Dan Bacher: Top Censored Environmental Story of 2012? "Marine guardian" lobbies for offshore oil drilling, fracking
Published on Jun 27, 2012 - 5:58:02 AM
June 24, 2012 - On June 6, Natural Resources Secretary John Laird celebrated the California Fish and Game Commission's adoption of regulations for so-called "marine protected areas" on the North Coast created under Arnold Schwarzenegger's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.
The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was an unprecedented disaster for fish, wildlife, fishing communities and the entire ecoystem. Unfortunately, the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force to create "marine protected areas" in southern California was chaired by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association and an ardent advocate of new oil drilling off the West Coast. What type of marine "protection" is overseen by a big oil lobbyist?
"This is a great day for California's ocean and coastal resources," claimed Laird. "As promised, we have completed the nation's first statewide open coast system of marine protected areas, strengthening California's ongoing commitment to conserve marine life for future generations."
Laird is a curious type of "environmental protector," since he presided over a massive fish kill in the Delta pumps in 2011, spurred by record water exports to corporate agribusiness and southern California, and is a steadfast promoter of the peripheral canal or tunnel, a project that will hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon, steelhead, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and a myriad of other species.
Missing from Laird's comments and the mostly fawning mainstream media "coverage" of the completion of the "nation's first statewide open coast system of marine protected areas" was any mention of the key fact that Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), served as the Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force that created the "marine protected areas" on the South Coast.
Nor was there any mention in the LA Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News or other corporate media outlets that oil industry lobbyist Reheis-Boyd also served on the task forces that created the North Central Coast and North Coast marine protected areas.
Nor was there any mention in the mainstream media that this "marine guardian" has been lobbying for new offshore oil drilling off the West Coast, the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, the expansion of the environmentally destructive practice of hydraulic fracturing (hydro fracking) and the evisceration of California's landmark environmental laws.
For example, Reheis-Boyd, in "A Message from WSPA" on the oil industry group's website in early 2010, gushed about all of the oil and natural gas that could be extracted from California coastal waters if the oil industry was just given a green light by the state and federal governments.
"There are more than 10 billion barrels of crude oil reserves located off the California coast and huge reserves of natural gas. Our industry has demonstrated over the past 40 years it can and does operate safely in the marine environment," she claimed.
Reheis-Boyd then told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat on April 1, 2010 that she was "disappointed" by Obama's decision to continue excluding California's "resource-rich" waters from energy development. "Without added offshore oil development, the state would have to bring in more oil by tanker, and ‘we don't want that,'" Reheis-Boyd said, according to the Press Democrat (http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20100401/NEWS/4011015
Of course, the Press Democrat article made no reference to her leadership role in the MLPA process to create alleged "marine protected areas."
On January 4, 2012, just four days after the "marine protected areas" on the South Coast went into effect, Reheis-Boyd wrote an article on the Western States Petroleum Association website extolling the "virtues" of building the Keystone XL pipeline and expanding hydraulic fracking in order to "put the unemployed to work."
"I know it's customary to start the New Year off with an upbeat assessment of the many blessings and opportunities we share," she wrote. "But with more than 3 million people unemployed in the six states WSPA covers, it's hard to find much to celebrate. In California alone, 2.1 million men and women who want to work can't because the economy remains stuck in neutral." (http://www.wspa.org/blog/index.php/wspa-message/lets-make-job-growth-for-all-americans-our-top-priority-in-2012/)
"Take the Keystone XL pipeline, for example," Reheis Boyd gushed. "We continue to debate and delay a project that would bring more of Canada's vast oil resource to U.S. consumers, improve our nation's energy security, and put an estimated 20,000 Americans to work immediately. And while California and other western states won't directly benefit from the Keystone pipeline, it's a project with such obvious and urgently needed benefits that it should have been approved and embraced long ago."
Reheis-Boyd then went on to tout how "green" the environmentally devastating practice of hydraulic fracturing is. "In California, we're hearing more and more discussion about hydraulic fracturing, a technique used to release oil and natural gas from shale formations deep underground. Hydraulic fracturing has been controversial in other parts of the country but in California, where it is used to produce oil, not natural gas, it has never been linked to any environmental harm," she claimed.
"Yet we've seen a growing chorus of groups and individuals call for more regulation and even outright bans on hydraulic fracturing in California," she complained.
The failure of the corporate media to even mention one of the most egregious conflicts of interest of environmental regulation in California history makes the saga of Reheis-Boyd, "marine guardian," a prime candidate for one of the "Top Censored Stories" in California politics in recent years.
