[env-trinity] Article Submission: A State Capitol Awash In Oil Money/Delta fish populations plunge in summer 2013
danielbacher at fishsniffer.com
Fri Nov 8 11:01:22 PST 2013
A State Capitol Awash In Oil Money
Big Oil treated legislators to $13,000 dinner before fracking bill vote
By Dan Bacher
The oil industry, the largest and most powerful corporate lobby in
Sacramento, dumped millions of dollars into its successful lobbying
efforts to eviscerate an already weak fracking bill, Senator Fran
Pavley’s Senate Bill 4, at the end of the Legislative Session.
Chevron, the Western States Petroleum Association and Area Energy LLC
spent the most money lobbying legislators in the third quarter of
2013, according to California Secretary of State documents.
Chevron spent $1,696,477, the Western States Petroleum Association
(WSPA) spent $1,269,478 and Aera Energy LLC spent $1,015,534. That’s
a total of $3,981,489 just between July 1 and September 30, 2013. In
the first three quarters of 2013, WSPA alone spent a total of
$3,578,266 on lobbying legislators. (http://cal-access.sos.ca.gov/
In a classic example of the “pay to play” and “wine and dine”
corruption that infests California politics, nearly $13,000 of the
Western States Petroleum Association's third quarter spending went
toward hosting a dinner for 12 lawmakers and two staff members in
According to Lauren Rosenhall of the Sacramento Bee, the dinner took
place at "one of Sacramento's poshest venues: The Kitchen, known for
its interactive dining experience where guests sit in the kitchen as
cooks share details of the five-course meal. Moderate Democrats
seemed to be the target audience for the treat: Assembly members Adam
Gray, Henry Perea and Cheryl Brown attended, as did Sens. Norma
Torres, Ron Calderon and Lou Correa." (http://blogs.sacbee.com/
The dinner was held on September 4, as Senate Bill 4 was awaiting a
vote on the Assembly floor. The oil industry the next day added
amendments that further weakened the already weak legislation opposed
by a broad coalition of over 100 conservation, environmental justice
and consumer groups, including Food and Water Watch, the Center for
Biological Diversity, the Credo Campaign and California Water Impact
These amendments including the following:
• Language added to the bill specifies that “no additional review
or mitigation shall be required” if the supervisor of the Division
of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources “determines” that the
proposed fracking activities have met the requirements of the
California Environmental Quality Act. (http://
“This provision could be used by DOGGR to bypass CEQA’s bedrock
environmental review and mitigation requirements,” according to a
statement from the anti-fracking groups. “This language could also
prevent air and water boards, local land use jurisdictions and other
agencies from carrying out their own CEQA reviews of fracking.”
• In addition, under existing law, the governor and DOGGR can deny
approvals for wells that involve fracking or place a partial or
complete moratorium on fracking. The new language states that DOGGR
“shall allow” fracking to take place until regulations are
finalized in 2015, provided that certain conditions are met.
"This could be interpreted to require every fracked well to be
approved between now and 2015, with environmental review conducted
only after the fact, and could be used to block the Governor or DOGGR
from issuing a moratorium on fracking prior to 2015," the groups stated.
At the last minute, the League of Conservation Voters, NRDC and two
other Senate Bill 4 backers withdrew their support for the
legislation. However, the bill, having been given “green cover” by
these NGOs, passed through the Legislature a week after the dinner.
Governor Jerry Brown, a strong supporter of the expansion of fracking
in California, then signed the legislation on September 20.
“For Perea, Correa, Calderon and Torres, the September dinner was
not the first time they'd been treated to The Kitchen by the oil
industry. They were among 11 legislators who attended a Western
States Petroleum Association dinner there last year, valued at nearly
$11,000,” Rosenthall noted.
Oil lobby has spent over $45.4 million since 2009
Prior to the latest Secretary of State filing, a report released by
the American Lung Association revealed that the oil industry lobby,
the biggest corporate lobby in California, has spent $45.4 million in
the state since 2009. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA)
alone has spent over $20 million since 2009. (http://
Oil and gas companies spend more than $100 million a year to buy
access to lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento, according to Stop
Fooling California, an online and social media public education and
awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead
and confuse Californians.
In addition, Robert Gammon, East Bay Express reporter, revealed that
before Governor Jerry Brown signed Senator Fran Pavley's Senate Bill
4, Brown accepted at least $2.49 million in financial donations over
the past several years from oil and natural gas interests, according
to public records on file with the Secretary of State's Office and
the California Fair Political Practices Commission. (http://
The oil industry not only exerts influence by direct contributions to
political campaigns, but by getting its lobbyists and representatives
on key panels like the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon
Task Force. (http://www.elkgrovenews.net/2013/10/oil-lobby-has-spent-
In one of biggest environmental scandals of the past decade, Reheis-
Boyd served as chair of the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to
create alleged "marine protected areas" in Southern California. She
also served on the North Coast, North Central Coast and Central Coast
task forces from 2004 to 2011, from the beginning of the process to
the end of the process. (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/
The MLPA Initiative process overseen by Reheis-Boyd and other ocean
industrialists created fake "marine protected areas" that fail to
protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, wind and
wave energy projects and all human impacts on the ocean other than
fishing and gathering.
