California Governor accuses opponents of Big Oil's cap-and-trade bill of 'political terrorism'

Jerry Brown speaks at the signing ceremony for AB 398 at Treasure Island on
July 25. Photo credit: Emily Hagopian. | 

By Dan Bacher | July 27, 2017 |

At Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay with the San Francisco skyline right behind him on July 25, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 398 by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), controversial legislation that extends California’s cap-and-trade program for another ten years until 2030.

“California is leading the world in dealing with a principal existential threat that humanity faces,” said Governor Brown at the signing ceremony. “We are a nation-state in a globalizing world and we’re having an impact and you’re here witnessing one of the key milestones in turning around this carbonized world into a decarbonized, sustainable future.”

Brown signed the legislation on Treasure Island because it was the same location where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 32 (the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) that authorized the state’s cap-and-trade program more than a decade ago.

Schwarzenegger also spoke at the signing ceremony, along with  Senate President pro Tempore Kevin De León, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia and others.

Over 65 environmental justice, consumer and conservation groups strongly opposed the legislation that was based largely on a Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) wish list. Julia May, senior scientist at Communities for a Better Environment, summed up the many problems with AB 398:

“The Cap & Trade extension was written by the oil industry, is even worse than the current failed program, includes preemptions from local action, gives away so many free credits we will never meet climate goals, and allows oil refineries to expand indefinitely with no program for Just Transition to clean energy that is so desperately needed in environmental justice communities.”

May said cap-and-trade prevents local air quality agencies from establishing rules limiting greenhouse gases.

Brown, not known for handling criticism of his stances and policies well, accused opponents of the legislation from both the left and right of “political terrorism” in interviews on public radio stations.

In an interview last week with CapRadio's Ben Adler, Brown defended Republican Assembly Minority Leader Chad Mayes after he joined with Democrats on the cap-and-trade vote, incurring criticism from Republicans. In that interview, Brown  characterized those criticizing the legislation as wanting to bring the “political terrorism” of Washington to California. 

Then on July 25, Brown criticized AB 398 critics of practicing “forms of political terrorism that are conspiring to undermine the American system of governance” in an interview with David Greene of NPR (National Public Radio) . Below is the relevant excerpt from the transcript:

BROWN: Yeah. We listened to a variety of opinions from a variety of points of view. And some of the folk on the left said, oh, you can't talk to oil companies. Are you talking to the Chamber of Commerce? Are you talking to the Farm Bureau? That's just horrible.

And then on the other side, The Wall Street Journal and some of the Republican activists said, you're a Republican. You can't vote for something that a Democrat would support. Well, both of those, in my view, are forms of political terrorism that are conspiring to undermine the American system of governance. 

Critics of  AB 398 were appalled by Brown characterizing their opposition as “political terrorism.”

RL Miller of Climate Hawks Vote said in a tweet after reading and hearing the NPR story: @JerryBrownGov labels me political terrorist because I say#capandtrade extension shdn't start w/ Big Oil wish list”  

In a brief phone interview, she commented, “ I was shocked that the Governor would go out of his way to accuse those who care most about climate change of ‘political terrorism’ just because we said the bill took its talking points from Chevron.”

Climate Hawks Vote also issued a statement in response to the “political terrorism" charge:

“We are shocked and saddened by Gov. Jerry Brown’s labeling as ‘political terrorism ‘ the opposition by over 65 environmental justice, climate, and progressive groups to AB 398, which extended California’s cap and trade law through compromises with the oil industry. We at Climate Hawks Vote came into documented proof that his proposals had their genesis in a Western States Petroleum Association wish list. Accordingly, over 11,000 Climate Hawks Vote members signed a petition to ask him to stop acting as Chevron’s stenographer on important policy questions such as offsets, regulatory overrides, and allowance giveaways. 

We are not political terrorists. We are people who agree with him that climate change, caused by oil companies and other fossil fuel interests, is an existential threat to organized human existence. We simply don’t agree with his solution: letting those same oil companies write California’s climate laws. Having shepherded the passage of his compromised bill, Brown could have elected to turn the page; instead, he’s lashing out at the climate movement for demanding a political approach sufficient to the severity of the climate crisis. We proudly stand with the climate justice movement of California in fighting for climate legislation that respects scientific necessity and the health and welfare of poor, black, and brown people in our state – and we expect to be fighting for visionary bills like California’s SB 100, to move California to a 100% renewable electricity standard by 2045. 

And in an era in which Donald Trump casually tosses around the label of ‘terrorism’ and demands that his political opponents be locked up, it’s sad to see Gov. Brown descending to this level of discourse. "  

The harm to human health and the environment resulting from AB 398 will impact people of color and low income communities the most. Michelle Chan, the vice president of programs at Friends of the Earth U.S., said 3,000 people will die prematurely because of the passage of the Big Oil-written bill.

“This is institutional racism: when a bipartisan legislature pushes through public policies like AB 398 that look at the ‘big picture’ and ‘mean well,’ but really just perpetuate patterns of inequality and discrimination,” she said in her article: 

When it comes to criticism of his environmental policies, Brown appears to have a very thin skin. In May 2015 at a speech before the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), Brown said opponents of the Delta Tunnels project, renamed the California Water Fix,  should just "shut up."  More information: 

Governor Jerry Brown frequently poses as the “resistance to Trump” and vows that he will “defend science” against the Trump administration, but the Brown administration on July 22 revealed the hollowness of that vow as it approved flawed environmental documents that clear the path for the construction of the Delta Tunnels.

The Brown administration has also teamed up with the Trump administration to allow Big Oil to pollute aquifers in three major California oil fields in Kern County.

In spite of California's reputation as a "green leader, Big Oil is the largest corporate lobby in the state and exerts enormous influence over the Governor's Office, Legislature and regulatory agencies.

For more information on the big money behind AB 398, read: “Businesses Spent Millions Lobbying Before California’s Cap-and-Trade Vote” -  

Background: California oil lobby tops spending in 2015-16 session with $36.1 million 

As usual, the California Oil Lobby was the biggest spender in the 2015-16 legislative session, spending an amazing $36.1 million as of December 31, 2016.

The spending amounts to $1.5 million per month — nearly $50,000 per day — over the last two years. The $36.1 million surpassed the $34 million spent in the prior session, according to an American Lung Association report.  

The Western States Petroleum Association (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 this session.

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

In the seventh quarter alone, WSPA dumped $2.6 million into lobbying legislators and state officials while billionaire Tom Steyer's Next Generation Climate Action spent an unprecedented $7.3 million, almost 3 times the oil industry group’s expenses.

The spending by Steyer’s group helped propel the passage of Senate Bill 32, legislation that reduces greenhouse gas level to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, in spite of strong opposition by the oil industry.

Since the 2007-08 Session, the oil industry has spent $133 million in lobbying in California.

WSPA and Big Oil use their money and power in 5 ways: through (1) lobbying; (2) campaign spending; (3) getting appointed to positions on and influencing regulatory panels; (4) creating Astroturf groups: and (5) working in collaboration with media.
To read the complete report, go to: http://www.lung

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