Governor Jerry Brown has finally admitted what most Californians have known all along – the “conservation” and “habitat restoration” components of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan have been nothing but window dressing for the twin tunnels water grab, potentially the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history.
On April 13, Restore the Delta (RTD), a coalition of anti-tunnels organizations and individuals, and theCenter for Biological Diversity responded to the governor’s abandonment of the pretense of “conservation” and “restoration” and move to permit a “tunnels only” Bay Delta Conservation Plan, as reported in the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and other media outlets.
According to Paul Rogers in the Mercury News:
“Gov. Jerry Brown has billed his $25 billion plan to build two massive tunnels under the Delta as a way to not just make it easier to move water from north to south, but also increase the reliability of water supplies and bring back salmon and other endangered species.
But now the Brown administration is proposing a major and politically risky change: dropping a 50-year guarantee to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta’s environment. A centerpiece of the project,the environmental plan included $8 billion to preserve 100,000 acres of wetlands and dozens of other restoration efforts.”
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, noted that for eight years, Californians had been told that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan was going to serve what became law in 2009 – the so-called “co-equal goals of restoring the Delta and providing water supply reliability.”
“Our position has been that these co-equal goals are irreconcilable because the Delta watershed has been over subscribed five times,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “The BDCP planning process culminated in a 40,000-pageplan and corresponding EIR/EIS, which cannot be permitted by Federal fish agencies because it failed to meet science-based standards for recovery of fisheries.”
She emphasized, “Proponents of the BDCP are lamenting that, after 8 years and $240,000,000, they do not have a viable project. Even proponents now admit the BDCP was supposed to do something better, but it does not meet the ‘better’ standard.”
The Center for Biological Diversity also responded to the Brown administration’s revelation that the twintunnels project to divert water from the San Francisco Bay-Delta to Southern California and industrial agribusinesses “no longer includes provisions to protect habitat for endangered salmon and smelt and more than 50 other imperiled species.”
“The new plan is a giant step backward,” said Chelsea Tu, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “If it goes through, this massive project’s boosters will be able to build these tunnels without having to do anything to protect our wildlife and waters — and will neatly sidestep input from the public.”
“This backdoor process will waste more taxpayer money and kill more Delta species like endangered salmon and smelt,” she stated.
She noted that since 2007 state and federal water contractors and public agencies have spent more than $240 million just in planning the so-called Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which would “green-light” the water export tunnels in exchange for promised measures intended to “benefit” the Delta environment.
“The new plan would be subject to review only under Section 7 of the federal Endangered Species Act, which could only require federal wildlife agencies to determine whether it will harm 21 wildlife species that are listed or proposed to be listed under the Act,” she added.
Under the previous approach, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan planned to protect 57 imperiled species. A Section 7 consultation would only take place among federal agencies and would likely not contain mandatory mitigation requirements or a public participation process, according to Tu.
There is no doubt that construction of the giant tunnels will hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt and numerous other fish species, as well as imperiling salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.
BDCP ‘science’ is terminally flawed
Every scientific panel, ranging from the Independent Delta Science Board to the National Academy of Sciences, has criticized the flawed “science” behind the twin tunnel plan. Last August the state and federal governments decided to delay the proposed project following the scathing 43-page comment letter by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) slamming the Bay Delta Conservation Plan’s draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS).
The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) said the controversial plan to construct two 35-mile long tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to divert Sacramento River water to “agricultural plantations” in the deserts of southern California “was placed on life support” when the California Department of Water Resources announced that a revised EIR/EIS would be delayed until sometime in 2015.
“BDCP’s friends and family anxiously expressed hope that an infusion of additional millions of dollars and months of treatment would enable the project to recover,” quipped Bill Jennings, CSPA Executive Director. “However, the EPA comments coming on top of some 4,500 pages of searing reviews by municipalities, counties and water agencies that would be adversely impacted by the project, almost 2,000 pages of highly critical comments by environmental and fishing organizations, hundreds of pages of harsh analyses by government agencies and stinging comments from many thousands of California citizens reveal that BDCP is suffering from a congenital terminal illness.
The recent abandonment of the pretense of “restoration” and “conservation” under the BCCP is part of a larger pattern by the Brown administration, a regime that has pushed some of the most anti-fish and anti-environmental policies of any administration in California history. This is a huge story that the mainstream media and most of the alternative media have failed to cover.
Since I am the only reporter, that I am aware of, who has investigated the environmental record of Jerry Brown as a whole, I encourage other journalists also to investigate his real environmental record, ranging from carbon trading greenwashing, to the oil industry lobbyist-overseen MLPA Initiative, to supporting theexpansion of fracking in California, to driving Delta smelt and salmon to the edge of extinction. Brown appears to be doing everything he can to earn his nickname, “The Extinction Governor.”
