Western States Petroleum Association wins the prestigious “Scummy” Award

  • Published on June 18th, 2016
by Dan Bacher

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the lobbying organization for Big Oil in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, received the prestigious “Scummy Award” from the environmental group “Stop Fooling California” (stopfoolingca.org) on June 17 for “fighting for the oil industry’s right to pollute.” In every edition of Stop Fooling California’s “The Crude Truth” newsletter, the group gives the “Scummy Award” for “who’s the best at being the worst.” I love these awards because they offer a creative and humorous way to point out the latest transgressions of the oil industry.

“Remember that time the Richmond Chevron refinery sent thousands to the hospital when it caught fire and covered the community with heavy, toxic smoke?,” the group recalled. “ Well, understandably, the local air quality management district didn’t like that one bit. So, officials set up five rules designed to reduce refinery emissions and ensure Big Oil doesn’t poison its neighbors. Seems reasonable, right?”

“Well, not if you’re elite scum bag,” the group said. “The Western States Petroleum Association filed a lawsuit, with their lawyers calling the rules ‘arbitrary and capricious.’” (www.mercurynews.com/…)

“Meanwhile, climate justice groups like the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, support the rules, saying they’re needed to protect our climate and health especially for disadvantaged communities, who shoulder the brunt of pollution,” the group concluded.

In an opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle cited by Stop Fooling California, Andres Soto and Sandy Saetern pointed out the enormous hazard that oil refinery emissions pose to human health and the environment. (www.sfchronicle.com/…)

“East Bay residents know what it’s like to rush, choking, to the emergency room when a refinery fire poisons our air because oversight is too lax,” Soto and Saetern wrote. “ We know that from Chevron’s 2012 Richmond refinery fire, which sent 15,000 people to seek medical help after a corroded pipe failed and caught fire. The Bay Area knows we need air pollution reductions to protect our climate and our health.”

This is not the first time that Stop Fooling California has bestowed its “Scummy  Award” upon WSPA or its President, Catherine Reheis-Boyd. After hearing that the “Women’s Empowerment Summit” was going to honor Reheis- Boyd,  with the 2016 “Distinguished Woman and Petroleum Advocate of the Year” award on May 7, the group decided to give Reheis-Boyd the “Scummy Award.” (www.indybay.org/…)

“Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), is receiving TWO awards this weekend!,” the group proclaimed. “She’ll receive the first annual Distinguished Woman and Petroleum Advocate of the Year award (because she leads the most powerful corporate lobbying group in Sacramento) AND our prestigious Scummy (because she’s an oil industry shill).” (us8.campaign-archive2.com/…)

The oil industry, including WSPA, Chevron, Phillips 66, AERA Energy, Exxon and Shell, have spent more than $25 million so far in the 2015-16 legislative session.  WSPA has spent $12.8 million so far in the session, making them, as usual, the top California lobbying spenders of the session.

In a huge conflict of interest that the mainstream media has refused to discuss, Reheis-Boyd chaired the South Coast Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue) Ribbon Task Force that created the so-called “marine protected areas” that went into effect in Southern California waters on January 1, 2012. She also served on the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces for the North Coast, North Central Coast and Central Coast. (www.dfg.ca.gov/…)

The “marine protected areas” created under her leadership fail to protect the ocean from fracking, acidizing, other offshore oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering.

While Reheis-Boyd served on the task forces to “protect” the ocean, the same oil industry that the “marine guardian” represents was conducting environmentally destructive fracking operations off the Southern California coast. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and media investigations by Associated Press and truthout.org in 2013 reveal that the ocean has been fracked at least 203 times in the past 20 years, including the period from 2004 to 2012 that Reheis-Boyd served as a “marine guardian.”

Besides exerting enormous influence over state regulators, WSPA and Big Oil also wield enormous power over federal regulators. Claiming that fracking poses “no significant impact” to the environment, Obama administration officials on May 27 finalized their plans to allow oil companies to resume offshore fracking and acidizing in California’s Santa Barbara Channel after a moratorium on fracking was temporarily imposed as the result of a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit. (theecoreport.com/…)

As expected, Reheis-Boyd applauded the Environmental Assessment (EA) report by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement that ended the moratorium on offshore hydraulic fracturing in California:

“Today’s final report continues to reaffirm the sound science behind our safe energy production practices,” Reheis Boyd said in a statement on May 27. “Offshore producers in California will continue to adhere to the strictest safety and operational standards in the world while delivering affordable and reliable energy to U.S. consumers.”  (www.wspa.org/… )

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. For my in-depth investigation on the five ways WSPA and Big Oil have captured California politics, go to: www.dailykos.com/…

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.