California’s ocean guardian promotes Keystone XL pipeline, fracking

  • Published on February 20th, 2012

MLPA South Coast map

A network of so-called marine protected areas, created under Arnold Schwarzenegger’s privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, went into effect off the Southern California coast on January 1, 2012.

As state officials and representatives of corporate environmental NGOs heralded these closed zones as “Yosemites of the Sea” and “underwater parks,” Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, was touting the “jobs” that would be provided by the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to deliver tar sand oil at enormous cost to indigenous communities in Canada and the U.S. and the environment.

In an overt conflict of interest that could only happen in the corrupt politics of California, Reheis-Boyd served as the Chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, the panel that oversaw the creation of the so-called “marine protected areas.” The “oil industry superstar” also served on the MLPA task forces for the North Coast and North Central Coast.

Reheis-Boyd and the other MLPA officials, including a marina developer, coastal real estate executive, agribusiness hack and other political operatives with numerous conflicts of interest, made sure that these “visionary” marine reserves failed to protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture, wind and wave energy projects and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

On January 4, just four days after the “marine protected areas” went into effect, Reheis-Boyd wrote an article on the Western States Petroleum Association website extolling the “virtues” of building the Keystone XL pipeline and expanding hydraulic fracking in order to “put the unemployed to work.”

“I know it’s customary to start the New Year off with an upbeat assessment of the many blessings and opportunities we share,” she wrote. “But with more than 3 million people unemployed in the six states WSPA covers, it’s hard to find much to celebrate. In California alone, 2.1 million men and women who want to work can’t because the economy remains stuck in neutral.” (

“It’s good the jobless rate in the WSPA states – California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii – has been inching down in recent months. But there is so much more that could be done , especially in the energy sector, to put people back to work,” she said.

Ironically, she failed to mention the impact that the creation of the so-called “marine protected areas” she oversaw will have on sustainable recreational and commercial fishing businesses that, prior to the January 1 closures, already were operating under the strictest, most prohibitive fishing regulations found anywhere on the planet

“Take the Keystone XL pipeline, for example,” Reheis Boyd gushed. “We continue to debate and delay a project that would bring more of Canada’s vast oil resource to U.S. consumers, improve our nation’s energy security, and put an estimated 20,000 Americans to work immediately. And while California and other western states won’t directly benefit from the Keystone pipeline, it’s a project with such obvious and urgently needed benefits that it should have been approved and embraced long ago.”

However, the Oglala Sioux Tribe and thousands of members of tribes from Canada and the U.S. don’t share Reheis-Boyd’s assessment of the “obvious and urgently needed benefits” of the pipeline and tar sands drilling. “More than 100 people attending the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s rally against the Keystone XL Pipeline on Feb. 11, 2012 voted by consensus to support a resolution appealing for the Great Sioux Nation Treaty Council to demand U.S. President Barack Obama oppose the tar-sands crude-oil project because it violates the 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty,” according to the Native Sun News (

“The resolution calls for enforcement of the peace treaty’s Article I, which states, ‘If bad men among the whites, or among other people subject to the authority of the United States, shall commit any wrong upon the person or property of the Indians, the United States will … proceed at once to cause the offender to be arrested and punished according to the laws of the United States, and also reimburse the injured person for the loss sustained,'” the publication noted.

Fracking doesn’t cause any environmental harm?

Reheis-Boyd then went on to tout how “green” hydraulic fracturing is. “In California, we’re hearing more and more discussion about hydraulic fracturing, a technique used to release oil and natural gas from shale formations deep underground. Hydraulic fracturing has been controversial in other parts of the country but in California, where it is used to produce oil, not natural gas, it has never been linked to any environmental harm,” she claimed.

“Yet we’ve seen a growing chorus of groups and individuals call for more regulation and even outright bans on hydraulic fracturing in California,” she complained.

“These activities will make it more difficult to put Californians to work sustaining and expanding California’s energy resources. And all of this is being done because of misunderstandings about the level of existing regulation and oversight that governs drilling activities and despite the fact that hydraulic fracturing has never been shown to be a credible threat to the environment,” she stated.

Not only did Reheis-Boyd tout the pipeline and fracking as a way to “create jobs,” but she complained about the increasing regulations that the “poor, little old” petroleum companies have to face in California!

“The refining, distribution and retail side of the petroleum business also is facing a whole new series of regulations that make it very unattractive for companies to expand their operations and their employment in California,” she claimed.

“Even though a federal judge recently ruled the Low Carbon Fuel Standard violated the U.S. Constitution, refiners are facing plenty of other climate change related regulations that will make it far more costly to produce transportations fuels in California – costs that surrounding states and even other nations do not impose making California less competitive in the global marketplace,” she said.

