In May, 100% of California was experiencing "severe" drought -- the third harshest on a five-level scale -- but since things have leveled off, that figure has only improved to 99.8%, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor report.
Meanwhile, nearly 82% of California continues to suffer "extreme" drought, and within that area, more than half the state is under the driest "exceptional" drought category.
Butte County California had the most organized group in California to get a petition on November's ballot allowing voters to have their say about banning fracking in their county. Butte County was going to be the first entire county to not allow fracking according to the most recent polling. The group, Frack Free Butte County needed to get 10% of registered voters to sign the petition to have it be on the ballot. Ten percent is 7,605 signatures. After our County Clerk-Recorder went through them she tallied 7,975 valid signatures as of June 5th when they were turned in. Everything was proper. It was a slam dunk. The citizens were going to get to vote about fracking in Butte County.
But then things suddenly got weird. What happened next should never have been allowed to happen.
A Sacramento Law Firm representing a pro-fracking organization called Californians for a Safe, Secure Energy Future was well aware of what was going on in Butte County as these Butte County folks were very open about what they were attempting to do. They have a facebook page, got into local media and even did a diary about it on DailyKos. They were extremely well organized and very public about their cause and what's at stake. They are quite concerned about our water. Chico, CA gets it's water from the Tuscan aquifer underground. It's been established that toxic water from fracking has definitely gotten into underground drinking water in California and in states all across the country.
Pro-fracking companies were not amused.
The Sacramento law firm contacted Candace Grubbs (Butte County Clerk-Recorder) and told her the petition was invalid and so all the signatures needed to be thrown out because it didn't meet certain formatting requirements, so Candace put it on hold June 16th. It went to the Butte County Superior Court on July 23rd and after being closely scrutinized was declared perfectly valid. The judge told the clerk to move ahead with it.
Unfortunately this delaying tactic by the Sacramento law firm, which caused confusion for nearly 5 1/2 weeks, resulted in exactly what Californians for a Safe, Secure Energy Future intended as their goal even though they were totally full of it in declaring that a (fabricated out of thin air) formatting issue invalidated the whole thing. The squabbling caused this issue to be brought before the Butte County Supervisors so they could decide if it should go on the November ballot.
This is not the way things normally work. Why this time? The judge declared the signatures and petition forms to be perfectly legal. The necessary number of signatures had been gotten. I signed it. California allows for propositions to be put on the ballot by the citizens of the state as long as the proper procedure is followed. That's exactly what happened here. How did this extra step get inserted into the process? Who pushed for that?
The Board of Supervisors had a 2 hour meeting on July 29th regarding the subject which was 6 days after the judge ruled the petition and signatures to be legally valid. This delay tactic allowed pro-fracking forces to swoop in to say why they wanted fracking in Butte County. One point was, since there is no fracking currently in Butte County, why does there have to be a law prohibiting it. Another point, and one that was repeated several times, is private citizens should have rights to do whatever they want with their property and to not allow fracking would hurt their property value. One guy said he'd worked in Texas for years and said, "It's a normal procedure. Every single oil well in Texas has been fracked. Why all the hysteria now?" The pro-fracking group demanded a 30-day study be done by the Butte County Board of Supervisors on the subject before it was allowed to be on the November ballot.
The anti-fracking group noted that the State of California has ordered the shutdown of 11 fracking sites and is reviewing 100 other sites in drought ravaged central California because the companies are pumping toxic fracking fluids into their wells that later leached into drinking water aquifers. They stated a 30-day study would make no difference and that banning fracking in Butte County is not a rush to judgement.
The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to do a 30-day study just as the pro-fracking group wanted. This means pro-frakers won because in Butte County you have to have a ballot initiative good to go at least 88 days before an election. A 30-day delay for a study as ordered by the Board of Supervisors means the proposition can't be put on the ballot in November 2014 because the study will not be concluded within that 88 day window.
So the next time it can be put on the ballot isn't until November 2016.
Keep in mind the group that gathered the signatures did everything right while the Sacramento law firm literally lied about the petition forms being wrongly formatted. Having an issue like this going before the Board of Supervisors is not normal. If enough valid signatures are acquired in time, the issue is supposed to be automatically included on the voting ballot.
