Activists will rally to block offshore oil drilling expansion in Santa Barbara
by Dan Bacher
As crews continue to clean Santa Barbara beaches from the 100,000-gallon oil spill that began when a corroded pipeline ruptured off Refugio State Beach on May 19, environmental and community groups are urging Governor Jerry Brown and state officials to stop increased offshore drilling that would depend on the same oil pipeline that burst last month.
While Governor Brown, other state officlals and the mainstream media continue to falsely portray California as a "green" state, the devastation of the oil spill shows the fragility of California's ocean waters - and exposes the failure of state and federal officials to stop a disaster like this, due to the capture of the state's regulatory apparatus by Big Oil.
Residents will hold a press conference and rally Wednesday, June 24, to demand that the State Lands Commission reject Venoco’s bid to expand offshore drilling in Santa Barbara, according to a news advisory from Californians Against Fracking.
More than 100 people with an inflatable pipeline, hazmat suits, a 20-foot tall mock oil derrick are expected to protest at the event at 2 pm at the Goleta Valley Community Center, Goleta Valley Community Center, 5679 Hollister Ave., Goleta, CA 93117. The State Lands Commission hearing starts at 3 pm at the same location.
Using a loophole in the state law that prohibits leasing state waters for oil and gas drilling, Venoco has asked the State Lands Commission to approve a lease swap that would allow the company to drill for more oil on 3,400 acres off the California coast. That oil would be transported through the Plains All American pipeline, the group said.
"Concerned residents of the Santa Barbara area say that any plan to pump more crude through the ruptured pipeline is flawed -- as is every stage of offshore drilling that risks oil spills and deepens our climate crisis," the advisory noted.
The rally is the latest in a series of resident-led actions following the May 19 rupture of the corroded Plains All American pipeline at Refugio State Beach that caused a massive oil spill that killed hundreds of birds and marine mammals and shut down beaches essential to the area’s daily life and economy, the group stated.
It is also the first of two key events this week. State Sens. Hannah-Beth Jackson and Das Williams are holding a public hearing on the oil spill June 26 in Santa Barbara.
The impact of the oil spill upon seabird, mammal, fish and the ecosystem has been devastating. According to BirdRescue.org, 414 animals have been collected as of June 22. The group reported 57 live and 192 dead seabirds and 62 live and 103 dead mammals since the spill began. Twenty-six washed Brown Pelicans have been released as of June 22.
Unfortunately, in the reports from the Associated Press, other mainstream media and most of the "alternative" media you won't see one word about one of the most troubling and significant aspects of this oil spill - the fact that Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association and a lobbyist for Plains All American Pipeline and other oil companies, served as the Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create the same "marine protected areas" that are now being fouled by crude oil.
Four "marine protected areas" created under her "leadership" - the Goleta Slough, Campus Point, Naples and Kashtayit State Marine Conservation Areas - are now imperiled by the oil spill that started at Refugio State Beach, devastating over 9 miles of the Santa Barbara County Coast.
That's right - the very same person who is lobbying for increased offshore drilling and fracking in California - and is serving as the lobbyist for Plains All American - is the exact same oil lobbyist who chaired the panel that created the "marine protected areas" that are now being fouled by the Santa Barbara Oil Spill! And while she served as the chair for the South Coast task force - and served on the panels for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast from 2004 to 2012 - oil companies were fracking like crazy off the California coast.
In 2013, an Associated Press and Freedom of Information Act investigation revealed that oil companies had conducted over 200 offshore fracking operations in Southern California waters, including the Santa Barbara Channel, over a 20-year period.
Why was Reheis-Boyd's chairing of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force a conflict of interest?
"Because, as President of the Western States Petroleum Association she had to have known that offshore fracking was already taking place, and she steered the MLPA process around that subject, making sure the oil companies wouldn’t be bothered by such things as ‘'No Take' in a State Marine Reserve," said Joey Racano, Director of the Ocean Outfall Group, in a comment on the OB Rag. (http://obrag.org/?p=95147#.VYmCjN3DyRo)
"Catherine Reheis-Boyd was President of the Western States Petroleum Association at the same time she was Chair of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Marine Protected Areas, and during the all-important ‘implementation’ process. That means she got to decide what would make it on to the agenda and what wouldn’t," he noted.
"Nobody is saying Marine Protected Areas aren’t a good thing or that they aren’t causing a return to health and abundance. What we are saying is that we can’t wait for some future process to get the oil out. Indeed, the entire MLPA was called a ‘once in a generation opportunity’ to do so," he emphasized.
The oil industry is the largest and most powerful corporate lobby in California. Reheis-Boyd's Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) set a new record for lobbying expenses in 2014 when it spent $8.9 million spent on lobbying, nearly double what it spent in the previous year. WSPA spent $4.67 million in 2013. (http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2015/02/06/big-oil-group-spent-89-million-last-year-lobbing-jerry-brown-and-california-officials)
To read WHY the oil spill occurred - Big Oil's capture of the regulatory apparatus - read my groundbreaking investigative news piece at: http://www.calitics.com/diary/15750/lobbyist-for-oil-pipeline-company-oversaw-creation-of-fouled-marine-protected-areas
For more information about the rally, contact:
Juan Gastelum, (520) 313-4921, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kristen Monsell, (914) 806-3467, email@example.com
Rebecca Claassen, 805-865-2231, firstname.lastname@example.org
Thirsty Billionaires File Complaint Alleging Illegal Diversions of "Their" Water
by Dan Bacher
The phrase “No good deed goes unpunished,” originally attributed to playwright Clare Boothe Luce, could accurately the current situation of farmers on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
Three weeks after the State Water Resources Control Board approved a voluntary proposal by Delta farmers to voluntarily reduce their water use by 25%, the State Water Contractors (SWC), including powerful billionaire and millionaire corporate growers in the San Joaquin Valley, filed a complaint with the same board on June 16. The group requested the board to take action to “protect” State Water Project (SWP) releases from what it claimed were “unlawful diversions” in the Delta.