Pitting one worker against another

While Reheis-Boyd’s touting of the environmentally devastating Keystone XL pipeline and hydraulic fracking are certainly alarming, her claim that “We should renew our resolve in 2012 to make job growth for Americans our top priority – no matter where in the economy those jobs are located” is absolutely appalling, considering that she presided over a process designed to kick sustainable fishermen and seaweed harvesters off the water!

“California and other western states should resolve to pursue their climate change objectives in ways that don’t put people out of work and don’t pit workers in one industry against workers in other industries,” the oil industry superstar concluded.

Actually, Reheis-Boyd and her cohorts on the Blue Ribbon Task Force went out of their way to “pit one worker against another” in the MLPA process.

Rather than protecting the ocean in a wholistic manner and protecting workers in the fishing industry, she and the task force went out of their way to create fake “marine protected areas” that let the oil industry, municipal polluters, corporate aquaculture, wind and wave energy companies and all other users of marine waters other than fishermen “off the hook” in their bizarre conception of “marine protection.”

Unfortunately, the Jerrry Brown administration, like the “green” Schwarzenegger administration before it, is completely subservient to the whims of oil industry lobbyists such as Reheis-Boyd.

Late last year Brown pushed for Derek Chernow, then head of the Department of Conservation, to ease key requirements for companies seeking to tap California’s oil through underground injection. When the official refused, Brown fired him, along with Deputy Director Elena Miller, under pressure from the oil industry.

“Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Assn., a lobbying group, said regulators began requesting so much information about every project — “an infinite do-loop” — that they effectively halted production for some operators,” according to an article in the LA Times on January 29 (

Pushing the “gospel” of “Drill, Baby, Drill!”

Of course, pushing for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, the expansion of hydraulic fracking in California and the weakening of California environmental laws is not the only lobbying for the oil industry that Reheis-Boyd has done in recent years. Reheis-Boyd is a strong advocate for new oil drilling off the California coast, in spite of the tremendous threat that new oil rigs pose to fish, other marine life and human health.

“There are more than 10 billion barrels of crude oil reserves located off the California coast and huge reserves of natural gas,” Reheis-Boyd said in “A Message from WSPA” on the oil industry group’s website in early 2010. “Our industry has demonstrated over the past 40 years it can and does operate safely in the marine environment.”

Reheis-Boyd also told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat on April 1, 2010 that she was “disappointed” by Obama’s decision to continue excluding California’s “resource-rich” waters from energy development. “Without added offshore oil development, the state would have to bring in more oil by tanker, and ‘we don’t want that,'” Reheis-Boyd said, according to the Press Democrat (

Since then, Reheis-Boyd has touted the “need” to open up the West Coast to new oil drilling many times in an array of publications – and grassroots environmental leaders remain strongly opposed to any efforts to drill.

“Catherine Reheis-Boyd was part of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative process that denied access to the ocean for sustainable food providers and opened the path for offshore oil drillling off the Northern California Coast,” said John Lewallen, co-founder of the Ocean Protection Coalition and the North Coast Seaweed Rebellion. “The people of the North Coast are determined to prevent offshore oil drilling and defend our access to the ocean.”

For more information about the Keystone XL Pipeline, Alberta tar sands drilling and hydrofracking, go to: or

MLPA Initiative Background:

The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) is a law, signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999, designed to create a network of marine protected areas off the California Coast. However, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004 created the privately-funded MLPA “Initiative” to “implement” the law, effectively eviscerating the MLPA.

The “marine protected areas” created under the MLPA Initiative fail to protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, water pollution, military testing, wave and wind energy projects, corporate aquaculture and all other uses of the ocean other than fishing and gathering. These “marine protected areas” are backed by the Western States Petroleum Association, Safeway Stores and the Walton Family Foundation (Walmart).

The MLPA Initiative operated through a controversial private/public “partnership” funded by the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation. The Schwarzenegger administration, under intense criticism by grassroots environmentalists, fishermen and Tribal members, authorized the implementation of marine protected areas under the initiative through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the foundation and the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG).

Tribal members, fishermen, grassroots environmentalists, human rights advocates and civil liberties activists have slammed the MLPA Initiative for the violation of numerous state and federal laws. Critics have charged that the initiative has violated the Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act, Brown Act, California Administrative Procedures Act, Coastal Act and American Indian Religious Freedom Act.

MLPA and state officials refused to appoint any tribal scientists to the MLPA Science Advisory Team (SAT), in spite of the fact that the Yurok Tribe alone has a Fisheries Department with over 70 staff members during the peak fishing season, including many scientists. The MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force also didn’t include any tribal representatives until 2010 when one was finally appointed to the panel.

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.