Much of the following information has been published in previous articles that I have written, but is crucial to review this data in light of the Brown’s administration’s latest environmental scandal – the abandonment of all pretense of “conservation” and “habitat restoration” under the twin tunnels plan.
Big Oil Brown Greenwashed His Legacy at UN Climate Summit
Many reporters and editors in the mainstream media still maintain the illusion that Jerry Brown is a “greengovernor” and “climate leader,” in spite of a mounting pile of evidence to the contrary.
In September 2014, Jerry Brown spoke to world leaders at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City, touting California’s controversial carbon trading policies as an example of “innovative climate strategies.”
“The California story is a very hopeful one,” Brown gushed. “It’s a story of Republican and Democratic governors pioneering innovative climate strategies. It’s not been easy, it’s not without contest, but we’re making real progress.”
Brown’s remarks at the summit are available here.
In a video message ahead of the Summit, Brown claimed, “We are carrying on because we know in California that carbon pollution kills, it undermines our environment, and, long-term, it’s an economic loser. We face an existential challenge with the changes in our climate. The time to act is now. The place to look is California.”
Yes, Jerry, California, now under attack by the anti-environmental policies and carbon trading greenwashing campaign by Governor Brown, is definitely “the place to look” for one example after another of environmental destruction.
“Governor Moonbeam” to Big Oil’s Favorite Governor
Once known as “Governor Moonbeam” for his quirkiness and eccentricities during his first two administrations from 1975 to 1983, Brown has in his third administration transformed himself into “Big Oil Brown.”
According to Jessie McKinley in the New York Times, The “Governor Moonbeam” nickname “was coined by Mike Royko, the famed Chicago columnist, who in 1976 said that Mr. Brown appeared to be attracting ‘themoonbeam vote; which in Chicago political parlance meant young, idealistic and nontraditional.”
Thirty-eight years later, Oil Change International, a research, communication, and advocacy organization focused on “exposing the true costs of fossil fuels and facilitating the coming transition towards clean energy” has given Brown a new nickname, “Big Oil Brown,” for the large contributions he has received from oil companies and his support of fracking. The web page dedicated to “Big Oil Brown” features Jerry attired in a suit and cowboy hat like a Texas oil baron right next to an oil rig.
“California’s Governor Jerry Brown has a problem: he wants to be seen as a climate champion who understands the science and takes this crisis seriously. At the same time, he just proposed new fracking rules in California that would amount to a gift to Big Oil. He can’t have it both ways,” according to the web page.
Leaders of environmental organizations, Indian Tribes and fishing groups became outraged when Brown signed Senator Fran Pavley’s Senate Bill 4, the green light for fracking bill that clears the path for expanded fracking in California, in September 2013. The last minute amendments to the bill by the oil industry were so odious that they spurred the League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense Fund to withdraw their support at the last minute for the already weak legislation.
Among other things, the bill made California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review of fracking permits optional and prevents imposing a moratorium on fracking for 15 months.
Big Oil strongly supported the amended version of Senate Bill 4 that Brown signed. Just ask Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association and former chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, who praised the governor’s signing of Senate Bill 4 for creating the “environmental” platform to expand fracking in California.
Brown Received Over $2 Million From Big Oil Before Signing Fracking Expansion Bill
Brown signed the bill after receiving at least $2,014,570.22 from fossil fuel interests since his race for Attorney General in 2006.
In the 2014 election cycle, four oil companies contributed a total of $161,000 to the Brown campaign at thetime of Oil Change International’s report. Occidental Petroleum has given $27,200, the maximum legally allowed.
Edison and Chevron have both contributed $27,200 twice, once for the primary election and another for thegeneral election. Phillips 66 nearly maxed out with a $25,000 contribution. Fossil fuel industry contributions in the 2010 Governor’s race were $198,451.22.
Then on October 17. 2004, the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) revealed that Aera Energy LLC, a company jointly owned by affiliates of Shell and ExxonMobil, contributed $250,000 to Jerry Brown’s Yes on Proposition 1 and 2 campaign.
Aera Energy is one of California’s largest oil and gas producers, accounting for nearly 25 percent of thestate’s production, according to the company’s website.
Proposition 30, one of the Governor’s signature policy initiatives in 2012, was also heavily funded by Big Oil.The oil and gas companies contributed over $1,118,418 to the campaign, including $500,000 from Occidental Petroleum.
It gets worse. Opponents of Proposition 1, the controversial State Water Bond, on September 20 criticizedGovernor Jerry Brown and the backers of Prop. 1 for taking over $2.8 million raised to enact a tax increase for public education through Proposition 30 and diverting it to their campaign to pass “the biggest dam-building program in California history!”
Brown Backs Controversial Carbon Trading
But the Governor’s signing of the green light to fracking bill is just one of the many attacks on theenvironment that Brown has engaged in.
