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Santa Barbara disaster inevitable with Big Oil's capture of the regulatory apparatus

By Dan Bacher - Daily Kos, May 25, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The same region devastated by the Santa Barbara Oil Spill of 1969 is now the scene of a massive clean up of crude oil by the state and federal governments and volunteers. The international and national media have spread throughout the world the startling images of the oil soaked beaches, birds, fish and ecosystem in a deluge of TV, radio, newspaper and internet reports.

The oil spill resulted from the rupture of an oil pipeline owned by Plains Pipeline, a subsidiary of Plains All-American Pipeline, near Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County on Tuesday, May 19. A 24-inch wide, 11-mile long section carrying oil from offshore platforms and an Exxon Mobil processing plant onshore leaked as much as 105,000 gallons of crude oil. An estimated 21,000 gallons made into the ocean, devastating nine miles of coastal waters and beaches.    

The oil spill that began off Refugio State Beach was inevitable, when you consider the capture of the regulatory apparatus by the oil industry in California. Until people challenge the power of Big Oil in California and the industry's control over the state and federal regulatory agencies, we will see more of the Refugio-type of oil spill disasters in the future.

During the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative process from 2004 to 2012, state officials and corporate "environmental" NGOs made sure that Big Oil and other corporate polluters weren't impacted by the creation of alleged "marine protected areas" along the California coast. The MLPA Initiative, a controversial "public-private partnership" between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation (RLFF), was supposed to create a network of "marine protected areas" along the California coast.

In an article published widely in June 2010, I warned that the "marine protected areas" created under the MLPA Initiative don't protect the ocean from oil spills and pollution. (http://yubanet.com/...)

"These marine protected areas, as currently designed, don't protect against oil spills," said Sara Randall, then the program director of the Institute for Fishery Resources and Commercial Fishermen of America. "What's the point of developing marine protected areas if they don't protect the resources?"

MLPA Initiative advocates claimed that other state and federal laws and administrative actions "protect" the ocean from oil spills and new offshore oil drilling, so there was no need for specific bans or restrictions on oil industry activities in and near "marine protected areas."  

In violation of the provisions of the landmark Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) of 1999, the "marine protected areas" failed to protect the ocean from oil spills, oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture, military testing and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.  

Of course, MLPA Initiative advocates neglected to address why Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association in Sacramento, was allowed to CHAIR the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast and to sit on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast, as well as on a NOAA federal marine protected areas panel. (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/...)

They dismissed any questioning of why a Big Oil lobbyist was allowed to oversee "marine protection" in California as "wild conspiracy theories."

To make matters even worse, the WSPA President's husband, James Boyd, served on the California Energy Commission from 2002 to 2012. From 2007 to 2012, he served as the Commission's Vice Chair, the second most powerful position on the Commission! (http://www.energy.ca.gov/...)  

However, as we can see from the current oil spill disaster off the coast of Santa Barbara, the state and federal regulatory agencies and the MLPA Initiative's so-called "marine protected areas" weren't able to prevent a big oil spill like the one now taking place from occurring - and the fishermen, Tribal members and grassroots environmentalists who criticized oil industry lobbyist oversight of the MLPA Initiative process were absolutely right about their fears that the new "Yosemites of the Sea" wouldn't protect the ocean.

Activists 'Shut Down' Nestlé Water Bottling Plant in Sacramento

By Dan Bacher - Indybay, March 27, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Environmental and human rights activists, holding plastic “torches” and “pitchforks,” formed human barricades at both entrances to the Nestlé Waters bottling plant in Sacramento at 5:00 a.m. on Friday, March 20, effectively shutting down the company's operations for the day.

Members of the “Crunch Nestlé Alliance" shouted out a number of chants, including ”We got to fight for our right to water,” “Nestlé, Stop It, Water Not For Profit," and “¿Agua Para Quien? Para Nuestra Gente.”

The protesters stayed until about 1 pm, but there were no arrests.

Representatives of the alliance said the company is draining up to 80 million gallons of water a year from Sacramento aquifers during a record drought. They claim Sacramento City Hall has made it possible through a "corporate welfare giveaway."

“This corporate welfare giveaway is an outrage and warrants a major investigation,” Coalition spokesperson Andy Conn said. “For more than five months we have requested data on Nestlé water use. City Hall has not complied with our request, or given any indication that it will. Sacramentans deserve to know how their money is being spent and what they’re getting for it. In this case, they’re getting ripped off.”

