The California Legislators Who Ate At Oil Industry Table Before Fracking Vote

fracking-rigby Dan Aiello

Moderate Democrats and Republicans from both of California’s legislative halls received millions from out-of-state oil interests in campaign contributions while enjoying perks like a lavish $13,000 dollar dinner party just before they were to vote on legislation regulating the industry’s hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” oil wells, according to quarterly reports released last week.

Democratic assembly members Adam Gray (D-Merced), Henry Perea (D-Fresno) and Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernardino) joined Senators Norma Torres (D-Chino), embattled Ron Calderon (D-Whittier) and Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) attended the September 4th, $13,000 dollar affair at one of Sacramento’s most expensive eateries, The Kitchen, according to Lauren Rosenthal of the Sacramento Bee.

The dinner was held on Sept. 4, as Senate Bill 4 was awaiting a vote on the Assembly floor. For Perea, Correa, Calderon and Torres, the September dinner was not the first time they’d been treated to The Kitchen by the oil industry. They were among 11 legislators who attended a Western States Petroleum Association dinner there last year, valued at nearly $11,000.

According to Rosenthal’s article: “The next day, environmental groups sounded the alarm that the oil industry was pushing to weaken permitting regulations in the bill by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills. The oil industry proceeded to add amendments that further weakened the already weak legislation opposed by a broad coalition of over 100 conservation, environmental justice and consumer groups, including Food and Water Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Credo Campaign and California Water Impact Network (C-WIN).

According to Dan Bacher in an article published in the California Progress Report, These amendments included the following:  Language added to the bill specifies that “no additional review or mitigation shall be required” if the supervisor of the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources “determines” that the proposed fracking activities have met the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act. “This provision could be used by DOGGR to bypass CEQA’s bedrock environmental review and mitigation requirements,” according to a statement from the anti-fracking groups. “This language could also prevent air and water boards, local land use jurisdictions and other agencies from carrying out their own CEQA reviews of fracking.”

In addition, under existing law, the governor and DOGGR can deny approvals for wells that involve fracking or place a partial or complete moratorium on fracking. The new language states that DOGGR “shall allow” fracking to take place until regulations are finalized in 2015, provided that certain conditions are met. “This could be interpreted to require every fracked well to be approved between now and 2015, with environmental review conducted only after the fact, and could be used to block the Governor or DOGGR from issuing a moratorium on fracking prior to 2015,” the groups stated.

Chevron spent $1,696,477, the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) spent $1,269,478 and Aera Energy LLC spent $1,015,534. That’s a total of $3,981,489 just between July 1 and September 30, 2013. In the first three quarters of 2013, WSPA alone spent a total of $3,578,266 on lobbying legislators.

Bacher’s article continued:  Oil Lobby Has Spent over $45.4 Million since 2009

Prior to the latest Secretary of State filing, a report released by the American Lung Association revealed that the oil industry lobby, the biggest corporate lobby in California, has spent $45.4 million in the state since 2009. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) alone has spent over $20 million since 2009.

Oil and gas companies spend more than $100 million a year to buy access to lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento, according to Stop Fooling California, an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse Californians.

In addition, Robert Gammon, East Bay Express reporter, revealed that before Governor Jerry Brown signed Senator Fran Pavley’s Senate Bill 4, Brown accepted at least $2.49 million in financial donations over the past several years from oil and natural gas interests, according to public records on file with the Secretary of State’s Office and the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

The oil industry not only exerts influence by direct contributions to political campaigns, but by getting its lobbyists and representatives on key panels like the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force.

In one of biggest environmental scandals of the past decade, Western States Petroleum Association COO Catherine Reheis-Boyd served as chair of the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create alleged “marine protected areas” in Southern California. She also served on the North Coast, North Central Coast and Central Coast task forces from 2004 to 2011, from the beginning of the process to the end of the process.

The MLPA Initiative process overseen by Reheis-Boyd and other ocean industrialists created fake “marine protected areas” that fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, wind and wave energy projects and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

State officials and representatives of corporate “environmental” NGOs embraced and greenwashed the “leadership” of Reheis-Boyd and other corporate operatives who served on the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces to create “marine protected areas” that fail to actually protect the ocean. By backing her leadership as a “marine guardian,” they helped to increase the already powerful influence of the Western States Petroleum Association and the oil industry.

The California Coastal Commission and other state officials acted “surprised” when FOIA documents and an Associated Press investigation revealed that Southern California coastal waters have been fracked repeatedly, over 200 times according to the latest data. Yet independent investigative reporters like David Gurney and myself warned, again and again, that this would happen when an oil industry lobbyist was in charge of marine “protection.”

