Happy World Oceans Day – how big oil effectively runs Cali’s marine protection areas

  • Published on June 8th, 2017

“If these are true marine protection areas, they why are we allowing drilling and other insults to the ocean in them? The whole MLPA Initiative was a phony process that provided an opportunity for Big Green and government bureaucrats to write press releases claiming these were ‘protected areas’ when in reality the fishermen and Tribes got screwed. We should have bans on oil drilling in all of the marine protected areas.”

by Dan Bacherbig oil influence

The enormous power that Big Oil exerts over California regulators was inadvertently revealed in a March 10, 2012 article in the Santa Barbara Independent that discussed a so-called “marine protected area” created under the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.

The official language for the marine protected area in the Isla Vista area of Santa Barbara County, the Campus Point State Marine Conservation Area, reads, “Take of all living marine resources is prohibited, except for take pursuant to operation and maintenance of artificial structures inside the conservation area … ”

“The caveat, allowing marine resources to be taken near artificial structures, exists to allow oil production representatives the ability to maintain equipment, including pipelines, located in this area,” the article by Cat Heushul stated.

Unfortunately, the reporter failed to mention that Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, actually California Marine Protected Areasserved as the Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative to create this “marine protected area” and others like it in Southern California. She also served on the task forces to create “marine protected areas” on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast. If that is not a huge, glaring conflict of interest.

Meanwhile, Reheis-Boyd’s husband, James D. Boyd, first appointed by Governor Davis, sat on on the California Energy Commission from 2002 to 2012, including serving as Vice-Chair of the Commission from 2/2007 to 1/2012.

I realize that the oil industry needs to maintain its equipment near “artificial structures.” However,  I find it ironic and disturbing that anglers are prevented from fishing in this so-called “Yosemite of the Sea” and “underwater park” off Isla Vista while the oil industry is allowed to “take” living marine resources.

In 2014, I called Zeke Grader, the long time executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations who passed away in September 2015, about a bill sponsored by Senator Hannah Beth Jackson to defend the Vandenberg State Marine Reserve from oil drilling, due to loopholes in both the California Coastal Sanctuary Act and the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative. Grader, who supported the bill, pointed out how the very need for the bill “highlights what a failure the MLPA Initiative was.”

“If these are true marine protected areas, they why are we allowing drilling and other insults to the ocean in them?” asked Grader. “The whole MLPA Initiative was a phony process that provided an opportunity for Big Green and government bureaucrats to write press releases claiming these were ‘protected areas’ when in reality the fishermen and Tribes got screwed. We should have bans on oil drilling in all of the marine protected areas.”

And guess who led the charge to defeat this bill and a similar bill to it, SB 788, sponsored by Senator Mike McGuire in 2015? Yes, the very same oil lobbyist, Reheis-Boyd, who oversaw the marine protection process on the South Coast led the opposition to both bills to protect “marine protected areas” from oil drilling!

State officials and MLPA Initiative advocates continually hailed the MLPA Initiative process chaired by the WSPA president as “open, transparent and inclusive” when it was anything but. In fact, the MLPA Initiative failed to protect the ocean from fracking, offshore oil drilling, pollution, military testing and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering. In fact, the oil industry fracked ocean waters off the Southern California waters off the Southern California at least 203 times over a 20 year period, according to an Associated Press investigation in 2013.

In spite of California’s “green” image, the state is the third largest oil producer in the nation, right behind North Dakota (second) and Texas tug of war between the people and big oil for Jerry Brown's soul(first).  Big Oil, Big Ag and other corporate interests have captured the state’s regulatory apparatus by effectively buying off the regulators by spending many millions of dollars on lobbying every year and campaign contributions every election season.

During the 2015-2016 Legislative Session, the oil industry spent a historic $36.1 million to lobby California lawmakers and officials. During the last 6 years, the industry has spent $122 million in Sacramento, more than any other interest group.

Reheis-Boyd’s Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) was the top overall oil industry spender during the 2015-16 session, spending $18.7 million. Chevron, the second overall oil industry spender, spent $7 million in the 2015-16 session.

More recently, WSPA spent $1,387,601.97 from January 1 to March 31, 2017, for “general lobbying,” according to documents filed with the California Secretary of State.

WSPA and Big Oil use their money and power in 5 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.

On this World Oceans Day 2017, it’s important that we work hard to get Big Oil money out of California politics and make California’s faux “marine protected areas” into real ones that actually protect the ocean, as the Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 mandates. For more information, 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.