Lola Ellis of 99 Rise Sacramento, who spoke on the bullhorn at the protest, said, “Nestlé’s bottling of water in Sacramento is unsustainable in the current state of drought. We really don’t’ know how much water they are taking from the aquifer and that is a scary thing.”

“The water needs to be used for the local community. If there is not enough water for the local community, the Nestlé corporation should not be making a profit,” she emphasized.

The coalition protested what they call Nestlé's “virtually unlimited use of water” while Sacramentans (like other Californians) who use a mere 7 to 10 percent of total water used in the State of California, have had severe restrictions and limitations forced upon them.

The coalition is calling on Nestlé to pay rates commensurate with its enormous profit, or voluntarily close down.

Chevron and big ag are irrigating crops with oil wastewater: Oil company says the ‘recycled’ waste is perfectly safe. When have we heard that before?

By Marc Norton - 48 Hills Online, February 3, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In this ad, Chevron brags about sending oil wastewater to farmersThe San Francisco Chronicle ran a major investigative story on Sunday outlining how nasty waste from the oil industry winds up in Central Valley aquifers.

The story by David R. Baker detailed how state regulators have allowed oil companies in California, particularly in Kern County, to pump wastewater containing “a blend of briny water, hydrocarbons and trace chemicals” into underground water supplies, potentially contaminating water that could be used for drinking and irrigation

But if people in the Bay Area think that this is an issue only for farmers and residents in the hinterlands where oil production takes place, they need to think again.

The toxic effects of the disposal of oil production wastewater may be as near to you as the supermarket or your corner grocery. Here’s why: It’s an open secret that the big corporate agriculture landlords in Kern County are irrigating their crops with wastewater from oil production supplied to them by Chevron.

Do you eat potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onions or bell peppers?  Do you like almonds or pistachios?  How about oranges, grapes or pomegranates?  Put a little honey in your tea?

Eat any wheat products?

These are all crops that are grown in Kern County, in the southern part of the San Joaquin Valley.

Do you eat beef?  Eggs?  Got milk?  These are also big Kern County agricultural products.

There is a lot of cotton grown in Kern County.  Do you wear any cotton clothes?

And they grow roses.  Makes a nice gift for your sweetie, don’t you think?

In total, Kern County produces over $3.5 billion worth of agricultural products every year, much of it irrigated by wastewater from Chevron’s oil well wells.

Chevron insists that that recycled water is safe, and in fact brags about how wastewater from oil development helps agriculture.

But farmers who live and work in the area aren’t so sure. And given the history of the oil and chemical industry’s environmental safety claims, there’s reason for at least concern.

Big Oil Brown Greenwashes his Legacy at U.N. Climate Summit

By Dan Bacher - Indybay.Org, September 23, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Jerry Brown, one of the worst governors for fish, water and the environment in California target="_blank" history, spoke to world leaders at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City today in a cynical attempt to greenwash his deplorable environmental record.

During his U.N. address, Governor Brown touted 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."

“I believe that from the bottom up, we can make real impact and we need to join together,” added Governor Brown. “We’re signing MOUs with Quebec and British Columbia, with Mexico, with states in China and wherever we can find partners, because we know we have to do it all.”

Brown's remarks at the summit are available at: http://cert1.mail-west.com/oUyjbH/myuzjanmc7rm/21oUgt/r8kgy/vnqoU2xx1jy8d/uqc5hy21oUq/043i8kyepg?_c=d%7Cze7pzanwmhlzgt%7C12lu5pdhlx8v340&_ce=1411519461.60b50da8597e418eaeff8b1b85e25029)

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, 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.

Once known as "Governor Moonbeam" for his quirkiness and eccentricities during his first two administrations from 1975 to 1983, has in his third administration transformed himself into "Big Oil Brown.”

California’s Pension, 55th Largest Fossil Fuel Company in the World

By Brett Fleishman, Senior Analyst at 350.org, with later edits by Jay Carmona, Community Divestment Campaign Manager - Fossil Free, September 3, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

California is the 8th Largest Economy in the World, And California’s pension fund is the 55th Largest Fossil Fuel Company in the World.

Today, Fossil Free Indexes’ research team published a deep dive analysis on CalPERS’ holdings of the Top 200 coal, oil and gas companies by CO2 emissions potential.

California’s pension fund isn’t really a fossil fuel company, or a company at all; but they currently finance enough coal, oil, and gas reserves to put them well within the top 100 oil and gas reserve holders and also the top 100 coal reserve holders.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) is the nation’s largest pension fund, with a $300 billion portfolio. CalPERS is a leader in the investment world and has a huge impact on the global economy. When it comes to framing the climate crisis and finding solutions through an investment perspective, everyone, including the United Nations, looks to CalPERS for leadership.