There’s no doubt that the Western States Petroleum Association, Chevron and other oil companies use every avenue they can to dominate environmental policy in California, including lobbying legislators, contributing heavily to election campaigns, serving on state regulatory panels, and wining and dining politicians. Until we get the big corporate money out of politics, California will continue to be awash in a sea of oil money.

For more information about the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, go here. For an in-depth look at the state of fracking in California, read Glen Martin’s article, “All Fracked Up,” in California Lawyer Magazine.

About The Author

Related posts

24 thoughts on “The California Legislators Who Ate At Oil Industry Table Before Fracking Vote”

  1. Davis Progressive

    this is a huge issue in some of the progressive communities in this town and across the state, but rarely draws much comment here on the vanguard.

  2. Davis Progressive

    up to 600 chemicals are used in fracking fluid, including known carcinogens and toxins such as including lead, radium, uranimum, mercury and others, these end up in the ground water and other places you don’t want them… in addition during this process, methane gas and toxic chemicals leach out from the system and contaminate nearby groundwater. federal sources indicate that methane concentrations are 17x higher in drinking-water wells near fracturing sites than in normal wells.

    contaminated well water is used for drinking water for nearby cities and towns. according to the epa, there have been over 1,000 documented cases of water contamination next to areas of gas drilling as well as cases of sensory, respiratory, and neurological damage due to ingested contaminated water.

  3. Frankly

    I was in Boston this last Summer staying at a relative’s house who are two Boston College professors and as liberal as they come. And the subject of fracking came up and they both immediately went off on how terrible it was.

    By the time I was done with them they were apologetic that their opinions were uninformed liberal bias.

    Frack drilling technology has resulted in more carbon savings and more help to low income people than all green energy technology combined and will for decades to come. For example, coal-powered plants are shutting down to be replaced by natural gas-powered plants as a result of the greater supply and lower cost of natural gas as a direct result of frack drilling.

    Liberal opposition to frack drilling is clear proof that their platform of caring is second to their desire to control how everyone lives their life.

    There are certainly needs for regulations and ongoing technological advancement for the practice, but any that oppose it and work to prohibit it should be marginalized and attacked as being hostile to the environment and low-income people. They also should be considered suspect for wanting the US to stay dependent on foreign oil.

  4. Davis Progressive

    “Liberal opposition to frack drilling is clear proof that their platform of caring is second to their desire to control how everyone lives their life.”

    how is my concern about environmental and health and safety issues tantamount to controlling how everyone lives their lives?

  5. Frankly

    [quote]What’s needed now, they said, is a statewide ban on fracking and related techniques until scientists can provide firm assurances that the practice won’t cause harm.[/quote]

    Sure, there is your balance.

  6. Don Shor

    I was referring to the overall article, which describes the range of opinions. At the moment you have three basic positions on fracking:
    Allow it, pretty much unregulated.
    Allow it, heavily regulated to protect the environment.
    Ban it.
    The Brown administration has gone to the middle position.

  7. JimmysDaughter

    Frankly stated: “By the time I was done with them they were apologetic that their opinions were uninformed liberal bias.”

    Or, perhaps because you were a guest in their home, they decided to be respectful of your opinion. Just like you should be respectful of their opinion. Similar to my conservative friends visiting my home. I let them make remarks about their tea party beliefs, and their beliefs about gays, because they are guests in my home, and I love them, even though I don’t love all their opinions. As long as they are respectful, I don’t try to educate them. Maybe you should try that approach with your friends in Boston. Go Red Sox. Boston Strong.

  8. Frankly

    By the time I was done [b]educating[/b] them.

    They knew little about the history, practice and benefits, they were only mouthing the political correct soundbites of their secular religion.

    And since they keep inviting us back, I don’t think I came off as rude or disrespectful. Like me, they appear to like a good debate.

  9. JimmysDaughter

    “Liberal opposition to frack drilling is clear proof that their platform of caring is second to their desire to control how everyone lives their life.”

    Pro-frackers could be accused of the exact same thing, “a desire to control how everyone lives their life.”

  10. wdf1

    Frankly: [i]By the time I was done educating them.[/i]

    No arrogance there…

    So does this mean that you be educating us on the benefits and drawbacks of fracking?

  11. Frankly

    Actually know quite a bit about it wdf1. Father is in the oil and gas land leasing and exploration business. Helped my son research and write a college paper on it. Other than that, I have just been fascinated with energy and the global warming farce and the story of how private sector enterprise solves the biggest problems we are faced with and make the world such a better place.

    My professor relatives were quite eager to learn what I could teach them.

    So, does teaching somebody something equate to arrogance in your worldview? How does that jibe with your dogged protection of that old broken education model of standing in front of people lecturing them all day?

  12. wdf1

    Frankly: [i]So, does teaching somebody something equate to arrogance in your worldview?[/i]

    Bragging about it rather than engaging the discussion with referenced information comes off as arrogant, IMO.

