California is a state where many powerful corporate interests are based, ranging from corporate agribusiness in the San Joaquin Valley to the computer and technology industry in the Silicon Valley, but none are more influential in state politics than the oil industry.
Stop Fooling California recently released a chart revealing that the oil industry, including the Western States Petroleum Association, Chevron, BP and other oil companies, spent over $56.63 million on lobbying at the State Capitol in the five years from 2009 through 2013.
This money is enough to spend $471,000 on each California Senator and Assemblymember, according to the organization, “an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse Californians.
The money spent by Big Oil on lobbying has been a very good investment, since the industry was able to make sure that the only fracking legislation passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor last year was Senator Fran Pavley’s “green light for fracking bill,” a ominous piece of legislation that will result in the expansion of hydraulic fracturing in Kern County, coastal areas and offshore waters.
After my article about this chart was written , Stop Fooling California emailed me the data on the money spent by individual oil companies and organizations each year during this time period.
So who were the top 12 spenders on lobbying, “The Big Oil Dirty Dozen”?
It is no surprise that Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the most powerful corporate lobbying group in California, placed first in “The Big Oil Dirty Dozen” with $23,987,896 spent on lobbying in Sacramento from 2009 through 2013.
The organization spent $5,331,493 in 2009, $4,013,813 in 2010, $4,273,664 in 2011, $5,698,917 in 2012 and $4,670,010 in 2013.
The 4,670,010 spent by WSPA while lobbying state government in 2013 was more than any other interest group, according to data released by the Secretary State’s Office.
According to the WSPA website, “Founded in 1907, WSPA is the oldest petroleum trade association in the United States. Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) is a non-profit trade association that represents companies that account for the bulk of petroleum exploration, production, refining, transportation and marketing in the five western states of Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.”
WSPA’s headquarters are located in Sacramento, California. Additional WSPA locations include offices in Torrance; Bay Area; Santa Barbara; Bakersfield; Scottsdale, Arizona and Olympia, Washington.
Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, led the successful campaign last year by the oil industry to defeat all but one bill to ban or regulate the environmentally destructive method of oil extraction known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” The oil industry added last minute amendments to Senator Fran Pavley’s already weak legislation to regulate fracking in California, Senate Bill 4, last September, making an already terrible bill even worse.
The organization’s power was also demonstrated when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009 appointed Reheis-Boyd as Chair of Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called “marine protected areas” in Southern California.
She and her fellow task force members oversaw the creation of “marine protected areas” that fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts other than sustainable fishing and gathering – all while the oil industry was fracking for oil in the Santa Barbara Channel!
Not only did Reheis-Boyd chair this panel, but she served on the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Forces for the North Coast, North Coast and Central Coast and on a federal marine protected areas panel.
But the state and federal “marine protected area” panels are not the only government body that she has “served” on. Reheis-Boyd was appointed by the Governor as a California petroleum industry representative on the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.
She is also a member of the California Chamber of Commerce Natural Resources and Policy Committee. She has chaired the Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce Air Quality Committee, and was past president of the Sacramento chapter of the Air & Waste Management Association. She has also served as past president of the Kern County Chapter of the American Lung Association, and is a past recipient of the Bureau of Land Management’s State Director’s Oil and Gas Award for “Special Achievement.”
While Reheis-Boyd’s organization leads “The Big Oil Dirty Dozen,” the Chevron Corporation placed second in the “The Big Dirty Dozen” competition with $13,457,771 spent on lobbying in the five year period.
The San Ramon-based corporation spent $1,532,359 in 2009, $2,314,599 in 2010, $2,964,238 in 2011, $2,696,296 in 2012 and $3,950,280 in 2013.
Environmental justice and indigenous groups accuse the San Ramon based-Chevron of environmental racism, ranging from the adverse health impacts of the pollution caused by the operation of its refinery in Richmond, California to its dumping of toxic waste in indigenous communities in the the Amazon River Basin in Ecuador.
The other members of “The Big Oil Dirty Dozen” during the five-year period include:
3. BP Global: $3,251,060
4. AERA Energy (jointly owned by Shell and ExxonMobil): $2,513,993
5. Conoco Phillips: $2,344,510
6. Occidental: $2,256,230
7. Shell: $2,127,881
8. Exxon: $2,105,419
9. CIPA (California Independent Petroleum Association): $1,616,756
10. Phillips66: $1,275,199
11. Fueling California, a Big Oil “Astroturf” group pretending to represent fuel consumers: $646,799
12. CIOMA (California Independent Oil Manufacturers Association): $447,528.
The final two oil industry spenders were Tesoro at $313,999 and Valero at $288,459.
If you think that $56,633,498 is a lot of money, it is mere chump change compared to the profits that oil companies are making as gas prices soar at the pumps. Big Oil’s estimated profits in 2014 to date are over $29,000,000,000 and are increasing by the minute.
The 2013 profit totals for the big five oil companies combined —BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Shell – were $93 billion, or $177,000 per minute.
According to Stop Fooling California, “Chevron and oil lobbyists like the Western States Petroleum Association use their influence to roll back California’s popular clean air and energy laws.”
In addition to the data provided by Stop Fooling California, the ACCE Institute and Common Cause released a ground breaking report on April 1, 2014 revealing that Big Oil spent $123.6 million to lobby elected officials in California over the past 15 years. This was an increase of over 400 percent since the 1999-2000 legislative session, when the industry spent $4.8 million.
The report also examines historical campaign contributions by the largest firms in the oil and gas industry. Over the last fifteen years, Big Oil has spent $143.3 million on political candidates and campaigns – nearly $10 million per year and more than any other corporate lobby. Chevron topped these campaign contributions with a stunning $71.2 million
The report also exposes how the oil and gas lobby has spent nearly $15 million to influence Sacramento lawmakers halfway through the 2014-15 legislative session. The record is $25.5 million, set in 2011-12.
For more information about this report, read my article, “How Big Oil Bought Sacramento.”
As the oil industry plans the expansion of fracking under Senate Bill 4 and gas prices soar at the pumps to boost oil industry profits, Governor Jerry Brown is fast tracking the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels. The proposed tunnels would divert Sacramento River water for use by corporate agribusiness interests, Southern California water agencies and oil companies expanding fracking and steam injection operations.
The construction of the twin tunnels would hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperil salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers. The tunnels would not create one single drop of new water – and would do nothing to alleviate the current drought if they were in place right now.
On March 4, Restore the Delta and Food and Water Watch revealed that much of the area that the oil industry could frack for oil and natural gas in California is located in and near toxic, drainage-impaired land farmed by corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
To sign a petition urging Governor Jerry Brown to ban fracking in California, go to the Food and Water Watch action alert.
The Fish Sniffer