By the way, PG&E works in south Butte County with the Wild Goose Storage facility which stores methane. This facility practices fracking according to the anti-fracking group. An attorney for Wild Goose Storage denies that saying, "It uses gravel to free up underground natural gas reserves and has a process to filter out sand from rising with the gas but doesn't use chemicals." (note: As pointed out by 6412093 in a comment below, Wild Goose has been around for decades and is a storage facility).
BTW, I know a guy that works for PG&E which is laying down gas pipelines as fast as they can. He works 70 hours a week now. He told me PG&E has even transferred folks who normally are involved only with transmission of natural gas through the pipes to working on the physical installation of new gas lines because there is so very much of that work that needs to be done right now... this red hot minute. I asked him why he has to work so much. He told me it's because they are getting ready for all the natural gas they are about to get from underground in Butte and Colusa counties.
A Wild Goose Storage pipeline expansion. As you can see it's right next to flooded rice fields which get their water from an underground aquifer.
Well, he didn't say anything about fracking, and PG&E claims they are somehow getting underground natural gas deposits by doing something that requires injection of something but doesn't use chemicals. Something seems a little bit fishy especially in light of the fact one County Supervisor (the one that represents me) stated Wild Goose Storage is one of the largest property-tax payees and if a fracking ban were to go into effect they would have to shut down and move elsewhere. Wait what? They claim they aren't fracking so how could a fracking ban force them to close up shop and move elsewhere? PG&E is building the new pipelines. Will some other third party do the actual fracking? Something doesn't quite add up here. I'd sure like to know exactly what they are doing to get the methane that goes to Wild Goose Storage because we are definitely getting mixed messages from what the company's lawyer is saying and what a member of the Butte County Board of Supervisors is saying. Did someone misspeak? Could be, but it's currently not fully clear what's going on.
The bottom line is now there is a full two years and two months span of time now that frackers can do whatever they want in Butte County before the voters will have any chance to have their say in the matter. By then I'm sure there will be plenty of fracking already happening. In other words, it will simply be far too late for Butte County to ban fracking. I wonder how much natural gas PG&E is expecting to get from underground in Butte County?
Though they did every thing exactly right, and in plenty of time, they lose.
This, I hope, is a lesson that other counties around California and the USA will learn from. You can do everything right and some out of the area law firm can claim a totally bogus thing about the formatting of the petition in order to put a monkey wrench in the way things are suppose to go. Then there are judges that simply invalidate the will of the people. In Colorado the town of Longmont voted to be frack free. A judge in Colorado later ruled they can't do so by claiming the rights of the state are more important than the rights of a city or town. Pure rubbish. http://www.bloomberg.com/...
(photo from Chico News and Review)
Joni Stellar, head of Frack Free Butte County reacts to the Butte County Board of Supervisor's 4-1 vote to do a 30-day study thus ensuring we will not be allowed to vote about this in November 2014. The people just got screwed by fossil fuel special interests...again.
I thought you might want to know about this. What do you want to kibitz about?
The volunteers of Frack-Free Butte County have spent the last year gathering the 10,000 signatures needed to put a citizen initiative on the ballot to ban fracking in Butte County. With endless energy and a couple thousand dollars from an Indiegogo campaign, they reached their signature goal on June 1st.
A couple short weeks later, a law firm hired by Californians for a Safe, Secure Energy future swept in and disqualified the citizen initiative due to facial defects such as certain words not being in bold-face.
This is not Californians for a Safe Secure Energy Future's first effort to block the fracking ban in Butte County and spread misinformation around the state. Following Frack-Free Butte County's successful collection of signatures, Californians for a Safe-Secure Energy Future began funding an opposition group, Butte Citizens Against Higher Energy Costs. They have published articles like this one describing fracking bans as job-killers. A couple weeks ago, they accused the Center for Biological Diversity (which they describe as a fringe group) of spreading the lie that fracking may threaten public health. They have also claimed that the oil and gas industry follows strict federal, state and local regulations despite a recent analysis that found 100 violations of california fracking disclosure laws just in the past several months.
But the latest move in Butte County goes much further than publishing a misleading article. Allowing tactics like this one threatens the health and safety of our communities and the lifeblood of our democracy. The volunteers of Butte County are not politicians or professional activists. They are regular people who are worried about the dangers of fracking for their families and livelihoods.
In their own words, Frack-Free Butte County's goal continues to be "to ensure Butte County's water supply is safe, clean, and abundant and to protect the County's agricultural legacy."
The citizens of Butte County followed the democratic process to protect the health and productivity of their communities. They deserve better than the dirty tricks of Californians for a Safe and Secure Energy Future.