Reheis-Boyd's latest attack on California environmental laws
In her latest assault on environmental laws, Reheis-Boyd's Western States Petroleum Association on June 19 released a so-called "independent study" conducted by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) that argues for weakening California's climate change regulations. (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/wspa-releases-new-study-market-impacts-of-california-fuels-policies-2012-06-19)
"California's multiple climate change regulations will have serious unintended consequences for the state's transportation fuel markets, including significant job losses, disruptions to fuel supplies, and higher costs for businesses and consumers," according to a news release from the Association.
BCG employed its "proprietary modeling expertise and experience as a leading energy consultancy" to analyze the cumulative impacts on refiners and fuel markets from several California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulations that are at or nearing the implementation phase, including the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) and the current design of the state's cap and trade program, the news release noted.
In a letter to Governor Jerry Brown, Catherine Reheis-Boyd said, "WSPA and its members are convinced the fuels policies now in place and those proposed to be implemented for the purpose of achieving greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction have set California on a course that cannot be sustained but can be corrected."
"The current fuels policies will have significant unintended consequences on California's refiners, and consequently their employees, consumers and the state. California can and should continue to play a leadership role on climate change polices but we need to begin now to chart a new course for securing our emission reduction goals without unnecessary fuel market disruptions," Reheis-Boyd's letter continued.
"Our hope is this report will be an important tool to begin a serious conversation in California about how we can achieve the desired greenhouse gas emissions reductions while minimizing impacts on California fuel producers, consumers, employers and the economy," said Reheis-Boyd.
The BCG study, "Understanding the Impact of AB 32," was unveiled at the Low Carbon Fuel Standard Symposium sponsored by Fueling California. A copy of the full report is available at http://www.CAFuelFacts.com .
Marine protected areas that don't protect the ocean
The "marine protected areas" that Reheis-Boyd helped to implement fail to protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, pollution, military and seismic testing, wind and wave energy projects, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering. They constitute one of the most outrageous examples of corporate greenwashing in California history.
"Marine protected areas can in some instances be beneficial for specific areas, species or ecosystems," said Zeke Grader, Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "However, the problem we have here is that these ‘marine protected areas' are in essence no fishing zones and they don't protect for water quality and other types of development or insults to the environment from activities such as seismic testing."
While Reheis-Boyd argues for "minimizing impacts on California fuel producers, consumers, employers and the economy," she cared nothing about "minimizing impacts" to sustainable recreational and commercial fishermen when it came to kicking them off the water through the creation of questionable "marine protected areas."
The key role that Reheis-Boyd played as an MLPA Initiative official in closing fishing and gathering over large areas of California ocean waters while doing nothing to stop ocean industrialization, pollution and other threats to the environment makes this news story a definite contender for one of Project Censored's "Most Censored Stories" of 2012 (http://www.projectcensored.org) - and for the number one "Most Censored" Environmental Story of 2012.
Inexplicably, state officials have rejected requests for an investigation into conflicts of interest posed by Reheis-Boyd in her role as "marine guardian," as well as conflicts of interest posed by a marina operator and real estate executive that served on the task forces.
John Lewallen, longtime North Coast environmentalist, seaweed harvester, the co-founder of the North Coast "Seaweed Rebellion" movement and staunch opponent of offshore oil drilling, the clearcutting of forests and corporate greenwashing, believes that Reheis-Boyd's position as an "oil industry superstar" was a conflict of interest with her position as chair of a task force charged with developing "marine protected areas."
"Reheis Boyd is moving right on up, really advancing the cause of the oil industry," commented Lewallen in 2009. "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. Twenty-three percent of the nation's offshore oil reserves are off the coast of California."
One of the most shameful things about the creation of these alleged "Yosemites of the Sea" and "marine parks" is that representatives of corporate "environmental" NGOs refused to oppose Reheis-Boyd's leadership role in the MLPA process, although many grassroots environmentalists including Lewallen repeatedly slammed the big oil lobbyist's position as a "marine guardian."
Big oil lobbyist's position just the tip of the iceberg
Unfortunately, Reheis-Boyd isn't the only "marine guardian" overseeing the implementation of the MLPA process with inherent conflicts of interest. MLPA critics have charged Bill Anderson and Greg Schem, members of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force, with operating corporations that have an opportunity to personally profit from where marine protected areas are or are not located.
William (Bill) Anderson has been president and chief operating officer of Westrec Marinas since 1989. Westrec Marinas is the nation's largest owner and operator of waterfront marinas.
Gregory F. Schem is president and chief executive officer of Harbor Real Estate Group, specializing in marina and waterfront real estate investments, including a marina, fuel dock, and boat yard in Marina del Rey, in addition to other California assets. (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/brtf_bios_sc.asp)
However, the MLPA conflicts are just the tip of the political iceberg. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build a peripheral canal or tunnel, a parallel process to the MLPA Initiative, is also ridden with numerous conflicts of interest.
