California governor's ties to oil and gas spotlights regulatory capture in Calif
Jerry Brown's ties to oil and gas industry spotlight regulatory capture in CA
by Dan Bacher
In the latest scandal to plague the administration of Governor Jerry "Big Oil" Brown, the Public Accountability Initiative on December 17 revealed that Brown's sister, Kathleen, was paid $188,380 in 2014 and $267,865 in 2013 .to serve on the board of Sempra Energy.
That's the company responsible for the devastating Porter Ranch Gas Leak - called the worst in the state's history by Time magazine.
The leak began October 23 and continued to foul the air as Brown posed as a "climate leader" and "green governor" at the Paris Climate Talks. It is currently releasing 36,000 kilograms of methane per hour, leading MSNBC to describe the gas leak as a "catastrophe not seen since the BP Oil Spill." (www.msnbc.com/...)
"It has forced nearly 2,000 families to leave the area, caused the federal government to implement a no-fly zone, and led Los Angeles County to declare a state of emergency," according to the Public Accountability Initiative report. " It has also resulted in a lawsuit by Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer alleging public nuisance."
The group noted that in its first month, the well leaked 800,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases, equivalent to a quarter of the entire state's emissions in that period.
This gas leak is just one of many environmental disasters that the Brown administration has presided over. While Brown pretends to be a "climate leader" and "green governor," he has overseen water policies that have brought Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and a host of other species to the edge of extinction. His administration in 2011 presided over record water exports out the California Delta — and the killing of millions of Sacramento splittail, an imperiled native minnow, and other species at the Delta pumps. (www.truth-out.org/...)
Meanwhile, Brown promotes the construction of the most environmentally devastating public works project in California history, the Delta Tunnels; supports the expansion of fracking and other extreme oil drilling techniques in California; and backs potentially genocidal carbon trading policies and REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation). (www.dailykos.com/...)
Kathleen Brown plays big role in company responsible for Porter Ranch Gas Leak
Until the report was released, the mainstream media failed to cover Governor Brown's familial ties to the company when reporting on the leak, but Kathleen Brown's role at the company is "significant," according to the group:
- She made $188,380 in her position as a board member in 2014, and $267,865 in 2013.
- The current value of her equity stake was $390,851 at the market's close on December 15, 2015. The stake is in the form of 4,252 phantom shares. Phantom shares are paid out in cash upon retirement.
- She is a member of the board's environmental, health, safety, and technology committee, which has oversight responsibilities directly related to issues like the leak.
In outlining her qualifications for the directorship in its 2014 proxy statement, the company stated that "Ms. Brown has extensive experience in both the public and private financial sectors, as well as in-depth knowledge of California government processes."
Lynn Schenk, a Jerry Brown "associate and appointee," also serves on the Sempra board and sits on the environmental, health, safety, and technology committee. Her stake in the company was worth $1,071,898 at the market's close on December 15, 2015, according to the report.
Schenk, an attorney and senior corporate advisor, currently serves on the board of the California High Speed Rail Authority. From 1978 to 1983, Ms. Schenk served in the Cabinet of Governor Jerry Brown as California's Secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing. (www.hsr.ca.gov/...)
While Brown's sister and his appointee, Schenk, made big bucks working for the company responsible for the Porter Ranch Gas Leak, Sempra Energy gave Governor Brown $26,000 in campaign donations in 2014, Californians Against Fracking pointed out.
A million dollar stake in the Forestar Group, a fracking company
Likewise, the press didn't cover Kathleen Brown's ties to the Forestar Group, a fracking company, before the report was released, but these ties are also significant, the report disclosed:
- She made $175,000 in the position in 2014, and has been a director of the company since 2007.
- She has amassed a $949,653 stake in Forestar – 88,094 common and restricted shares (with an option to buy a further 20,000 shares) worth $10.78 per share at the market's close on December 15, 2015.
Forestar is a real estate and oil and gas company that "specifically cites increased regulation of fracking as a risk to its business."
In what the report describes as "a strange coincidence," Forestar's real estate segment is planning a 285-acre luxury home community adjacent to Porter Ranch, the site of Southern California Gas Co's methane leak.
"The project, Hidden Creeks Estates, has provoked significant opposition from a variety of local and environmental groups. One of them, Save Porter Ranch, has also been active in opposing fracking and other drilling activities in the community and sued SoCalGas and Sempra Energy in early December 2015 over the companies' leaking gas storage well," the report stated.
Brown's sister works for law firm used by Western States Petroleum Association
In addition, Kathleen Brown is a partner in the law firm, Manatt Phelps, used by the state's biggest fracking lobby and the most powerful corporate lobbying group in California, the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), an organization that I have covered extensively in my articles.
