Big Oil defeats California bill to ban new offshore oil drilling

  • Published on September 6th, 2017

In spite of California’s “green” image, every bill except one opposed by the powerful oil industry has failed to make it out of the state legislature this year and during the 2015-2016 session. The latest victim of intense lobbying by Big Oil is Senate Bill 188, which would respond to President Donald Trump’s executive order opening the door to expanded offshore oil and gas drilling in federal waters off the California coast by blocking new pipelines and other support infrastructure.

offshore oil rig by steven straltonBy Dan Bacher

“The oil industry killed that bill,” said the bill’s author, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara). “They are far too powerful.”

Background: Big oil lobbying money turns California the WRONG kind of green

The Western States Petroleum (WSPA), the California Independent Petroleum Association, the California Chamber of Commerce and California Manufacturers & Technology Association dumped big money into defeating the legislation.

A long list of environmental, consumer, fishing and indigenous groups supported the legislation, including the California Coastkeeper Alliance, Environmental Defense Center, Defenders of Wildlife, Food and Water Watch, Friends of the Earth,  Seventh Generation Advisors, Sierra Club Califronia, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation.

The Committee on Appropriations, chaired by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, held the bill in their hearing on Friday, September 1.

The bill passed through the Assembly Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 7 to 3 on July 10.

Jointly authored by Senate Leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), Senate Bill 188 protects the California coast by “prohibiting the State Lands Commission from approving any new leases for big oil influencepipelines, piers, wharves, or other infrastructure needed to support new federal oil and gas development in the three mile area off the coast that is controlled by the state.”

Jackson said it would also prohibit any lease renewal, extension or modification that would support the production, transportation or processing of new oil and gas.

“California cannot control what happens in federal waters,” said Jackson in July after the bill passed through through the Resources Committee. “But three miles from shore, where our power and jurisdiction lie, we can and will take strong and unequivocal action. SB 188 will prevent us from taking a step backward into the outdated, dirty and destructive energy policies of the past, and protect our coast from potential oil spills which could devastate our multi-trillion dollar coastal economy, our coastal waters and our marine life.”

“SB 188 will ensure that California – not the federal government – has the final say in preventing oil and gas production from further disrupting our state’s marine environment, and putting our residents’ health at risk,”  said de León.

California’s vibrant coastal economy produces approximately $44.5 billion in GDP each year and employs almost half a million people in the state, according to Jackson. The coastal economy employs people in the sportfishing, commercial fishing, recreational, boating, hotel, tourism and other industries.

Big Oil is the most powerful lobby in Sacramento and the Western States Petroleum Association is the most powerful lobbying organization. Big Oil spent over $10.8 million in lobbying in the second quarter of 2017 to pass Jerry Brown’s environmentally unjust cap-and-trade bill, AB 398, through the legislature, as well as to lobby against Senate Bill 188.

The San Ramon-based Chevron and subsidiaries topped all other lobbyists in the state with $6,153,952 spent, followed by the Sacramento-based WSPA with $2,528,751 and the San Antonio-based Tesoro Refining and Marketing Co. LLC with $2,193.489.

In their articles about the defeat of SB 188, both the Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times failed to mention that the same Big Oil lobbyist that led the campaign to defeat SB 188 and pass AB 398 also chaired a powerful marine protection panel in Southern California in a classic example of the “fox guarding the hen house.’

That’s right — Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create alleged “marine protected areas” in Southern California from 2009 to 2012. She also served on the task forces to create so-called “marine protected areas on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast from 2004 to 2012.

These faux “marine protected areas” created under her watch fail to protect the ocean from offshore oil drilling, fracking, oil spills, pollution, military testing and all human impacts other than sustainable fishing and gathering.

Fishing organizations, Tribal leaders, and grassroots environmentalists strongly opposed Reheis-Boyd’s leadership role in the privately funded process, while state officials and corporate “environmental” NGO representatives claimed that the process she oversaw was “open, transparent and inclusive,” even though it was anything but.

Background: Big Oil spent $36.1 million lobbying in 2015-16 session

The California Oil Lobby was the biggest spender in the 2015-16 legislative session, spending an amazing $36.1 million on lobbying over the two-year period. Based on the oil industry lobbying last quarter alone, it looks like the industry may set a new spending record this session.

Big Oil spending last session amounted to $1.5 million per month — nearly $50,000 per day. The $36.1 million surpassed the $34 million spent in the prior session, according to an American Lung Association report. To read the complete report, go to:

WSPA was the top overall oil industry spender during the 2015-16 session, spending $18.7 million. As is normally the case, WSPA ranked #1 among all lobbying spenders last session. In the seventh quarter alone, WSPA dumped $2.6 million into lobbying legislators and state officials.

Chevron, the second overall oil industry spender, spent $7 million in the 2015-16 session. It spent $3 million in 2016 alone, sixth among all lobbyists in the session.

Since the 2007-08 Session, the oil industry has spent over $146 million in lobbying in California when you include the figures for the first two quarters of 2017.

WSPA and Big Oil use their money and power in 5 ways: through (1) lobbying; (2) campaign spending; (3) creating Astroturf groups: 4) working in collaboration with media; and (5) getting appointed to positions on and influencing regulatory panels.

More: Big Oil spent $10.8 million to pass Jerry Brown’s cap-and-trade bill

(Offshore oil rig photo by steven stralton)

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.
  • earlrichards

    To avoid the Big Oil/Texas gasoline price gouging, plug your Tesla Model E, electric car into your household, solar array.

    • Good plan! (And I can’t wait to see what the prices will be like after Irma crushes Florida….)

      • earlrichards

        As you may know, California is getting ripped-of, big time, by the oil corporations. There is no shortage of oil in California, because California has 3 billion barrels of oil in the ground.