Received this e-mail today from Peace Team regarding Governor Jerry Brown (D. CA):
SB1272, The Overturn Citizens United Act in CA is now expected to
pass the full CA Assembly, just as it passed in all committees and in
the full CA Senate. That would put it on CA Governor Brown's desk for
signature sometime next week, for placement on the upcoming November
So we need to start our advocacy NOW to Governor Brown, to encourage
him to sign this Voter Instruction measure, which would give the
citizens of CA a chance to speak out on supporting a constitutional
amendment to get the big special interest money, so wrongfully and
fully unleashed by the Supreme Court, out of our elections.
We are this close to victory only because so many of you have taken
just a moment to speak out every step of the way through the CA
legislature. We have been told privately that members of the various
committees were blown away by the number of faxes they received,
which all you have to do is click a mouse one time to send.
We can't afford to let up in the last foot of the last mile. We need
everyone who has spoken up before to do so just one last time on the
action page above, so that Governor Brown knows that the support for
this is immense and growing.
What makes this all so incredibly important is that having this on
the ballot is precisely the thing we need to turn out votes for the
very legislators we will need representing us to get a real
constitutional amendment sent to the states by Congress in the first
place. And this will be model of how to do it in so many other states
so the votes to ratify will be there as well.
So please submit the action page above, and let's bring this WIN
You may forward this message to any friends who would find it
Solar gardens allow groups of remote owners or lessors to
share panels in an more optimally located array.
Here are three small items of good news that may cheer you up on this summer solstice. And thanks to kovie for suggesting the perfect soundtrack for solar solstice reading today. Please select play while you read the rest of this post about sunshine.
Diane Cardwell of The New York Times writes Buying Into Solar Power, No Roof Access Needed, which describes the emerging concept of a "community solar garden," that allows "customers buy into a solar array constructed elsewhere and receive credit on their electricity bills for the power their panels produce." This opens up solar energy as a possibility for the 85% of residential customers who cannot mount solar panels on a roof.
For developers, such shared or community solar arrays create a new market from the estimated 85 percent of residential customers who can neither own nor lease systems because their roofs are physically unsuitable for solar or because they do not control them — like renters and people living in large apartment buildings. And for those customers, it offers a way into the solar boom, whether they seek to contribute to the spread of clean energy or to reap the potential cost savings.
Massachusetts passed its law enabling community renewable energy projects in 2008 and saw at least one town solar garden begin operating in Brewster in 2012. Now, Clean Energy Collective, a leading developer, is building systems that are due to start producing power in Massachusetts by the end of this month. The company has teamed with Next Step Living of Boston, a home energy-efficiency company, which is selling the product to consumers across Massachusetts.
The shared approach has its roots in rural electric cooperatives, said Elaine Ulrich of the Department of Energy’s SunShot program, but has only begun to take off in recent years, and still accounts for a tiny fraction of solar production. There are at least 52 projects in at least 17 states, and at least 10 states are encouraging their development through policy and programs, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the main trade group.
Cardwell tells us that California, Minnesota and Washington, D.C., have such laws, and New York has a bill in progress. In Colorado, Xcel customers can offset up to 120% of the energy portions of their bills, and please don't ask, because I do not know how this works out mathematically. Perhaps, the extra 20% becomes a rolling credit that can be applied to a future month? Anyone from Aurora?
Another advantage of such cooperate solar gardens is that people can take their solar benefits with them if they move.
The community solar garden of Aurora, Colorado operated in conjunction with Xcel energy may be one of the most successful and they've just announced plans to double its size.
Of the available energy from the existing Aurora/Arapahoe Community Solar Array, 280 kilowatts have been purchased by a mix of businesses and homeowners in Aurora and Arapahoe County, said Jim Hartman, vice president of strategic development of the Clean Energy Collective. On average, a subscriber will use about 5 kilowatts, which are roughly 15 to 20 panels.
The Clean Energy Collective operates about 20 solar gardens in Colorado now and about 40 nationwide. Gardens open on land that is virtually unusable already, like next to landfills or airport runways. In the case of Aurora, the garden is on land with contaminated groundwater from the Buckley Air Force Base.
There are two ways to participate in the Solar Rewards Community program. Xcel customers can purchase panels for as little as $1,000 through the Clean Energy Collective, or a city can become subscriber organization and sell or lease shares of the garden to customers.
