California oil lobby tops spending in 2015-16 session with $36.1 million>
By Dan Bacher
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.
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 a report by the American Lung Association in California. “That’s enough money to buy 103,000 goats,” reported Stop Fooling California.
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.
To read the complete report, go here.
WSPA: Sacramento’s most powerful corporate lobbying group
Although the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) is the largest and most powerful corporate lobbying group in the West and California, its enormous influence appears to be one of our state’s best-kept secrets. It has spent more than other lobbying organization in Sacramento in recent years to exert control over the Governor’s Office, regulatory agencies and the State Legislature.
Big Oil, along with Big Ag, Big Pharma, Big Timber and other corporate interests, dominate politics in California, as well as in Washington, D.C., as evidenced by President’s Donald Trump’s nomination of EXXON CEO Rex Tilleson as Secretary of State, Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator, and other oil and energy corporation shills to his cabinet. The appointment of oil industry officials and their allies to California regulatory panels has been standard practice in California for many years.
The Western States Petroleum Association is a “non-profit trade association” that represents companies that account for the bulk of petroleum exploration, production, refining, transportation and marketing in the five western states of California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, and Nevada.
WSPA’s membership includes a who’s who oil, energy and pipeline corporations including Aera Energy LLC, Chevron, Californian Resources Corporation (formerly Occidental Petroleum), ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Noble Energy, Inc., Phillips 66, Plains All American, Inc. Shell Oil Products US, Tesoro Refining and Marketing and Valero.
From January 1, 2009 to November 8, 2016 alone, the oil industry spent $112,371,214 on lobbying expenses in California, according to a report, “The Chevron Way: Polluting California and Degrading Democracy.” The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) Sydney Office produced the report, in collaboration with a coalition of conservation, consumer and environmental justice groups.
The Western States Petroleum Association led the oil industry lobbying expenses with $49,491,104 during this period, followed by Chevron with $24,035,901 and Phillips 66 with $4,821,144. For more information, click here.
The five way Big Oil exerts its influence
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.
Big Oil and other corporate advocates have dominated appointments to Commissions and regulatory panels in California under Governors Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown, ranging from the Department of Conservation, to the California Public Utilities Commission, to the California Energy Commission, to the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force.
In a classic case of the “fox guarding the hen house, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Forces to create faux “marine protected areas” in Southern California from 2009 to 2012 at the same the oil industry was fracking South Coast ocean waters. Reheis-Boyd, appointed by Schwarzenegger, also served on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast, and North Coast from 2004 to 2012.
It gets worse. Reheis-Boyd’s husband, James D. Boyd, first appointed by Governor Davis, sat on on the California Energy Commission from 2002 to 2012, including serving as Vice-Chair of the Commission from 2/2007 to 1/2012.
In September 2016, the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) opened an investigation into the California Democratic Party in response to a report by a prominent consumer group, Consumer Watchdog, claiming that the party acted as a “laundry machine” to funnel donations from oil, energy and utility companies to Brown’s 2014 election campaign. For more information, click here.
In the “Brown’s Dirty Hands” report, Consumer Watchdog revealed that that twenty-six energy companies including the state’s three major investor-owned utilities, Occidental, Chevron, and NRG—all with business before the state—donated $9.8 million to Jerry Brown’s campaigns, causes, and initiatives, and to the California Democratic Party since he ran for Governor for his third term. Donations were often made within days or weeks of winning favors. The three major investor-owned utilities alone contributed nearly $6 million.
“Occidental’s attorney, former Governor Gray Davis, successfully pressured Brown to fire two oil and gas regulators who wouldn’t grant oil waste injection permits without proof that aquifers would not be contaminated,” according to the group. “Two months later, when Brown’s new interim oil and gas supervisor granted Occidental a permit without an environmental review, Occidental contributed $250,000 to Prop 30, Brown’s ballot measure to raise taxes, then another $100,000 two weeks later to his favored Oakland Military Institute. Seven months later, Occidental made a second $250,000 donation to Prop 30.”
You can download “Brown’s Dirty Hands.”
More recently on February 6, twelve public interest groups, led by Consumer Watchdog and Food & Water Watch, unveiled a comprehensive report card on the Brown Administration’s environmental record revealing that he falls short in six out of seven key areas, including fossil fuel generated electricity, oil drilling, and coastal protection. Read the report “How Green Is Jerry Brown?”
There is no doubt that Big Oil and other corporate interests dominate politics in California and Washington — and that we must relentlessly work to get Big Oil out of politics by supporting efforts like the Move to Amend and the California Clean Money Campaign.