State officials and representatives of corporate "environmental" NGOs
embraced and greenwashed the "leadership" of Reheis-Boyd and other
corporate operatives who served on the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces
to create “marine protected areas” that fail to actually protect
the ocean. By backing her leadership as a "marine guardian," they
helped to increase the already powerful influence of the Western
States Petroleum Association and the oil industry.
The California Coastal Commission and other state officials acted
"surprised" when FOIA documents and an Associated Press investigation
revealed that Southern California coastal waters have been fracked
repeatedly, over 200 times according to the latest data. Yet
independent investigative reporters like David Gurney and myself
warned, again and again, that this would happen when an oil industry
lobbyist was in charge of marine "protection."
There's no doubt that the Western States Petroleum Association,
Chevron and other oil companies use every avenue they can to dominate
environmental policy in California, including lobbying legislators,
contributing heavily to election campaigns, serving on state
regulatory panels, and wining and dining politicians. Until we get
the big corporate money out of politics, California will continue to
be awash in a sea of oil money.
For more information about the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA)
Initiative, go to: http://intercontinentalcry.org/the-five-
For an depth look at the state of fracking in California, read Glen
Martin's article, "All Fracked Up," in California Lawyer Magazine:
Delta smelt photo by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento.
Delta fish populations plunge in summer 2013
by Dan Bacher
The state and federal governments appear to be in a mad rush to drive
Delta smelt, winter Chinook salmon and other struggling fish species
over the abyss of extinction, according to data recently released by
the fishery agencies and reports compiled by the California
Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA).
"The state and federal water export projects continue to ignore
regulatory requirements and Delta fisheries have again been hammered
by excessive water exports," according to a CSPA news release.
As Governor Jerry Brown continues to fast-track the construction of
the peripheral tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta,
the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) released the
2013 Fall Mid Water Trawl (FMWT) abundance indices.
The indices, a measure of relative abundance, reveal that Delta fish
populations continue to collapse, due to massive water exports to
corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin
The Department also released the 2013 U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS)
Delta Smelt Recovery Index, which failed to meet recovery criteria
and restarted the five-year recovery period.
"To expedite water exports this summer, the Central Valley and State
Water Projects violated water quality standards in the South Delta in
June and July through 15 August and at Emmaton in April, May and June
and at Jersey Point in June. Emmaton and Jersey Point are in the
Western Delta," according to CSPA. "Additionally, the temperature
compliance point on the Sacramento River was moved upstream from Red
Bluff to Anderson, eliminating almost two-thirds of the river miles
of spawning habitat for endangered winter-run chinook salmon."
The State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) informed the
Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation (Bureau) that it would not take any enforcement action
for these violations, CSPA stated.
The FMWT abundance indices reveal that populations of Delta fish are
only a small fraction of their historical abundance before Delta
water exports began.
The indices for Delta smelt (7), striped bass (23), threadfin shad
(70), and American shad (135) were the second, second, third and
second lowest, respectively, in the 46 years of the survey. The index
for longfin smelt (36) was comparable to the very low indices of
"In other words, Delta smelt, striped bass, longfin smelt, American
shad and threadfin shad populations in 2013 have plummeted 98.9,
99.6, 99.7, 89.1, 98.1 percent, respectively, from the average of the
initial six years of the survey (1967-1972)," said Bill Jennings,
Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection
Alliance. "The splittail index was not released but the 2012
September-October index was zero."
The federal Central Valley Project began exporting water from the
Delta in 1956 - but exports from the state and federal export pumps
have increased dramatically in recent years.
The Brown administration authorized the export of record water
amounts of water from the Delta in 2011 – 6,520,000 acre-feet,
217,000 acre feet more than the previous record of 6,303,000 acre
feet set in 2005 under Schwarzenegger. Most of this went to corporate
agribusiness, including mega-farmers irrigating unsustainable,
selenium-laced land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
State officials disagree with Jennings' contention that the State
Board violated water quality standards to export water to corporate
agribusiness interests this summer. Les Grober, environmental program
manager for the Water Quality Control Board, told the Stockton Record
that agency decided to change Delta standards "at the request of
state and federal wildlife agencies worried about protecting salmon
later in the year." (http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?
