Aug. 11, 2010 - On July 21, a prominent North Coast environmental leader called for the resignation of an oil lobbyist who serves as a member of the Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) to implement Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.
Judith Vidaver, Chair of the Ocean Protection Coalition based in Mendocino County, asked for the resignation of Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, in her public testimony several hours after over 300 Indian Tribal members and their allies peacefully took control of a BRTF meeting to protest the violation of sovereign Tribal gathering and fishing rights under the MLPA.
“OPC respectively and regrettably requests that Catherine Reheis-Boyd voluntarily step down from her position on the Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF),” said Vidaver. “Oil and water do not mix – as we are daily being reminded by the disaster spewing in the Gulf. Mrs. Reheis-Boyd’s position as President of the Western States Petroleum Association and her lobbying efforts to expand offshore oil drilling off the coast of California are a patent conflict of interest for which she should recuse herself from the BRTF proceedings which are ostensibly meant to protect the marine environment.”
“OPC does not believe Mrs. Reheis-Boyd can provide unbiased, objective and science-based recommendations regarding placement and sizes of MPAs-especially if she may be privy to confidential oil industry information regarding areas of the coast of interest to the oil/gas industry,” stated Vidaver.
Vidaver said Mrs. Reheis-Boyd’s recusal would also foster a “greater sense of trust” amongst the public-public trust being a commodity in short supply.”
“If Mrs. Reheis-Boyd does not recuse herself, OPC will request a full conflict of interest investigation,” affirmed Vidaver.
“The federal government is just now initiating the development of a National Ocean Policy,” said Vidaver. “The MLPA process will be scrutinized as a model of how to proceed in the formulation of this policy. Therefore it is vital that the deficiencies of the MLPA be addressed and corrected. Removing the perception of a conflict of interest by one representing an ocean polluting industry would go a long way towards legitimatizing the MLPA process.”
Besides serving on the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the North Coast, Reheis-Boyd was chair of the South Coast task force and sat on the North Central Coast task force.
Vidaver also asked that the so-called “marine protected areas” designated by the task force include the banning of oil drilling, wave energy projects, water pollution and other industrial uses of the ocean.
“For over 25 years OPC, with our fisher and seaweed harvester allies, has protected our ocean from threats such as aquaculture projects, nuclear waste dumping, offshore oil development and recently, wave power plants,” noted Vidaver. “We are requesting that final Marine Protected Area (MPA) designations under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative include language prohibiting industrial-scale commercial activities such as those cited above. Allowing such activities would not only threaten the very goals of the Marine Life Protection Act, but would also disrespect the incredible effort put forth by our community towards trying to implement this mandated program.”
Meg Caldwell, a BRTF member, responded to Vidaver’s request in defense of Reheis-Boyd.
“I am a died-in-the-wool environmentalist and I have worked with Reheis-Boyd on the Blue Ribbon Task Force. Not once has she demonstrated any bias for any industrial sector,” she stated.
However, local environmentalists, fishermen and Tribal members were quick to point out that there is no way of knowing for sure if Reheis-Boyd has demonstrated any “bias” for the oil industry or other industrial sectors, since she may be privy to confidential oil industry information regarding areas of the coast of interest to the oil/gas industry. Many believe that Reheis-Boyd was appointed by Schwarzenegger to make sure that the marine protected areas don’t interfere with current or planned oil industry operations.
Susan Burdick, a traditional Yurok Tribal gatherer, earlier in the day challenged the task force about its motives for denying Tribal members their right to gather and fish.
“What is your real purpose: to start drilling for oil off our coastline?” she asked. “Be honest with us!”
“We’re not going to stop what we have doing for generations. We have young people here, old people here and we will march everywhere you go,” Burdick affirmed.
In recent months, Catherine Reheis-Boyd has repeatedly called for new drilling off the California Coast. For example, in spite of the BP spill’s environmental and economic devastation, she advocated for the development of the “huge reserves of petroleum” off California in her “Gulf Oil Spill Comments,” published on the association’s website, http://www.wspa.org.
“The tragic Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico has resulted in California Governor Schwarzenegger’s withdrawal of his support for limited offshore oil development near Santa Barbara,” said Reheis-Boyd. “WSPA has not taken a position on specific offshore projects. But we have been vocal about our views that California businesses and consumers would benefit from development of the huge reserves of petroleum off the California coast, in both state and federal waters.”
In fact, respected environmental leaders such as John Stephens-Lewallen, co-founder of the Ocean Protection Coalition and Seaweed Rebellion on California’s North Coast, say that the MLPA clears the path to new offshore oil drilling.
“By setting up these no-take marine reserves and kicking fishermen, Indians, seaweed harvesters and other ocean food providers off traditional areas of the ocean, the Schwarzenegger administration is paving the way for offshore oil drilling,” said Stephens-Lewallen. “Twenty-three percent of the nation’s offshore oil reserves are off the coast of California. The Point Arena Basin off Mendocino is on track now to be leased for drilling by the Minerals Management Service.”
You just can’t make up a scenario this wacky, bizarre and corrupt. Here we have Schwarzenegger’s “marine guardian,” Catherine Reheis-Boyd, and real estate, marina development and other corporate operatives on the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force “protecting” the ocean by removing Tribal members, fishermen and seaweed harvesters, the strongest opponents of offshore oil drilling, from the water as she calls for new drilling off the California coast. What type of perverse marine “protection” is this?
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