For example, an employee of the Westlands Water District, considered the "Darth Vader" of California water politics by Delta advocates, is currently working "on loan" for the Department of Water Resources (DWR) on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. (http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2011/12/14/westlands-official-working-for-dwr-on-delta-plan/)
Documents obtained by this reporter under the California Public Records Act reveal that Susan Ramos, Deputy General Manager of the Westlands Water District, was hired in an inter-jurisdictional personal exchange agreement between the Department of Water Resources and Westlands Water District from November 15, 2009 through December 31, 2010. The contract was extended to run through December 31, 2011 and again to continue through December 31, 2012.
"Susan Ramos' hiring by the Department of Water Resources is a classic example of the revolving door between government agencies and water districts controlled by mega-corporate farms such as Westlands," said Tom Stokely, Water Policy Analyst for the California Water Impact Network. "It further erodes public confidence at a time when distrust of government is at an all time high. We can be sure the public's interests will not be protected."
The news of Ramos' service on loan from Westlands followed the alarming disclosure that the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) hired Laura King Moon, the Assistant General Manager of the State Water Contractors, to assist in the completion of the controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). (http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2011/10/25/state-hires-water-contractor-rep-to-help-oversee-bay-delta-plan/)
In yet another example of corruption in California water politics, the California Fair Political Practices Commission in May 2010 fined Katherine Hart Johns, Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board member, $600 (wow - a whole $600?) for failing to report her husband's separate property interest in his firm, California Resource Strategies, Inc., on her 2006, 2007, and 2008 annual Statements of Economic Interests. (http://fppc.ca.gov/press_release.php?pr_id=714).
"It's outrageous that these conflicts of interests have become normalized," commented Michael Preston, spokesman for the Winnemem Wintu Tribe and a UC Berkeley Senior studying Society and the Environment and Native American Studies. "People have come to accept these political moves, without any consideration for the Tribal, fishing, small farming and other communities impacted by these processes, as normal."
Advocates of openness and transparency in government contend the cases of Catherine Reheis-Boyd, Bill Anderson, Greg Schem, Susan Ramos, Laura King-Moon, Katherine Hart Johns and numerous others exemplify how corporate interests completely dominate environmental politics in California at tremendous expense to the public trust.
MLPA science: "incomplete and terminally flawed"
Not only was the MLPA Initiative ridden with numerous conflicts of interest, but it is based on questionable science.
The Northern California Tribal Chairman's Association, including the Chairs of the Elk Valley Rancheria, Hoopa Valley Tribe, Karuk Tribe, Smith River Rancheria, Trinidad Rancheria, and Yurok Tribe, believes the science behind the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative developed by Arnold Schwarzenegger's Science Advisory Team is "incomplete and terminally flawed."
"While we appreciate the Brown administration's support and the Fish and Game Commission effort to recognize tribal traditional harvesting rights, there is more that needs to be done in order to protect our culture and our resources for present and future generations," said Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas P. O'Rourke Sr. prior to the Fish and Game Commission meeting on June 6.
"We also have serious questions about the science, developed under the Schwarzenegger Administration, which the process relies upon. We believe it requires a truly impartial external review and revision in order to work for our region," O'Rourke concluded.
For more information, go to: http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2012/06/08/yurok-tribe-challenges-mlpa-initiatives-terminally-flawed-science/.
For more information on Reheis-Boyd's lobbying efforts for the Keystone XL Pipeline, hydro fracking and offshore oil drilling, go to: http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2012/02/17/marine-guardian-lobbies-for-keystone-xl-pipeline-fracking/.
MLPA Initiative Background:
The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) is a law, signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999, designed to create a network of marine protected areas off the California Coast. However, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004 created the privately-funded MLPA "Initiative" to "implement" the law, effectively eviscerating the MLPA.
The "marine protected areas" created under the MLPA Initiative fail to protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, water pollution, military testing, seismic testing, wave and wind energy projects, corporate aquaculture and all other uses of the ocean other than fishing and gathering.
The MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces that oversaw the implementation of "marine protected areas" included a big oil lobbyist, marina developer, real estate executive and other individuals with numerous conflicts of interest. Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, served on the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the North Coast and North Central Coast.
Reheis-Boyd, a relentless advocate for offshore oil drilling, hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the Keystone XL Pipeline and the weakening of environmental laws, also chaired the South Coast MLPA Blue Ribbon Task that developed the MPAs that went into effect in Southern California waters on January 1, 2012.
The MLPA Initiative operated through a controversial private/public partnership funded by the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation. The Schwarzenegger administration, under intense criticism by grassroots environmentalists, fishermen and Tribal members, authorized the implementation of marine protected areas under the initiative through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the foundation and the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG).
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