I used to fly into Aurora, Colorado, Casper Wyoming, and many other remote places, from Boston on weekends to teach extension courses in computer simulation for High School teachers getting Master Degrees Lesley College many decades ago. I've never seen so many "game sausage" shops anywhere else I've been.
Reposted from Connect! Unite! Act! by smileycreekEditor's Note: Many SF kossacks will be there! See diary for details. -- smileycreek
A daily series, Connect! Unite! Act! seeks to create face-to-face networks in each congressional district. Groups regularly socialize but also get out the vote, support candidates and engage in other local political actions that help our progressive movement grow and exert influence on the powers-that-be. Visit us every morning at 7:30 A.M. Pacific Time to see how you can get involved. The comment thread is fun and light-hearted, but we're serious about moving the progressive political agenda forward.
The orange pinpoints are the location of each organized group of Kossacks.
If you'd like to join a group, click on a point and a box will pop up showing contact links.
If you'd like to start a group, contact navajo for instructions.
I like surprises, but I am hard to surprise. Too often I hide what I would really like, so when people try to surprise me with gifts they think I want it's my own fault they guess wrong.
My mom tried to give me a surprise party for my 16th birthday. I had a close friend named Alex* (*all names changed to protect the guilty) and mom gave money to Alex's mom for treats and snacks, and asked Alex to invite the kids from school I would most want to have at the party. Alex lived west of Rock Creek Park, and I lived way out in Anacostia, so it was a treat just to see her on the weekend because she lived so far away.
The cover story was that Alex and I were going to go hang out in Georgetown for the afternoon, walking up and down Wisconsin Avenue. This was something I occasionally did alone, and never had a chance to do with a friend. So when I came to her house to find the surprise party, I was massively disappointed, and did not have the good sense to hide it. I had been really excited about going to Georgetown, and instead we were going sit inside on a beautiful day? I actually said something awful like "You mean we're not going to Georgetown? I was really looking forward to that." Just one of many times my mom tried to do the right thing and I did not appreciate her. Sorry, mom! At least I was genuinely surprised!
Sometimes I spoil the surprise by being oddly observant about minor details that most people would normally ignore. One time a dear friend named Eve* organized a surprise birthday party for me. Unfortunately the secret was blown at the very last minute because I am obsessively observant when I have a crush on someone.
Eve had invited my crush to the party, thinking he liked me too and not knowing he had already rejected me. He was gracious enough to come to the party though, and parked down the street so I would not see his truck in front of her apartment.
Duh—if you knew I'd recognize your truck in front of the apartment, why didn't you realize I would recognize your truck parked at the end of the street? Little did he know that as I went about my normal day I took notice every time i saw a truck that looked like his! So as I was walking to Eve's house from the bus stop, I noticed the truck and, I immediately knew it was his because, God help me, I had memorized his license plate number. (Sigh. Thank FSM those days are gone.) My mind put two and two together, and by the time I knocked on her door the surprise was already two minutes old. It was nice to see him, and all of them, and it was a fun party, and it was very sweet that Eve and my other friends went to all that trouble. But I was surprised out on the sidewalk where no one could see it!
The one happy birthday surprise I did get was not a party exactly. For my 40th birthday, my mom came to visit me in Cambridge. It was a big deal, right near the beginning of our reconciliation years, and we both wanted everything to go well. So the next morning I got up early and went down the street to the bakery to get bagels for a special breakfast. When I came back, and while we were preparing to eat, the downstairs buzzer rang. I lived on the top floor and my door buzzer no longer worked, so it meant going down two flights of stairs to open the door manually. Being lazy, and in the middle of something, I went to the intercom to make sure it was someone for me instead of one of my neighbors.
"Hello?" I said questioningly, and a muffled voice said "Delivery". "What?" I said? "Delivery" the voice repeated, even more garbled the second time. My mom helpfully piped up, "Sounded like 'delivery'." "Delivery? I didn't order anything." "Well," mom suggested, "maybe someone sent you a package for your birthday." I immediately started wondering who could have done such a thing, and thought my best friend Charlotte* might have sent me a birthday package that had to be signed for, so I went downstairs with anticipation.
When I got to the door an opened it, it was Charlotte herself. I was totally stunned and thrilled. She had come up from NY to surprise me for my birthday, and had managed to mumble her words well enough that I didn't recognize the voice I talked to multiple times a day every day!