  13. Frankly

    Who said I was bragging about it? We had a great debate, but there was a lot that they did not know. They did not even know what the process was. They had a lot of misconceptions about it.

    I was actually being critical of my liberal relatives latching on to an opinion because it was what all of their liberal friends and coworkers held.

    So just think of me as one of your idolized tweed-covered professors making some opinionated student feel bad because he had not done enough of his homework. I guess it is okay to do that to a kid, but not a university professor?

  14. jimt

    The main concerns I have, which I’m not sure the regulations adequately address are:

    (1) Adequate baseline monitoring of water quality. This means at least one year (all 4 seasons at least once) of groundwater monitoring before any fracking starts. Natural seepages of brine, methane, heavy metals etc. from deep shales to overlying deep aquifers can occur; and it is important to distinguish such natural leakage from fracking-induced leakage (keeps both the oil companies and the regulators honest).

    (2) Continued long-term monitoring of water quality after fracking activities have ceased. If fracking has disrupted the integrity of shale aquitard sealing from overlying aquifer systems; slow but pervasive leakage might take years or decades to reach monitoring well locations; nonetheless such leakage can degrade and eventually destroy water quality of deeper aquifers.

    The potential long-term (years to decades or longer) time-scale of migration of brines, fluids, etc. when sealing integrity has been breached in these deep aquifer/aquitard systems poses a technical and regulatory challenge–not sure if this is being addressed. Any experts know about this?

  15. jimt

    The main concerns I have, which I’m not sure the regulations adequately address are:

    (1) Adequate baseline monitoring of water quality. This means at least one year (all 4 seasons at least once) of groundwater monitoring before any fracking starts. Natural seepages of brine, methane, heavy metals etc. from deep shales to overlying deep aquifers can occur; and it is important to distinguish such natural leakage from fracking-induced leakage (keeps both the oil companies and the regulators honest).

    (2) Continued long-term monitoring of water quality after fracking activities have ceased. If fracking has disrupted the integrity of shale aquitard sealing from overlying aquifer systems; slow but pervasive leakage might take years or decades to reach monitoring well locations; nonetheless such leakage can degrade and eventually destroy water quality of deeper aquifers.

    The potential long-term (years to decades or longer) time-scale of migration of brines, fluids, etc. when sealing integrity has been breached in these deep aquifer/aquitard systems poses a technical and regulatory challenge–not sure if this is being addressed. Any experts know about this?

  16. J.R.

    [quote]Democratic assembly members Adam Gray (D-Merced), Henry Perea (D-Fresno) and Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernardino) joined Senators Norma Torres (D-Chino), embattled Ron Calderon (D-Whittier) and Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) attended the September 4th, $13,000 dollar affair at one of Sacramento’s most expensive eateries, The Kitchen, according to Lauren Rosenthal of the Sacramento Bee.[/quote]

    [quote]Moderate Democrats and Republicans from both of California’s legislative halls received millions from out-of-state oil interests in campaign contributions while enjoying perks like a lavish $13,000 dollar dinner party [/quote]

    Where are the Republicans? I don’t see any R in this list.

  17. J.R.

    [quote]Democratic assembly members Adam Gray (D-Merced), Henry Perea (D-Fresno) and Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernardino) joined Senators Norma Torres (D-Chino), embattled Ron Calderon (D-Whittier) and Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) attended the September 4th, $13,000 dollar affair at one of Sacramento’s most expensive eateries, The Kitchen, according to Lauren Rosenthal of the Sacramento Bee.[/quote]

    [quote]Moderate Democrats and Republicans from both of California’s legislative halls received millions from out-of-state oil interests in campaign contributions while enjoying perks like a lavish $13,000 dollar dinner party [/quote]

    Where are the Republicans? I don’t see any R in this list.

  18. danja

    JR,

    I apologize for the awkwardness of the graph and I see how you saw it. If you read carefully, which is necessary because my writing, especially compilations (laziness)is rudamentary, i state that the Republicans and moderate Democrats received millions in campaign contributions prior to the vote on sb 4.

    the dinner was a perk, not a contribution, and it would be misleading and unfair i believe to the Democrats at the dinner to not mention that the vast majority of oil industry lobby bucks, somewhere around 93%, go to gop candidates who almost always oppose regulations.

    The dinner targeted votes the industry was uButnsure about, all Democrats. They didnt need to wine and dine solid votes. It seemed to me that to omit the gop legislators who receive almost all oil fundraising money would purposely confuse readers about which party opposes generalky and which generally supports fracking.

    Make no mistake,, oil industry finances gop campaivns. the Democrats at the kitchen are in districts where they must compete against thatoil vote buying campaign financed GOP candidates.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for