"We always have a tough situation," Grober claimed. "How do you make
the best use of a limited supply of water? We did what we thought was
"Grober said that the decision did not result in any violations of
water quality standards intended to protect fish. But he admitted
that those standards may be inadequate, and said they are being
reviewed as the state updates its water quality plan for the Delta,"
the Stockton Record reported.
However, Jennings countered that the State Board not only violated
Delta water quality standards, endangering Delta smelt and other fish
populations, but imperiled winter run Chinook salmon by moving the
temperature compliance point on the Sacramento River upstream from
Red Bluff to Anderson. Jennings emphasized that these violations of
regulations protecting upriver salmon and fish on the Delta are part
of a historic pattern of routine law-breaking by the agencies
entrusted to protect fish, water and the environment.
"The historical pattern and practice of violating regulatory
requirements established to protect fisheries is outrageous, but the
consistent failure by regulators and trustee agencies to enforce the
law is simply incomprehensible and indicates a collaborative culture
of noncompliance," stated Jennings.
"The FBI would be investigating and the Justice Department
prosecuting if a financial trust had ignored regulations over three
decades and reduced trust assets by 99%," said Jennings. "I can
understand water agencies attempting to take water that doesn't
belong to them but I can't understand the cops giving them the green
Jennings said the State Board has a long history of ignoring
violations of Delta standards by DWR and the Bureau, despite the fact
that the standards themselves are "woefully inadequate."
For example, between 1987 and 1992, Jennings said more than 247
violations of delta standards occurred without enforcement. South
Delta standards have been violated for the last 18 years, since
adoption of the 1995 water quality control plan.
"In the spring of 2009, the projects cannibalized a third of legally
required Delta outflow for export," said Jennings. "The flow
standards on the San Joaquin River at Vernalis were violated in 2012."
An August 2013 CSPA report, titled "Summer of 2013: the demise of
Delta smelt under D-1641 Delta Water Quality Standards," detailed how
the state and federal projects "massacred" Delta smelt by increasing
exports five-fold in late June and dramatically reducing Delta
outflow in early July causing the low salinity zone and Delta smelt
to be drawn into the western Delta where they encountered lethal
temperatures caused by a upstream reservoir releases coupled with
high ambient temperatures.
Another CSPA report, titled "The Consequences of the End of VAMP's
Export Restrictions," detailed how the 2013 Vernalis pulse flow on
the San Joaquin River was exported via an unauthorized water transfer
that avoided environmental review and killed salmon and Delta smelt.
"Of course, regulators have long ignored the massive stranding of
fish drawn into irrigation channels of the Yolo Bypass and Colusa
Basin and stranded to perish, as detailed in CSPA's July 2013 report
titled Colusa Basin Drain Fish Stranding and Rescues," said Jennings.
"In 2013, National Marine Fisheries Biologists estimated that as many
as half of returning endangered winter-run salmon were stranded."
Jennings said the legal right to divert water from the Delta is
conditioned on compliance with standards. DWR and the Bureau claimed
that the violation of standards in 2013 was necessary to protect the
cold-water pool behind Shasta Dam in order to "protect" spawning
However, Shasta Reservoir storage was 89% of historical average and
only 55,000 acre-feet (AF) of water was saved in Shasta by failing to
meet water quality objectives, according to their 21 August 2013 report.
The projects exported more than that in each of the months they
violated standards. DWR exported some 826,778 AF and the Bureau
exported 8,342 AF more than they had projected they would be able to
deliver from the south Delta in 2013, according to Jennings.
"That water could have been – should have been - used to comply with
standards rather than being exported," stated Jennings. "Ironically,
the Department of Interior (Bureau and U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service) gave away (i.e., didn't use and didn't store) some 451,000
AF of CVPIA water in 2011 that could have been stored for use in 2012
and 2013 to meet Delta standards and ensure sufficient cold water in
The State Board is in the midst of a multi-year, multi-phase
proceeding to develop new Delta Standards that is already years
behind in revising the 1995 standards, which by law must be updated
every three years.
"The existing and outdated standards are seriously inadequate," said
Jennings, "but one must question the point of revising standards if
they're simply going to be ignored."
The reports and information discussed in this article are available
on CSPA's website at http://www.calsport.org.
Meanwhile, the Brown administration continues to push the $54.1
billion peripheral tunnel boondoggle even when all of the science
indicates that the construction of the tunnels would hasten the
extinction of the Central Valley Chinook salmon, steelhead, Delta
smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other species while
imperiling salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and
However, the way the state and federal governments are managing water
releases from upstream reservoirs and water exports from the Delta
pumping facilities now, some of these species may already become
extinct even before construction of the proposed tunnels is completed.
About CSPA: The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) is
a 501(c)(3) non-profit public benefit conservation and research
organization established in 1983 for the purpose of conserving,
restoring, and enhancing the state's water quality, wildlife and
fishery resources and their aquatic ecosystems and associated
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