Stop Fooling California exposes oil lobbyist conflict of interest

By Dan Bacher | July 27, 2014 | The same oil industry lobbyist who led the task force to create marine protected areas in Southern Ca...

By Dan Bacher | July 27, 2014 |

The same oil industry lobbyist who led the task force to create marine protected areas in Southern California is now opposing a bill to protect the Vandenburg State Marine Reserve from offshore oil drilling. 

Stop Fooling California recently created a meme exposing the big conflict of interest posed by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western Petroleum Association, while chairing the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force for Southern California and sitting on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast. 

The meme features three panels with photos of the oil industry official on the left and “name tags” on the right. 

The first says, “Hello my name is Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the WSPA.” 

The second says, “Hello my name is Catherine Reheis-Boyd, Member of the Marine Life Protection Act Task Force.” 

The third says, “Hello my name, is Catherine Reheis-Boyd, walking conflict of interest.” 

The group, Stop Fooling California, an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that ”highlights oil companies efforts to mislead and confuse Californians,” pointed out that the former Chair of the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force opposes a ban on offshore drilling in the Vandenberg State Marine Reserve area. 

“Big Oil, we know you're no stranger to conflicts of interest. But you have outdone yourself this time!” the group stated. 

The campaign was referring to WSPA's opposition to Senate Bill 1096, a bill to ban offshore oil drilling in state waters in the Santa Barbara Channel known as Tranquillon Ridge. 

Other opponents of the legislation besides the Western States Petroleum Association include the California Chamber of Commerce, California Independent Petroleum Association, California Manufacturers & Technology Association, Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business, Concerned Taxpayers, I.N.C., Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association, Santa Barbara County Technology and Industry Association and Sunset Exploration. 

That bill, sponsored by sponsored by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), passed out of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on June 26 by a vote of 6 to 2. It is now headed to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. 

The passage of the bill through the Committee sheds the spotlight on two glaring loopholes in the implementation of California environmental law –one in the California Coastal Sanctuary Act and the other in the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative’s creation of “marine protected areas.” 

This loophole in the California Coastal Sanctuary Act authorizes the State Lands Commission to enter into a lease for the extraction of oil or gas from state-owned tide and submerged lands in the Sanctuary, "if the commission determines that the oil or gas deposits are being drained by means of producing wells upon adjacent federal lands and the lease is in the best interest of the state." 

In the privately-funded MLPA Initiative process, Reheis-Boyd and other officials oversaw the creation of questionable “marine protected areas” that fail to protect the ocean from fracking, offshore oil drilling, oil spills, pollution, corporate aquaculture, military testing and all human impacts other than fishing and gathering. 

The Coastal Justice Coalition, a group of members of the Yurok, Hoopa Valley, Karuk and other Tribes who agree that the State of California has no right to regulate tribal gathering, exposed this loophole in the MLPA Initiative when they stated, "Protected areas would allow for deep water drilling yet would ban tribal gathering," in a news release issued in June 2010.

Senator Jackson, in explaining the reason for sponsoring her bill, said, "Even the slightest chance of an oil spill in a Marine Protected Area far outweighs any potential benefit to the state. This bill will close the book on the possibility of offshore drilling in these state waters and help ensure that our precious coastline remains protected forever." 

Meanwhile, ocean waters off the Southern California Coast continue to be “fracked” by oil companies. A Freedom of Information Act and Associated Press investigation last year revealed that Southern California marine waters were fracked at least 203 times in the past 20 years. 

Much of the fracking took place while the WSPA president was overseeing the creation of the oil industry-friendly "marine protected areas” in a privately-funded "initiative," a process that state officials, the corporate media and MLPAI advocates touted as “open, transparent and inclusive” when it was anything but. 

Grassroots environmentalists, Tribal activists and fishermen believe the time to ban offshore oil drilling, fracking, pollution, corporate aquaculture, military testing and other harmful activities to marine life in all "marine protected areas" created under the MLPA Initiative is long overdue. The oil industry's inordinate influence over the MLPA Initiative and other environmental processes, the Legislature and the Governor's Office is due to the enormous amount of money that the oil industry dumps into campaign contributions and lobbying in Sacramento every year.

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