Governor Brown is an avid supporter of the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation+) that allows Northern Hemisphere polluters to buy forest carbon offset credits from the global South. Brown is trying to link an agreement among Chiapas, Mexico; Acre, Brazil; and California, to AB32, which commits to a 25% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions for 2020, and an 80% reduction for 2050).
Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, exposed the impact of Brown’s REDD policies on the environment and Indigenous Peoples when he spoke at a protest against Brown’s failed environmental policies in San Francisco on October 17, 2013 when Brown was slated to receive environmental leadership award by the Blue Green Alliance. Brown didn’t show up, probably because of those, including Goldtooth and Michael Preston of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, who gathered outside to protest the event.
“Despite being awarded, as I speak, for his supposed environmentalism, Governor Brown is moving ahead with a policy that grabs land, clear-cuts forests, destroys biodiversity, abuses Mother Earth, pimps Father Sky and threatens the cultural survival of Indigenous Peoples
This policy privatizes the air we breathe. Commodifies the clouds. Buy and sells the atmosphere. Corruptsthe Sacred.
This policy is called carbon trading and REDD. REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation. But REDD really means Reaping profits from Evictions, land grabs, Deforestation and Destruction of biodiversity. REDD does nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at source. And REDD may result in the biggest land grab of the last 500 years.”
Brown Regime Exported Record Quantities of Water in 2011
The Brown administration also 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 water went to corporate agribusiness, including mega-farmers irrigating unsustainable, selenium-laced land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
The record water exports spurred massive fish kills at the state and federal Delta pumps. The Brown administration “salvaged” a record of nearly 9 million Sacramento splittail and over 2 million salmon, steelhead, striped bass, largemouth bass, threadfin shad, white catfish and sturgeon in the Delta export pumping facilities in 2011. Since the actual number of fish killed in the pumps is at least 5 to 10 times those reported, the actual number of fish killed is probably 55 million to 110 million.
In 2013 and early 2014, the Governor and the Obama administration oversaw the systematic emptying of Folsom and other northern California reservoirs during a record drought, imperiling struggling salmon and steelhead populations and local water supplies.
Delta Smelt Moves Closer to the Abyss of Extinction
And if that wasn’t bad enough, the Brown and Obama administration’s anti-fish and pro-agribusiness policies have resulted in pushing Delta fish populations closer to extinction.
The Delta smelt, an indicator species that demonstrates the health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, reached a new record low population level in 2014, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s fall midwater trawl survey released this January. Department staff found a total of only eight smelt at a total of 100 sites sampled each month from September through December.
The surveys were initiated in 1967, the same year the State Water Project began exporting water from theDelta. The surveys show that population indices of Delta smelt, striped bass, longfin smelt, threadfin shad, American shad and Sacramento splittail have declined 97.80%, 99.70%, 99.98%, 97.80%, 91.90%, and 98.50%, respectively, between 1967 and 2014, according to Bill Jennings, Executive Director of theCalifornia Sportfishing Protection Alliance.
Oil Lobbyist-Overseen Marine “Protection”
Brown has also forged ahead with one of the worst environmental programs of the Schwarzenegger regime,the privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.
In one of the most egregious conflicts of interests in modern California history, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), chaired the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force forthe South Coast, as well as serving on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.
It is no surprise that the alleged “marine protected areas” fast-tracked under the Schwarzenegger and Brown administrations fail to protect the ocean from pollution, fracking, offshore oil drilling, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering.
In fact, a Freedom of Information Act and Associated Press investigation in 2013 revealed that Southern California marine waters were fracked at least 203 times in the past 20 years.
Much of the fracking took place while the Western States Petroleum Association president was overseeing the creation of the alleged “marine protected areas.” Does anybody think there might have been a conflict of interest here?
Brown’s Relentless March to Environmental Destruction
Other controversial environmental policies of the “Green Energy Governor” include the following:
• Department of Conservation Shake-Up: Brown fired Acting Director Derk Chernow and Oil and Gas Supervisor Elena Miller and appointed oil industry-friendly Mark Nechodom in 2011, amidst claims by the oil industry and their political allies that the two officials weren’t granting permits quickly and easily enough. As a result, risky injection oil drilling permits increased by 18 percent.
• Clear cutting in the Sierra Nevada: Brown is doing nothing to stop Sierra Pacific Industries from clear cutting forests, destroying wildlife habitat, and contributing to climate change.
• California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA): Brown has tried to weaken or even eliminate CEQA, one of California’s greatest environmental laws, to fast-track big developments for giant corporations like Walmart, Berkshire Hathaway, General Electric, Valero and Chevron.
As I have documented in article after article, Brown, rather than a being an “environmental leader” or “climate leader” as some proclaim, appears to be on a relentless march to the destruction of fish, water and the environment.