On August 16th, Anne Stausboll, CalPERS CEO, published this article describing CalPERS response to climate and carbon risk within their portfolio. Essentially, the CalPERS team is focused on requesting transparency with companies on carbon risk issues (e.g. emissions and stranded assets), it’s called “disclosure.” They have done some fairly significant and progressive work changing the rules so that companies will have to disclose climate risk or carbon output with the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) – which is a good thing. With that being said, Ms. Stausboll noted in her article that their efforts have fallen short of the issues, “…the breadth and quality of the disclosures with the SEC are still lacking.”

While CalPERS claims that “Climate change is an important issue for [the pension] System,” it’s useful to ask: what statements are they making with their money?

Fossil Free Indexes found, shockingly, that over the last 10 years, CalPERS has roughly doubled the potential emissions it finances. In 2004, CalPERS held 90 coal, oil, and gas companies on the Top 200 list; today they hold 149. If CalPERS directly held the fossil fuel reserves allocated to its 2013 portfolio it would rank #55 on the top oil and gas reserve holders list and #88 on the top coal reserve holders list.

FEDERAL AUDIT SLAMS CAL/OSHA PERFORMANCE - California Below National Average in Several Key Worker Health & Safety Measures

By Kirsten Stade - Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, August 25, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Washington, DC — The latest federal review of California’s worker health and safety program found critical understaffing and other major deficiencies. The findings reinforce the substance of a complaint filed this February against the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The latest U.S. Department of Labor “Comprehensive Federal Annual Monitoring and Evaluation (FAME) Report” for Cal/OSHA covering the period ending September 30, 2013 was released this month. Paralleling the issues raised by the PEER complaint, this new review concludes:

  • “Cal/OSHA remains understaffed and, as a result, is challenged to fulfill its important mission”;
  • “The lack of staffing affects the citation lapse time, the number of inspections conducted, and the response time to complaints. In particular, the number of inspections conducted by current Cal/OSHA staff is well below the federal average. To compound this problem, there has been a steady decrease in inspectors since FY 2011”; and
  • “Cal/OSHA inspections result in a rate of serious, willful or repeat violations significantly lower than the federal average [26.73% vs. 57.0% for safety and 9.09% vs. 53.7% for health]. This suggests that the agency’s limited resources are not being applied most efficiently and effectively.”

Among the effects cited in the report are workers exposed to hazards longer due to “a long citation lapse time, the time between the start of an inspection and the issuance of a citation.” The state’s new budget does provide for a handful of new compliance officers but still leaves Cal/OSHA at staffing levels below those at the end of Schwarzenegger administration in 2011.

“California workers are paying the price for a cratering Cal/OSHA.” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose complaint to the U.S. Department of Labor seeks financial and other sanctions unless improvements occur. “California needs to be jolted out of its occupational death spiral.”

Chapter 11 : I Knew Nothin’ Till I Met Judi

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Now there’s one thing she really did for me, (did for me),
Was teach me all ‘bout labor history, (history)
So now I can relate to the workin’ slob, (workin’ slob),
Even though I never had a job.

—Lyrics excerpted from “I Knew Nothin’ Till I Met Judi”, by Darryl Cherney, ca. 1990.

Judi Bari (ne Barisciano), the second of three daughters, was born on November 7, 1949 in a working class neighborhood in a suburb of Baltimore, Maryland, where most of the nearby families were employed in the local steel mills. Bari’s mother Ruth, however, had made history by earning the first PhD ever awarded to a woman studying mathematics at Johns Hopkins University. Bari’s father, Arthur, was a diamond setter, and from him, Bari developed extremely steady hands, which later became a boon to her considerable artistic skills. Bari’s older sister, none other than Gina Kolata, became a famous science writer for the New York Times and Science (although many Earth First!ers, including Bari herself, would argue that Bari’s older sister’s “science” is distorted by corporate lenses), while her younger sister, Martha, was, by Bari’s description, “a perpetual student”. Judi Bari’s upbringing may have been “Middle Class” by most definitions, but her parents, survivors of the McCarthy era in the 1950s, passed on their closet radicalism to their receptive middle daughter, including teaching Bari old IWW songs (and admonishing Bari not to reveal her source) and lecturing all of their daughters against racial and ethnic prejudice. From the get-go, Bari had radical roots.[1]

Judi Bari, in spite of her background as a “red diaper baby”, became politically radicalized on her own accord, having at first been apolitical, even into her first years at the University of Maryland, choosing at first to follow the high school football team, even seeking dates from some of the players as her primary social activity. However, Bari soon became disillusioned with the sexist and racist culture of high school football, having been told not to date an African American player by some of the white ones, who threatened to ostracize her socially if she did. Bari gave in to this threat, an act she later regretted, though this was her first and only capitulation to the status quo. From that point onward, Bari grew increasingly radical. [2]

Dear Governor Jerry Brown: Will you Deny the Citizens of California their Civil Rights to Safety?

