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Jerry Brown Signs Two Oil Spill Bills, but Marine Areas Aren’t Fully Protected

Four marine protected areas were imperiled by the oil spill that started at Refugio State Beach.

Governor Jerry Brown this October signed two bills that will require more frequent oil pipeline inspections and improve oil spill response, but the questionable “marine protected areas” created under the privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative still fail to protect the ocean from pollution, fracking, oil drilling, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts other than sustainable fishing and Tribal gathering,

The two bills, authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), arose in response to this year’s Refugio Oil Spill in Santa Barbara County. They represent a first step forward in preventing future oil spills from devastating sea mammal, bird and fish populations and the ocean ecosystem along the California coast. Unfortunately, authentic ocean protection along the California coast won’t become a reality until the Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 is enforced fully and not selectively and unjustly as it is now.

“These two key oil spill bills arose out of the devastation caused by the Refugio Oil Spill this year in my community and the very serious threat it posed to our wildlife and economy,” said Senator Jackson. “I do believe that if the pipeline that ruptured and caused the spill had been inspected annually, the corrosion would have been detected and we would have been able to prevent this spill. This legislation represents a very important step forward for our environment and our beautiful and economically vital coastline.”

Jackson’s Senate Bill 295 requires annual oil pipeline inspections by the State Fire Marshal. Previously, pipeline inspections had been done every two or more years.

Jackson’s Senate Bill 414, the Rapid Oil Response Act, seeks to make oil spill response faster and more effective.

This bill:

  • Directs the Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) to report to the Legislature on how to best utilize commercial fishing vessels and crews in response to an oil spill;
  • Requires OSPR to notify the Legislature within three days if dispersants are used in response to an oil spill. It also requires a follow-up study on negative impacts that the use of dispersants have had, and;
  • Requires OSPR to study the best achievable technology for oil spill clean-up and use that technology to respond to spills, among other things.

In his signing statement for these bills, Governor Brown wrote, “The devastating effects from the oil spill this year in Santa Barbara county impacted birds, mammals and other marine life, and caused the closure of beaches and fishing resulting in economic losses. Our coastline and surrounding environments contribute to the great and unique landscape of California. These bills improve planning for and prevention of oil spills and our response when spills occur.”

Jerry Brown Continues to Promote Fracking

Unfortunately the same Governor who signed the two bills is a fervent advocate of the expansion of the environmentally destructive practice of fracking and oil drilling in California – and just appointed an oil industry executive, Bill Bartling, to a key regulatory post in the Department of Conservation.

The Brown administration also lived up to its reputation as one of the most Big Oil-friendly regimes in California history by approving nine new plans for extensive new offshore fracking near the California coast – just weeks after the devastating Refugio Oil Spill that started on May 20, 2015.

While Brown tries to portray himself as a “climate leader” in conferences and photo opportunities across the globe, the reality is much different. The state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources approved the permits for nine new fracking operations in Long Beach Harbor, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. These new offshore fracks are the first approved in state waters since 2013.

“Haven’t we seen enough dead wildlife and polluted beaches?” said Kristen Monsell, a Center attorney, in a news release. “Every offshore frack increases the risk of chemical pollution or another devastating oil spill. Gov. Brown has to recognize that halting offshore fracking is critical to protecting marine animals and coastal communities from this toxic technique.”

Intensive lobbying by Big Oil this year resulted in the elimination of a key provision of SB 350, the renewable energy bill, and the defeat of several other industry-opposed bills in the State Legislature. The Western States Petroleum Association, headed by President Catherine Reheis-Boyd, lobbied heavily against 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. As a result, both bills were tabled until next year.

In an enormous conflict of interest that the corporate media refuses to discuss, the same Reheis-Boyd whose organization lobbied against Senate Bill 788 CHAIRED the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called “marine protected areas” in Southern California! The Big Oil lobbyist also served on the MLPA Initiative task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.

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.

Project Censored #2: “Oil Industry Illegally Dumps Fracking Wastewater”

The mainstream media has done a very poor job of covering fracking, the Refugio Oil spill, and Big Oil money and power in Sacramento. In fact, two of my investigative pieces exposing Big Oil’s dumping of fracking wastewater and oil industry money and power are cited in Project Censored’s #2 Story: “Oil Industry Illegally Dumps Fracking Wastewater,” in the “Censored 2016” book that has just been published.

“The Center for Biological Diversity report’s revelations about water contamination came amidst legislative deliberation to regulate fracking in California,” according to Project Censored. “As both Donny Shaw of MapLight and Dan Bacher for IndyBay reported in May 2014, over the past five years, the oil industry has lobbied powerfully in the California state legislature, spending over sixty-three million dollars in efforts to persuade state policymakers to permit the continuation and expansion of fracking. In May 2014, state senators rejected a fracking moratorium bill, SB 1132.”

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.

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, 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 amending of SB 350 and 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.

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