"Manatt Phelps added the state's largest oil and gas industry lobby, the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), as a client in 2013, the year Kathleen Brown joined the firm. It earned $461,008 from the contract that year, according to the group's most recent tax return. However, there is no evidence that Brown worked on that account, and the nature of the contract is not specified beyond the description ("legal-consulting") given in WSPA's tax return," the report noted.
The report said Brown's record on oil and gas is "surprising for a leader who has staked so much on his climate and environmental legacy," although not at all surprising to this journalist, an independent investigative reporter who has exposed Jerry Brown's anti-environmental record and ties to Big Oil, Big Ag and other corporate interests in article after article.
Jerry Brown's ties to the oil and gas industry run deep and wide, in spite of all of his grandstanding about "green energy" and "climate change" at conferences around the world over the past several years.
Before Jerry Brown in September 2013 signed Senate Bill 4 , legislation that would expand fracking in California, the governor "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," revealed Robert Gammon in the East Bay Express. (www.eastbayexpress.com/...)
"Brown's relationships with the oil and gas industry likely play a role in influencing his stances on these issues," the Public Accountability Initiative said. "This report, to be released in sections in the coming weeks, will detail Brown's many ties to the industry: through his campaigns and political causes, which have benefited from significant industry funding; through close associates, who play advocacy and leadership roles in the industry; and through appointments to key regulatory roles."
The report concluded that "Kathleen Brown's oil and gas industry ties raise new questions about Governor Brown's handling of oil and gas matters."
"Are family ties helping shape Governor Brown's stances on the issue of oil and gas production? Are they influencing his response to oil and gas-related crises like the Porter Ranch methane leak? And do they create the appearance of a conflict of interest that will undermine public confidence in Governor Brown's leadership on oil and gas matters?" the group asked.
Governor's Office responds to report: "scurrilous and irresponsible"
Evan Westrup, spokesman for the Governor, responded to the report in a statement.
"The state is exercising its full regulatory and oversight authority. The focus is the health and safety of residents, period. To imply otherwise is scurrilous and irresponsible," said Westrup.
I look forward to reading and reporting on the other sections of this long-needed report as they are released. I applaud the Public Accountability Initiative for exposing Jerry Brown's ties to the oil and gas industry while he pretends to be a "climate leader" and "green governor."
I do hope that the Public Accountability Initiative exposes one of the biggest environmental scandals of both the Brown and Schwarzenegger administrations — the leadership role that a Big Oil lobbyist played in the creation of California's so-called "marine protected areas.
Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create "marine protected areas" in Southern California from 2009 to 2012 - and served on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast or North Coast from 2004 to 2012. (www.dfg.ca.gov)
The Brown administration implemented the network of "marine protected areas" (MPAs) in Southern California created under Reheis-Boyd's helm, in spite of the alarming fact that these alleged "Yosemites of the Sea" fail to protect the ocean from pollution, fracking, oil drilling, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts other than sustainable fishing and gathering. While she chaired the task force, Reheis's Boyd's husband, James Boyd, served as vice-chair of the California Energy Commission. (www.energy.ca.gov/...)
Brown is one of Big OIl's favorite governors
While the mainstream media has provided largely fawning coverage of Brown's cynical facade as a "climate leader" at the Paris Climate Talks and other conferences across the globe, Brown is in reality one of the most Big Oil-captured governors in recent California history.
In November 2011, Governor Brown fired two regulators, Derek Chernow, acting director of Department of Conservation, and his deputy, Elena Miller, for not processing permits for fracking and other extreme oil extraction techiques fast enough for the oil industry. Brown replaced Chernow with Mark Nechodom to expedite oil drilling permits in Kern County,
Nechodom, in turn resigned this summer the day after Central Valley farmers filed a RICO lawsuit alleging that Governor Jerry Brown's office ordered the California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources ("DOGGR") to approve permits to inject contaminated water in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Governor Brown recently announced the appointment of Bill Bartling, 61, of Bakersfield, who has worked as an oil industry executive and consultant, as district deputy for Bakersfield in the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) at the embattled California Department of Conservation. (yubanet.com/...)
To read the full Public Accountability Initiative report, go to: public-accountability.org/...
The latest example of the oil and gas industry's influence peddling helps to shed the light on the much bigger scandal of the capture of the regulatory apparatus by Big Oil in the state in recent years. To read a transcript of the speech about the power of the Western States Petroleum Association and Big Oil that I gave on the West Steps of the State Capitol on December 10 at a rally co-sponsored by 350 Sacramento and the Rootskeeper.org, go to: www.dailykos.com/...
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