By Shane Davis - Fracktivist, March 29, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Dear Governor Jerry Brown:

With 2,139 oil and gas wells already fracked, will California repeat the same mistakes of the past and let a largely unregulated industry invade? Will you frack to the moon and back, or will your ‘Moonbeam’ shine a new light on harmful fracking and ban it outright in California?  Governor Brown, your environmental legacy could easily be erased by allowing fracking in California to continue. Will you have the courage to be a national leader and ban fracking altogether or will you be swayed by the multi-national ‘OILigarchy’ to destroy California’s water, soil and air for offshore profits of the few?

REWIND: Since the late 1890’s prospectors have been in search of oil deposits spanning nearly every square inch of Los Angeles County.  Oil was finally discovered at a depth of 460 feet using a makeshift drill carved from a 60 foot eucalyptus tree. WildcatterS swarmed to Los Angeles looking for land to lease and wells to drill anywhere they could find with hopes of striking it rich.

In 1906 a few of the wealthiest prospectors who dominated the Los Angeles oil field thought the local ranch-lands that grew beans as a major cash-crop had  vast oil plays under them. They were wrong. There was no oil to be found, so the men quickly ripped out the farmland to create a section of land into a ‘classy subdivision’ called Beverly Hills. Before they sold a single lot in Beverly Hills, they added restrictive covenants to every deed forbidding any oil exploration or oil wells on the property. That protection was essential for any respectable neighborhood, because the oil boom had ruined one street after another in Los Angeles.  Entire neighborhoods had vanished under the forest of wooden derricks and a grimy film of oil, and the roar of the escaping natural gas and the ump-um ump- um of the pumps never ceased.

The horse-drawn wagons that carried heavy drilling equipment and pipe tore up city streets. And the blocks off Santa Monica near Vermont  Avenue had become a raucous oil workers shantytown. The saloons were busy 24 hours a day. Prostitutes often plied their trade from temporary shelters made from canvass stretched over wooden poles. Gamblers worked out of two room shacks, with a pool table and tobacco counter in the front with pinball machines, card games and a quick exit in the back. These abuses flourished because the city hesitated to clamp down on the oil industry.1

Fast-forward to 2014 where the Los Angeles City Council in a 10-0 vote, unanimously enacted the first moratorium on fracking in California. California currently has approximately 2,139 oil and gas wells that have been fracked with tens, if not, a hundred thousand more to come. The majority of the wells are horizontally fracked in the central valley which is considered the Unites States largest agricultural lands providing more than 50 percent of all the nations produce and 95 percent of the almond market.

California Gov. Jerry Brown Faces Protests Over Fracking as Epic Drought Looms

By Tara Lohan - Alternet, March 11, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

California Gov. Jerry Brown is having a hard time maintaining his green image. Like President Obama, Brown has stumped about the dangers of climate change and the need to take action. But Brown’s message runs afoul of his own actions to open California to more oil and gas drilling enabled by hydraulic fracturing and other extreme extraction methods.

Demonstrators protested the governor and the president’s hypocrisy on the issue of fracking (Obama’s been singing the praises of natural gas) when the two were part of a climate change task force (or “task farce” as demonstrators made clear) in Los Angeles last month.

It’s not the first time Brown has come under attack since signing SB4 in September, a law to regulate fracking in California. Supporters of SB4, introduced by Fran Pavley, have called it the “toughest law in the country” (though it’s an extremely low bar) but opponents say it doesn’t go nearly far enough in protecting people and the environment, and until more is known about the dangers and health impacts the practice should be halted.

Thus far fracking had taken place in California with little regulation. Almost every major environmental organization pulled their support for SB4 as the bill became more watered down as it passed through the state legislature. A Los Angeles Times editorial summed it up: “We previously endorsed the bill, and Pavley deserves praise for trying, but at this point SB4 is so flawed that it would be better to kill it and press for more serious legislation next year.”

Crisis in California: Everything Touched by Capital Turns Toxic

By Gifford Hartman - January 2010

In California toxic capitalist social relations demonstrated their full irrationality in May 2009 when banks bulldozed brand-new, but unsold, McMansions in the exurbs of Southern California.

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