The group accused diverters south of the San Joaquin River - Delta farmers - of “substantial, unlawful diversions” that would “increase the burden on limited stored water supplies, affecting both the environment and other water users.”
“These landowners in the Delta have long-standing water rights that entitle them to water when nature provides it—but those rights do not entitle them to stored water paid for by others and intended for the environment. If nature ran its course, the Delta would not be suitable for drinking or farming this summer,” said Stefanie Morris, acting general manager of the State Water Contractors, in a press release.
She further alleged that landowners that continue to divert water from within the Delta are "taking" the stored state and federal water project supplies needed to meet water quality requirements.
“We’re depending on stored water to meet environmental needs, but without action from the state, keeping the Delta water fresh this summer will be like trying to fill a bucket with a hole in the bottom. We’ll be depleting reservoirs to make up for what diverters south of the San Joaquin River are taking out,” concluded Morris.
The California Sportfishing Alliance (CSPA) responded to the complaint by pointing out the irony of the water contractors claiming that Delta farmers, senior water rights holders, are “stealing” water that “belongs” to the contractors.
“State and Federal contractors, who have been illegally storing water that belongs to others for years, should not accuse Delta farmers of stealing some of their stolen water, on the basis of a seriously flawed study, with a long list of unsupported assumptions,” said Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta (RTD), noted that “the pumps for the State Water Project have yet to be turned off one day during the drought while water quality standards are being violated in the Delta each and every day this year, impacting Delta urban water users and family farms.”
“We are perilously close to losing Delta smelt, and our iconic salmon fisheries, and despite Delta family farms already taking a voluntary 25 percent reduction in water use, the State Water Contractors believe the Delta should be made into a complete sacrifice zone for their water exports,” she said.
At the same time that the water contractors are demanding that Delta farmers stop raiding “their water," water-intensiver almond acreage in the San Joaquin Valley has increased dramatically in recent years, in spite of water contractor claims that protections for Delta smelt and salmon have made the Valley into some sort of modern-day “Dust Bowl.”
In fact, growers statewide expanded their almond acreage by 150,000 acres during the current drought. (http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2015/05/15/californias-thirsty-almond-acreage-grows-by-150000-acres-during-record-drought
Stewart Resnick, the Beverly Hills billionaire agribusiness tycoon, owner of Paramount Farms, and one of the biggest California contributors to both Democratic and Republican Party candidates, revealed his current plan to expand pistachio, almond, and walnut acreage during the drought at this March's annual pistachio conference that Paramount Farms hosted. Resnick is the co-owner with his wife, Lynda, of "The Wonderful Company," formerly Roll Global.
During the conference, Resnick gloated about the industry's 118 percent increase in pistachio acreage, 47 percent increase in almonds and 30 percent increase in walnuts over the past ten years, according to the Western Farm Press.
Resnick also told the publication that their 2020 goal is “150,000 partner acres ” and “33,000 Paramount acres.” (http://westernfarmpress.com/tree-nuts/paramount-farms-touts-record-pistachio-return-future?)
Under pressure by the Metropolitan Water District and the Kern County Water Agency that serves Resnick and other wealthy growers, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) mismanaged the Bay Delta Estuary and California’s reservoirs during the drought so that these agencies could continue to export as much water as possible, despite the devastating impacts on the Bay-Delta Estuary, according to Barrigan-Parrilla.
Barrigan-Parrilla said the Department and Bureau failed to hold back enough water for continued drought conditions despite warnings to do so by fishery and environmental water groups throughout the state.
“As the weeks go by, it becomes clearer and clearer that the only way to stop the over pumping of the SF Bay-Delta estuary, and Governor Brown’s planned tunnels project, is for an adjudication of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed,” she said. “The problem is that we do not have the water to meet the insatiable demand of special interest growers in California, like those in the Kern County Water Agency, or the Metropolitan Water District, which used up the majority of its three-year stored water supply in 2014, and only began to get serious about conservation this year."
During 2013 and 2014, the state and federal water agencies systematically emptied Trinity Reservoir on the Trinity River, Lake Shasta on the Sacramento River, Lake Oroville on the Feather River and Folsom Lake on the American River, in spite of it being a record drought. The agencies delivered massive amounts of subsidized Delta water to corporate mega-growers, Southern California water agencies and Big Oil companies conducting steam injection and fracking operations in Kern County. (http://www.elkgrovenews.net/2014/02/state-and-feds-drained-northern.html)
Salmon, steelhead and a host of other fish species are being driven closer to extinction by low, warm water conditions on the Sacramento and Trinity River systems spurred by the draining of reservoirs during a historic drought. But as the Brown administration mandates that northern California urban water users slash their water use by 25 percent and as Delta farmers voluntarily agree to a 25 percent in their water consumption, thirsty billionaire growers like Stewart Resnick brag about how they have expanded their almond, pistachio and walnut acreage during the drought.