Why Is A Big Oil Lobbyist In Charge Of California’s Marine Protection Program?

  • Published on January 13th, 2011

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, claimed the oil industry is “doing their share to promote renewable energy” in an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee on Sunday January 9.)

“Villainizing the petroleum industry does nothing to promote sound energy policy,” she contended. “Oil companies in the United States are the single biggest private sector investors in the development of alternative and renewable energy supplies.”

But Reheis-Boyd wears another hat as well: ex-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made her the chair of his Marine Life Protection Task Force (MLPA) for California’s South Coast and a member of the task forces for the North Central Coast and North Coast. In that role, she approved bogus “marine protected areas” that villainized sustainable fishermen and gatherers while doing nothing to stop the real causes of fishery declines – water diversions from the Sacramento Delta, water pollution and coastal development.

Reheis-Boyd, who has called repeatedly for new oil drilling off the California coast, is a strange type of “marine guardian,” indeed. While grassroots environmentalists, fishermen and Indian Tribes repeatedly pointed out the hypocrisy of an oil lobbyist overseeing the implementation of marine protected areas under the Schwarzenegger regime, corporate environmental NGOs repeatedly praised the corrupt MLPA process for being “open, transparent and inclusive.”

She and other task force members did everything they could to take commercial uses of the ocean other than fishing and gathering off the table – dis-include oil drilling and spills, water pollution, development, military testing, and corporate aquaculture –  in their bizarre concept of marine “protection.”

Governor Jerry Brown and his new Resources Secretary, John Laird, have made no public statements or any indications of whether or not they will continue Schwarzenegger’s controversial MLPA process. However, it would be insane to continue the MLPA fiasco when Brown is calling for the slashing of state programs and California has the lowest ratio of game wardens to residents of any state in the nation to enforce these fake “marine protected areas.”

Over 300 members of 50 Indian Nations, immigrant seafood industry workers, fishermen and environmentalists peacefully took over a MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting in Fort Bragg on July 21, 2010 to protest the violation of tribal fishing and gathering rights under the MLPA process. The Fish and Game Commission at its meeting in Sacramento on February 2-3 is set to vote on a single proposal for a network of marine protected areas on the North Coast that includes provisions respecting tribal fishing and gathering rights.

For more information about the MLPA, go to: http://blogs.alternet.org/..

Dan Bacher is the Editor of the Fish Sniffer online and print magazine. He blogs at Sacramento for Democracy, Alternet and DailyKos.

(Santa Barbara oil rig sunset image Attribution Some rights reserved by Jim Sneddon)

About the Author

Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento who focuses on California's water issues, a healthy environment for the salmon fishery of the Northwest, and the attempts by big agriculture and big oil to hog all the water.