Category Archives: Local electoral politics

Big Oil aims to buy democracy in WA State

Repost from Sightline Institute 
This article is part of the series Look Who’s Taking Oil & Coal Money 

BIG OIL AIMS TO BUY DEMOCRACY IN WASHINGTON

Local Northwest elections targeted with huge fossil fuel spending.
By Eric de Place, October 25, 2017 6:30 am
Bow of oil tanker by Roy Luck used under CC BY 2.0

With no statewide races or federal level races, 2017 is supposed to be an “off” year election. But for the fossil fuel industry and their allies it’s proving to be a spending bonanza. Coal, oil, and railroad shippers have dumped a jaw-dropping $1.5 million into three relatively small caliber Washington races: a Vancouver port commission seat, a state senate race in suburban King County, and a Spokane city ballot initiative.

Coal, oil, and railroad shippers have dumped a jaw-dropping $1.5 million into three relatively small caliber Washington races.

The big media story this election has been at the Port of Vancouver, where the oil company Tesoro aims to build a 360,000 barrel-per-day oil train facility called Vancouver Energy. Two of the three port commissioners back the project, but the outcome of the election could change that. Candidate Don Orange is likely to join current port commissioner Eric LaBrant in opposing Tesoro’s plans, and they could end the project by declining to renew the company’s lease.

Running against Orange is Kris Greene with heavy backing from the company he would be responsible for permitting. So far, the project’s backer has contributed a staggering $370,000 to Greene, far and away the largest corporate donation in the history of Vancouver’s port and the largest direct donation to any candidate in all of Washington in 2017. This princely sum comes on top of a $162,000 independent expenditure from Enterprise WA Jobs, a political action committee (PAC). The biggest donors to the PAC this year are none other than Tesoro to the tune of $200,000 and BNSF with $215,000, the two companies who profit from the terminal’s operations.

Reports from the Columbian newspaper have also revealed a shocking degree of coordination between Greene and his oil business sponsors. In effect, Tesoro has operated Greene’s campaign, doing everything from writing his press releases to speaking for the campaign to hiring DC-based communications firms with connections to some of the worst anti-environmental campaigns in the nation. (Tesoro is no stranger to big spending for right-wing spending in Washington, but 2017 marks a new level of aggression for the Texas oil company.) In September, Greene’s former campaign manager Robert Sabo even quit because of Tesoro’s outside influence on the campaign. He told the Columbian in an article earlier this month “Big Oil is completely dictating where every penny is going.”

Meanwhile, a state senate race on the eastside of Lake Washington is setting new spending records. The match in the 45th district pits Republican Jinyoung Englund against Democrat Manka Dhingra in a contest that could have major implications for the state legislature. If Dhingra wins, the Senate will flip to the Democrats, giving them majorities in both houses along with control of the governor’s office. Democratic control would likely take action on long-stalled environmental priorities like oil transportation safety requirements, funding for toxic waste cleaning up and prevention, or statewide clean energy investments.

A trio of right-wing PACs are spending big to support Republican Englund with a combined $820,000. The same Enterprise WA Jobs PAC playing in the Vancouver race is also spending big in the 45th. Beyond the hundreds of thousands from Tesoro and BNSF, the PAC has another $100,000 from Chevron and $25,000 from Koch Industries (the fossil fuel company of Koch Brothers notoriety). Meanwhile, the Citizens for Progress Enterprise WA PAC is registering another $350,000 from Texas oil company Phillips 66. And the Leadership Council PAC shows yet more oil and railroad money: $25,000 more from Tesoro, $20,000 from BNSF, and $10,000 from Union Pacific.

Backing Democrat Dhingra are the New Directions PAC and the Working Families PAC, with funding from State Democratic Campaign Committee, The Leadership Council, state unions, the Washington Conservation Voters, and big national names like Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer.

In Spokane, a citizen’s ballot initiative, Proposition 2, proposes to levy fees on coal and oil trains that pass through the city. It has garnered predictable opposition from fossil fuel companies, as well as the railroads that ship their products. So far, the industry’s PAC has $180,454 worth of contributions, including an eyebrow-raising October contribution of $39,500 from Lighthouse Resources, the struggling company behind a Longview coal terminal development that was effectively killed by state permitting agencies in September. Lighthouse had previously given $25,000 to the PAC, an amount that was matched by Cloud Peak, a company that exports modest volumes of coal via a terminal in British Columbia, as well as Tesoro, and the railroads BNSF and Union Pacific.

The Northwest is proving to be the graveyard of ambitions for coal, oil, and gas schemes as a region-wide groundswell of opposition has fought back project after project. Now, stymied at every turn, the fossil fuel industry is deploying what may be its most dangerous weapon: piles of cash and a willingness to overwhelm democratic institutions, even at a local level. If the “off” year elections of 2017 prove successful for Big Oil, there is every reason to think the industry will play hardball in the big ticket races of 2018.