Turned out my mom was in on the whole thing. The two of them had been planning the surprise together for weeks. Charlotte had originally arrived when I was out getting bagels, which threw a tiny wrench in the works, but it all worked out in the end. Mom could still walk pretty well in those days, so we had several days of touristy activity. We went to the Boston Tea Party ship, and the New England Aquarium. We saw The Full Monty at my favorite movie theatre. We ate at Legal Seafoods, and mom had lobster for the first time. We also just hung out at my apartment playing card games. I am smiling from ear to ear with the memories. The visit was great. The two people who loved me most in the world. That was definitely my happiest birthday ever. And the fun started with a very happy surprise.
I tried to surprise Charlotte on her birthday a few years ago by telling her I was having something special delivered to her office, but she left work early and asked the doorman to receive the package. Then she went to dinner with some other friends and turned her cell phone off, not knowing I had come to Manhattan on the bus for one evening to surprise her. I did not reach her until she was most of the way home, and I had to head back to Boston that very night. She said through her disappointment, "You should have just told me you were coming! You know I hate surprises! " Actually, I didn't then, but I certainly do now.
Do you hate surprises? Would you rather know exactly what is happening and when? Has anyone tried to surprise you and failed because you always like to know what is going on? Has anyone ever thrown a surprise party for you? Were you really surprised? (Answer at your own risk!) Have you ever thrown a surprise party for someone? How did you manage to keep the secret? Have you had another special surprise for a birthday or anniversary or other special event?
Do you like surprises?
start up soundtrack
Latest Updates on Kossack Regional Meet-Up News Can Be Found Below the Orange Group Hug.
In an email that I sent back in February, I urged delegates within the California Democratic Party to join me in confronting Governor Jerry Brown during his keynote speech at the state convention in March:
"Imagine the events of March 8th for a moment. Imagine 100 delegates interrupting his speech. Imagine the response from the rest of the room, the people who agree but have yet to state their frustration. Imagine the reaction of the media. We have a golden opportunity to make this election an election focused on Climate Change. We are their most "supportive members", demanding an end to fracking, and demanding bold action on climate change. At that point, there will be absolutely no ambiguity with the party platform's position on Fracking. We want a moratorium, and we expect to see one immediately."
"We need to make it abundantly clear to the Governor on March 8th, that we will not be ignored any longer... Make your voices heard, and be creative next weekend. We need to make our base's position unequivocal and direct. We need to demand a fracking moratorium right now."
And, on March 8th, we did just that. That morning, hundreds of Democratic delegates interrupted the Governor's speech to demand an end to fracking.
"The California Democratic Party convention is normally a pre-scripted affair..." Wrote David Dayen. "However, this weekend’s convention in Los Angeles exploded into an unusually vocal battle over fracking, revealing tensions between the elected leadership and the party rank-and-file." The SF Gate reported on the protest as well: "Dozens of party activists holding "Another Democrat Against Fracking" signs rushed to the front of the hall and stood in their seats at the Los Angeles Convention Center, yelling their opposition."
"Keep in mind that the crowd at a state party convention is made up of party stalwarts, inclined to support top officials almost unreservedly. That this became the site of a backlash speaks to the intensity of opposition to fracking inside the party, an intensity that’s bound to grow over time... Politicians, and not just Democrats in California but across the country, have a choice to make. They can continue an unholy alliance with the oil industry, trading environmental stability for a promise of jobs, and hiding behind rhetoric about stopping climate change while allowing fracking to flourish. Or they can listen to increasing unrest among the public, and align their stated desire to protect the planet with their actions." ~ Salon.com
"The governor was interrupted repeatedly by about 100 protesters as he began to talk about environmental issues and climate change. "No fracking!" they shouted, creating a rumble throughout the massive convention hall." Read a Reuters article. That very rumble seemed to reverberate for days as media sources from all over the state reported on the "unprecedented" protest that took place that weekend. A Democratic Governor, during his keynote speech, at his own party's state convention, was protested by his most loyal supporters. The shock-waves from that morning carried on into Sacramento the following weekend as nearly 4,000 fractivists swarmed the state capitol on March 15th to demand an end to fracking. People from all over California attended, making it the largest anti-fracking rally in state history.
The Fracking Moratorium
SB 1132, the proposed moratorium on fracking (and acidization), was introduced earlier this year by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). If enacted, SB 1132 would place a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, acidizing treatments and other stimulation treatments in California.
