On September 11, the California Legislature approved an amended version of Senate Bill 350, a measure that legislative leaders and Governor Jerry Brown touted as "landmark climate legislation."
In response, anti-fracking activists pointed out the contradiction between Brown's strong support of extreme oil extraction methods and his constant grandstanding about "clean energy" - and called on Brown to use his executive power to ban the environmentally destructive practice of fracking in California.
Under intense political pressure from the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and the oil companies, Governor Brown and legislative leaders agreed on Wednesday, September 9, to remove a provision to reduce demand for petroleum use in vehicles by 50 percent by 2030.
The amended bill, the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act, still provides for a 50 percent increase in energy efficiency in buildings and a goal of 50 percent of state utilities' power coming from renewable energy, all by 2030.
Catherine Reheis Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association and former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create "marine protected areas" in Southern California, and other oil industry representatives celebrated the removal of this key provision of the bill. "WSPA and its member companies remain committed to working with Governor Jerry Brown and legislators on climate change and energy policy," Reheis-Boyd said Wednesday.
Legislative leaders praised the amended bill as the "nation's most far reaching climate change legislation," in spite of the removal of the provision calling for a 50 percent reduction in petroleum demand in cars and trucks.
"These new steps build on California's historic commitment to lead the world in the fight against climate change and build a healthy and livable planet for our children and grandchildren," said Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles).
Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), who presented the amended SB 350 on the Assembly floor Friday night, said, "This is, make no doubt about it, landmark legislation for California. We will continue to lead the way."
Brown calls for "taking carbon out of modern economy," but backs fracking
In a statement, Governor Jerry Brown claimed, "Taking carbon out of the modern economy requires heroic efforts and tireless struggle. SB 350, in both efficiency and renewable energy, ratchets up the California commitment. We have the technological means and now we have the legal mandate to reduce carbon pollution."
However, anti-fracking groups pointed out the dichotomy between Brown's campaign to take "carbon out of the modern economy" and his steadfast support of fracking. They urged Brown to use his "significant executive powers" to rein in the oil industry following the Assembly's vote on the altered version of SB350 that excludes a provision to reduce petroleum usage in the state.
They also pointed out that while the majority of scientific studies, including a multi-volume study from the California Council on Science and Technology, point to risks to public health, air quality, water and wildlife associated with oil development, "California continues to supply the world with crude oil."
"While Governor Brown recently lost a legislative battle to reduce oil consumption by 2030, he should now focus his attention on what he can do before he leaves office in 2018," said Adam Scow, California Director for Food & Water Watch, in a statement on behalf of Californians Against Fracking. "He can begin by using his executive authority to reduce both oil consumption and production by issuing a ban on all fracking techniques, especially methods that use vast amounts of water, chemicals, and steam at high pressure."
Unfortunately, fracking is just one of the many environmentally destructive policies of the Brown administration. Governor Brown has relentlessly pushed the salmon-killing Delta Tunnels under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan/California Water Fix; has promoted water policies that have driven salmon, steelhead, Delta smelt and other fish to the edge of extinction; presided over record water exports out of the Delta in 2011; backs the clearcutting of forests in the Sierra Nevada; and is a strong supporter of neo-liberal carbon trading policies that routinely promote environmentally ineffective and socially unjust projects across the globe.
For a complete discussion of Brown's tainted environmental policies, visit Truthout.
Senate Bill 350 is not the only bill that the oil industry waged a successful campaign against. Intensive lobbying by the oil industry resulted in the tabling until next year of Senate Bill 788, legislation to protect a State Marine Reserve created under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative from new oil drilling, and SB 248, a bill to keep toxic oil and gas and fracking wastewater out of drinking water.
In addition, Senate Bill 32, a measure that bill author Senator Fran Pavley said "aimed at bolstering California's efforts to combat climate pollution well into the 21st Century," will become a two-year bill taken up again when lawmakers return to the Capitol early next year.
Background: Big Oil Money and Power in California
Big Oil, the largest and most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento, wields its influence by spending its money on lobbying and election campaigns, creating Astroturf groups and getting its officials and friends on state regulatory panels - and used every bit of its power to gut SB 350.
Big Oil spent a total of $266 million influencing California politics from 2005 to 2014, according to an analysis of California Secretary of State data by StopFoolingCA.org, an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies' efforts to "mislead and confuse Californians." The industry spent $112 million of this money on lobbying and the other $154 million on political campaigns.
Last year the Western States Petroleum Association spent a record $8.9 million on lobbying, double what it spent in the previous year. In the first six months of 2015, the oil industry spent $6.2 million to lobby state officials, including $2,529,240 spent by the Western States Petroleum Association alone.
The gutting of SB 350 and the defeat of other bills opposed by the oil industry and Governor Jerry Brown's support of the expansion of fracking in California show how Big Oil, along with agribusiness, the timber industry, developers and other corporate interests, has captured the regulatory apparatus in the state.