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Zoning Out Fossil Fuels: Local Action for A Better Future

Repost from STAND.earth  (See far below for webcast)

#ClimateIsLocal

Every environmental attack by the Trump Administration further emphasizes the importance of taking local action on climate. Climate inaction at the federal level isn’t new–and neither is real success on climate action at the local level.
 
Hidden by the barrage of bad news stories about hurricanes, wildfires, and international climate agreements, are dozens of good news stories about frontline communities defeating dirty fuel projects and municipalities leading the way on zoning out new fossil fuel infrastructure. 
 
Towns and counties have local land use powers that allow them to change regulations to prevent the siting of new fossil fuel infrastructure. Around the US, activists and NGOs have been working with these city and county governments to effectively “zone out” the ability to permit new dirty fuel projects. 
 
A few of the examples:

  • In Whatcom County, Washington, the County Council will hold a public hearing on 9/26/17 and vote to pass an extension of the moratorium on accepting applications for new infrastructure that could be used for unrefined fossil fuel export. This will eventually become codified in the county’s land use policy.
  • In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the board of Harbor Commissioners and Public Works department, operating under the City of Milwaukee, amended a lease to not allow US Oil to “receive, handle, store, ship or otherwise process or distribute crude oil” at the port.
  • In Tacoma, Washington, a permitting freeze similar to Whatcom’s is close to passage, with plans to alter the port’s industrial zoning to prevent new dirty fuel projects.
  • In Portland, Oregon, an ordinance was passed to prevent the siting of bulk crude storage in the city. The legal challenge from industry is winding through the courts, but the ordinance has a good chance of being upheld.

If implemented broadly, passing municipal land use ordinances can prevent the growth of the fossil fuel economy, and be a critical element in fighting global warming, regardless of what the Trump Administration tries to do.

We hosted a recent webcast with activists from the efforts in Whatcom County, WA and Portland, OR.

Want the local resources mentioned in the webcast? STAND.earth has got you covered. Click here.

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Benicia Election Results – FINAL COUNT, 12/2/16, Reception & Swearing In on Dec. 6

By Roger Straw, December 2, 2016
[Editor: The sweep of local elections by three candidates who strongly opposed Valero Crude By Rail is to be celebrated. Our next four years in Benicia will hopefully be witness to a new majority on Council, with a vision for progressive values.  – RS]

Solano County seal (400x400)The Solano County Registrar of Voters issued a FINAL day’s end report at 4:50pm Friday 12/02. Mayor Patterson has won re-election. Steve Young has been elected and Tom Campbell has been re-elected to the City Council.

A public reception for incoming and outgoing elected officials will be held at City Hall, 250 East L Street, at 6 PM on Tuesday, December 6, followed by a swearing in ceremony and a Council vote for Vice Mayor at the Council meeting.

ep-vjot-h_2016-11-05
Elizabeth Patterson

Mayor Elizabeth Patterson‘s margin of victory over challenger Mark Hughes nearly tripled since the original count, increasing from 109 votes on the morning after the election, to 332. Hughes phoned Mayor Patterson on the day after the election to concede.

Steve Young & Tom Campbell, Benicia City Council
Steve Young & Tom Campbell

City Councilmember-elect Steve Young was the top vote-getter by a margin of 292 votes over
second-place re-elected Tom Campbell and 808 votes over unseated Councilmember Christina Strawbridge. Traditionally in Benicia, the Council candidate with the most votes becomes Vice Mayor until the next election cycle. Congratulations, Vice-mayor-elect Young !

monica-brown-229
Monica Brown

Solano County Supervisor-elect Monica Brown defeated Mike Ioakimedes by 3616 votes (18463 Brown to 14847 Ioakimedes).

Here is a table showing Benicia details, taken from Steve Young’s website:

City Council (top two are elected)
Candidate Total votes Vote % Election day Vote by mail Pro-visional
Steve Young 6720 26.82 2022 4472 226
Tom Campbell 6428 25.66 1788 4479 161
Christina Strawbridge 5912 23.59 1604 4134 174
Lionel Largaespada 4099 16.36 1233 2718 148
George Oakes 1805 7.20 565 1173 67
Write-in 96 0.38 33 59 4
Over Votes 16 2 14 0
Under Votes 6334 2121 3733 480
Mayor
 Candidate Total votes   Vote % Election day  Vote by mail  Pro-visional
Elizabeth Patterson 7548 50.96 2216 5056 276
Mark Hughes  7216 48.72 2202 4761 253
Write In 47 0.32 15 32 0
Over Votes 1 1 0 0
Under Votes 893 250 542 101
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