monday, June 27,
    File photo: Anti-coal demonstrators rally in front of City Hall before a special council meeting on the shipping and storage of coal on Monday, June 27, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

    Utah lawmakers in March approved a bill to invest $53 million of state money to ship coal to the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal. The $250 million export terminal and logistics center located on the Outer Harbor at the former Oakland Army Base is being built by developer Phil Tagami. Terminal Logistic Solutions, run by Jerry Bridges, has the exclusive option to operate the terminal.

    Bridges has said coal would be one of several commodities shipped there; others include soda ash, potash, limestone, soybeans and other produce.

    While shipments of coal had support from lawmakers and coal-producing counties in Utah, Oakland residents, activists and city leaders strongly objected to the proposal. The Oakland council vote was the only way to stop the coal trains because the council approved the project in 2013. Leaders claimed coal was not part of the conversation then, but the agreement did not specify what could and couldn’t be shipped at the terminal.

    Environmental groups argued West Oakland residents would be exposed to greater risks of respiratory illness.

    “Polling shows Utahns don’t want public money spent on a terminal in Oakland that will never ship coal,” Brittany King, an organizer with the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter, said in a statement. “Oakland residents and decision makers fought so hard to keep coal out of their backyard, so we are happy that Utah withdrew a proposal that is not worth money, time or the risk to public health and safety.”

    Longtime West Oakland activist Margaret Gordon expressed some skepticism over what would be included in Utah’s new application.

    “That economy in that state is built around coal,” said Gordon, who supports the Oakland terminal but opposes coal. “I’m optimistically cautious about the whole thing.”

    A spokesman for Tagami did not return a phone call Friday afternoon. A day before the council’s vote in June, Tagami’s attorney wrote in a letter to city leaders that legal action would be imminent if coal were blocked. Attorney David Smith called the council’s position “irrational” and “legally indefensible.”

    The Associated Press contributed to this report. David DeBolt covers Oakland.
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      Canada phasing out DOT-111 rail tank cars ahead of schedule

      Repost from Hazmat Magazine

      Canada phasing out potentially dangerous rail tank cars ahead of schedule

      By J Nicholson, August 19, 2016

      The Canadian federal government will retire the older DOT-111 rail tanker cars — the ones involved in the deadly Lac-Mégantic tragedy — several months earlier than planned. “Protective Direction 38” stipulates that the DOT-111 tanker cars will no longer be permitted to transport crude oil or other dangerous goods on Canadian railways as of November 1st 2016. The original phase out plan called for the tanker cars to be phased out by May of 2017.

      An unattended 74-car freight train carrying crude oil ran away and derailed, resulting in the fire and explosion that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Que., in July 2013. (CBC)
      An unattended 74-car freight train carrying crude oil ran away and derailed, resulting in the fire and explosion that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Que., in July 2013. (CBC)

      The DOT 111 rail tanker cars do not have a layer of thermal protection. Experts speculate that the Lac-Mégantic rail derailment would not have been as disastrous if the runaway freight train did not have DOT 111 tanker cars. On July 6th 2013, a runaway freight train pulling 72 tanker cars of crude oil exploded in the downtown area of Lac-Mégantic, killing 47 people.

      The new standard tanker rail car is the TC-117. It has a thicker steel hull, thermal protection, a full head shield, protective valve covers and a bottom outlet valve for safety. Rail experts say the TC-117 is much more able to resist puncture than the DOT 111.

      DOT 111 will still be able to be used by rail companies; however they are not permitted to be used for the transport of dangerous materials such as crude oil.

      There are skeptics to the phase out rules on the old rail cars. Mike Benson , the Fire Chief for the northern Ontario community of Gogama, told the Timminspress.com that he is skeptical that the redesign of rail cars, on their own, will ensure safety in his community.

      “It’s a good step but a very small step. But the problem isn’t so much the makeup of the cars as it is the maintenance and inspection of the track,” said the fire chief. “All the difference with the new cars is another quarter-inch of steel on either end of the car. These things contain 100,000 litres weighing a million pounds, so it’s not going to change anything if there’s a derailment.”

      A more effective policy, said Benson, would be taking steps to prevent similar derailments from happening in the future. That would mean significantly increasing the amount of track maintenance and inspection and decreasing the speed limit for trains in rural areas.

      “The companies don’t want to slow their trains down … but with four derailments in three years, I’d say there’s a bit of a problem there,” said Benson.

      The Railway Association of Canada is in favour of the move made by the federal government to phase out the tanker cars. Michael Bourque, a spokesperson for the Association stated, “Removing this tank car model from service sooner is an effective step toward ensuring the safe transportation of dangerous goods in Canada. We welcomed harmonized Canada-U.S. tank car standards introduced last year, and we’re equally pleased with the announcement.”

      The use of rail cars to transport oil has soared in Canada over the past few years. In 2015, there were 146,000 shipments of crude oil across Canada.

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        PROTESTS AFTER MOSIER: Criminal charges dismissed, protesters speak out

        Repost from Hood River News

        Another voice: ‘The greenest corner in the richest nation on earth’

        By Robin Cody, August 19, 2016
        A group of protesters block an oil train in Vancouver, Wash., on Sunday. Photo from Inside Climate News, courtesy of Alex Milan Tracy

        The fiery wreck of an oil train at Mosier is what galvanized many of us to sit on the Burlington Northern railroad tracks in downtown Vancouver on June 18. Twenty-one protesters, ranging in age from 20 to 84, were repeatedly warned of 90 days’ jail time and $1,000 fines for criminal trespassing. And still, we sat.

        Protesters got arrested and briefly jailed. Our legal status remained in limbo until recently, when criminal charges were dismissed.

        Now we can talk.

        The whole idea — of fracking North Dakota and shipping flammable crude oil by rail through the Columbia River Gorge — is not just a threat to people who live near the tracks. It’s also a violation of nature. It’s a big wrong turn in America’s supposed transition from fossil fuels to renewables.

        It’s 2016. About climate change and its causes, the evidence is in. Time is running out. Yet many more tanker loads of climate change could come barreling through the Gorge. The proposed Tesoro Savage Vancouver Energy Project would be the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the Northwest. It would more than double the daily frequency of mile-long oil trains to the Port of Vancouver.

        If civil disobedience does any good, it’s in the context of many other groups and individuals speaking out. There were rallies in Hood River and Astoria, tribal action in Mosier, and the alarm expressed by city councils of Vancouver and Portland and Spokane. Columbia Riverkeepers, 350pdx, and many other organizations put the spotlight on industries that contribute to, and profit from, America’s dependence on fossil fuels.

        This is about where we live. It would be fundamentally unlike us Cascadians, of all people, to cooperate with big oil’s distant profit.

        The world expects the United States to take the lead with climate action. The U.S. looks to California and the Northwest. So here we are, in the greenest corner of the richest nation on Earth. If we don’t step up for the planet, where in the world will momentum take hold? And when we do take a stand, it might really make a difference.

        Robin Cody of Portland is the author of “Ricochet River” and “Voyage of a Summer Sun.”
         
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