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While there are many powerful industries based in California, ranging from the computer and high tech industry to corporate agribusiness, no industry has more influence over the state's environmental policies than Big Oil.

Big Oil Lobbying

An ongoing analysis of reports filed with the California Secretary of State shows that the oil industry, the largest and most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento, collectively spent $63,947,616 lobbying California policymakers between January 1, 2009 and June 30, 2014.

The Western States Petroleum Association, led by President Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the former chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create so-called "marine protected areas" in Southern California, topped the oil industry lobby spending with $26,969,861.

"The oil industry is spending over $1 million per month lobbying Sacramento, with the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) as the second overall leading spender so far in 2014 with almost $3 million spent in the past six months," according to Stop Fooling California, an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies efforts to mislead and confuse Californians. "Chevron, with $1.3 million spent so far in 2014, is also among the top five. If money speaks, Big Oil has the loudest voice in politics."

The money that the Western States Petroleum Association and other members of the oil lobby spend is well spent, since it has allowed Big Oil to sabotage state and federal laws protecting the air, water and environment.

WSPA was California’s second overall leading lobbyist spender, with $1.5 million spent in the second quarter of 2014. This is the second largest quarter going back to January 2009.

WSPA is on pace to exceed the previous annual (2012) total in 2014. So far this session, WSPA has paid over $2 million to KP Public Affairs, the state’s highest paid lobbying firm, during the current (2013-14) legislative session, according to the group. WSPA spent $4,670,010 on lobbying in 2013 and $5,698,917 in 2012.

Chevron is the fifth overall spender in California through the second quarter of 2014, having spent $784,757 over the past quarter, an increase of nearly $300,000 over the prior quarter.

Since 2009, WSPA ($27 million) and Chevron ($14.7 million) accounted for $42 million, two-thirds of the industry total.

The other "Dirty Dozen" spenders in the oil industry since 2009 were:

  • BP - $3,407,467
  • AERA Energy - $2,678,910
  • Occidental - $2,678,910
  • ConocoPhillips - $2,352,767
  • Exxon - $2,297,452
  • Shell - $2,258,610
  • CIPA - $1,916,231
  • Phillips66 - $1,715,416
  • Fueling CA - $669,049
  • CIOMA - $523,069

The money that the Western States Petroleum Association and other members of the oil lobby spend is well spent, since it has allowed Big Oil to sabotage state and federal laws protecting the air, water and environment. In 2013, the oil industry added poison pill amendments to gut an already weak fracking bill, Senator Fran Pavley's Senate Bill 4, in order to clear the path to the expansion of fracking operations in California.

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WSPA and other oil industry interests also were able to defeat a bill, sponsored by Senators Holly Mitchell and Mark Leno, to impose a moratorium on fracking in the state. In fact, the Legislators who voted against the bill received 14 times the amount of money from Big Oil that those who voted yes received from the industry.

But oil industry influence extends behind the money it spends on lobbying and political campaigns. Oil industry officials have also sat on key panels crafting environmental regulations in California and the U.S.

For example, WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd, in one of the biggest conflicts of interest in California history, chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create alleged marine protected areas in Southern California.

She also served on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast, as well as on a federal NOAA marine protected areas committee.

The "marine protected areas" that she and other task force members helped to create fail to protect the ocean from fracking, offshore oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering.


While Reheis-Boyd served on the task forces to "protect" the ocean, the same oil industry that the "marine guardian" represents was conducting environmentally destructive hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations off the Southern California coast. Documents recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and media investigations by Associated Press and reveal that the ocean has been fracked at least 203 times in the past 20 years, including the period from 2004 to 2012 that Reheis-Boyd served as a "marine guardian.”

Stop Fooling California recently pointed out that the former Chair of the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force opposes a ban on offshore drilling in the Vandenberg State Marine Reserve.

“Big Oil, we know you're no stranger to conflicts of interest. But you have outdone yourself this time!” the group stated.

The campaign was referring to WSPA's opposition to Senate Bill 1096, a bill to ban offshore oil drilling in state waters in the Santa Barbara Channel known as Tranquillon Ridge.

You can't make this stuff up. Only in the oil-soaked politics of "Green California" would an oil lobbyist charged with the task of creating "marine protected areas" go on record against protecting a "state marine reserve" from oil drilling!

However, the money Big Oil spends on lobbying and campaign contributions is just chump change for them, since the oil companies continue to post mind-boggling profits every year. The top five oil companies made over $93 billion in profits in 2013 and have made over $58 billion in profits this year to date.

dan bacher

Dan Bacher