[env-trinity] Article Submission: A State Capitol Awash In Oil Money/Delta fish populations plunge in summer 2013

Dan Bacher 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  
Network (C-WIN).

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- 
over-45-million-in.html, http://topics.sacbee.com/Marine+Protected 

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  
recent years.

"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  
winter-run salmon.

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  
Shasta Reservoir."

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  
Klamath rivers.

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  
riparian habitats.

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://www2.dcn.org/pipermail/env-trinity/attachments/20131108/644895f9/attachment-0001.html
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: unknown.jpg
Type: image/jpeg
Size: 133349 bytes
Desc: not available
Url : http://www2.dcn.org/pipermail/env-trinity/attachments/20131108/644895f9/unknown-0002.jpg
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: unknown.jpg
Type: image/jpeg
Size: 168233 bytes
Desc: not available
Url : http://www2.dcn.org/pipermail/env-trinity/attachments/20131108/644895f9/unknown-0003.jpg

More information about the env-trinity mailing list