Big oil expands its PR effort to own the California Legislature
The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) on October 23 announced the hiring of international public relations expert Argelia León as the latest addition to their organization, the most powerful lobbying group in California. León will staff the position of Manager of Strategic Partnerships, where she will “manage growing and maintaining WSPA’s affiliations in the five western states including California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, and Nevada.” .
By Dan Bacher
“As we work with our members to protect and grow an industry that drives economic growth and sustains our way of life in the West, it is critical that we retain the best and the brightest talent,” said Catherine Reheis-Boyd, WSPA President and former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create so-called “marine protected areas” in Southern California.
- Background: The alarming ties between Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels and his faux Marine Protected Areas
The hiring of León is expected to expand the organization’s power and influence even further. Showing the enormous power of the oil industry in California despite the state’s “green” image, every bill except one opposed by WSPA 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 was Senate Bill 188, a bill authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) to prohibit new pipelines or other infrastructure needed to support new federal oil and gas development.
“I’m very excited to bring my experience building coalitions, engaging stakeholders and activating community groups to support the policy initiatives of our association,” Argelia León said. “Under Catherine Reheis-Boyd’s leadership, WSPA has successfully navigated complex legislative and regulatory challenges, and I look forward to making an impactful contribution to our collective efforts.”
“Now home to the largest populations of Latinos and Asian-Americans, and sizable numbers of African-American, millennial, immigrant and LGBT communities, our five-state region represents a unique opportunity to build a coalition of ethnic, community and business organizations that reflects the strength of the petroleum industry’s diverse workforce and consumer base,” León added. “I’m confident the work I’ve done in California and Mexico will help accomplish this across our region.”
According to WSPA, “Prior to joining WSPA, León served as Vice President at Mercury Public Affairs, working with the government affairs unit, managing public affairs campaigns and coalition building efforts throughout the state, and helping to establish the firm’s Mexico City office. She recently returned from Puerto Rico where she managed the political campaign for a gubernatorial candidate in the most recent elections.”
León holds a bachelor of arts degree in political science and journalism.
León joins a large and growing staff that promotes Big Oil’s agenda in the West. On March 27, WSPA announced the hiring of former Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno) as Senior Vice President, Policy and Strategic Affairs. Perea advises WSPA on public policy and legislative matters in California: www.dailykos.com/…
In addition to Perea and León, the organization this year hired three public relations specialists and an in-house general counsel as the oil industry gears up to further expand its already huge influence and power in California politics.
The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) bills itself as a “non-profit trade association that represents companies that account for the bulk of petroleum exploration, production, refining, transportation and marketing in the five western states of California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, and Nevada.”
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 SB 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.
WSPA President Reheis-Boyd 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. (www.dfg.ca.gov/…)
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 over the past two quarters, 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: www.lung.org/…
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.
The only bill opposed by the oil industry that made it out of the legislature to be signed by Governor Jerry Brown was Senate Bill 32, legislation that reduces greenhouse gas level to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The reason for the bill’s passage was because billionaire Tom Steyer’s Next Generation Climate Action spent $7.3 million lobbying for the bill in the seventh quarter of 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.