On April 8th, the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water Quality advanced SB 1132 with a 5-2-2 vote. Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) and Senator Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) voted against the measure. The two abstentions came from Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) and Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens). The abstaining democrats and the opposing republicans argued that the measure would impact constituents that work at oil and gas fields in their districts.
Then, on April 30th, SB 1132 passed through the Senate Environmental Quality Committee with a 5-2 vote. Senator Ted Gaines (R–Roseville) and Senator Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) voted against it. Once again, the opposing republicans feared that many jobs would be lost if such a moratorium passed. Senator Mitchell responded to these concerns: “My community needs jobs, but those jobs need to be safe for workers and surrounding communities.”
The bill made its way through the Committee on Appropriations on May 19th and was put into suspense. And on May 23rd, "the California Senate Appropriations Committee approved, in a vote of 4-2, a bill to place a moratorium on fracking in the state (SB1132). The bill now moves to a vote on the Senate floor. Senators Gaines and Walters voted against the bill while Senators deLeón, Padilla, Hill and Steinberg voted to advance the bill to the floor." SB 1132 will now enter the Senate floor for a vote sometime next week.
Infiltrating The Death Star: Local Fracking Bans
Midst the battles taking place in Sacramento, the anti-fracking movement in California is gaining some serious momentum at the local level. Communities all across the state are now rising up to put an end to fracking. "A growing number of cities and counties are moving toward enacting temporary moratoria and/or permanent bans on extreme well stimulation practices within their jurisdictions."
"The Butte County Board of Supervisors in California recently surprised everyone and took a bold step to ban fracking in their community." Writes Tia Lebherz, an organizer with Food & Water Watch. On April 8th, the Butte County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to ban fracking. "It doesn't make any sense to do this in a beautiful county." said Supervisor Steve Lambert.
"Butte County is poised to become [one of the] first counties in California, and the [third] in the nation to ban fracking." Frack-Free Butte County has been building their campaign for over a year now. Today, they remind us what local grassroots efforts can do. As Lebherz explains, "The victory in Butte County is part of a slew of local victories across the nation to stop fracking."
With a population of 55,000, San Benito county has become a focal point in the debate over unconventional oil and gas extraction in California. Southern San Benito County happens to sit atop the Monterey Shale formation. In April, the anti-fracking group San Benito Rising, along with dozens of volunteers, "collected 4,167 signatures to place an anti-fracking initiative on the November ballot. They only needed 1,642 to qualify." The group, led by Mary and Andy Hsia-Coron, delivered their 4,167 signatures on Earth Day, April 22nd. In the following weeks, the county verified the signatures. With nearly 1000 more signatures than required, the initiative was approved. And on May 6th, the San Benito County Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 to place the county initiative to ban fracking and extreme extraction on the November 2014 ballot.
In Santa Barbara County, a coalition called the Santa Barbara County Water Guardians began working on a ballot initiative of their own. Over the past few months, over 300 people volunteered their time to help their campaign gather signatures. The County Registrar of Voters requires at least 13,201 valid signatures in order to qualify. And, on May 2nd, the Santa Barbara County Water Guardians were successful. They "turned in approximately 20,000 signatures in support of an initiative petition to prohibit land uses related to fracking, cyclic steam injection and other high-intensity petroleum operations within the unincorporated area of Santa Barbara County." Edhat reported. As Rebecca Clauson wrote in an email: "We just heard back from the county registrar that we qualified for the ballot! We submitted 19, 098 signatures and based on the random sample, they estimate that 16,030 of them are valid!"
The Santa Cruz board of Supervisors voted last September to enact a 10-month moratorium on fracking and all oil and gas drilling. On Tuesday, they met once again to vote on making that decision permanent. "The county’s board of supervisors voted 5-0 to prohibit fracking, as well as gas and oil development within its boundaries." Reports Ecowatch. With that vote, Santa Cruz county became "the state’s first county to ban fracking." And with that vote, Santa Cruz has set a precedence for other counties to follow their lead. “Santa Cruz is the first county to ban fracking in California, but it certainly won’t be the last,” said Rose Braz, Climate Campaign Director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “While Gov. Brown refuses to protect our health and environment from fracking risks, local communities across the state are moving forward with measures to fight oil industry pollution.”
Los Angeles is currently in the process of drafting a moratorium which was unanimously approved by the LA City Council earlier this year. Cities like Beverly Hills have come to similar conclusions. On the same day that San Benito Rising submitted their signatures for their proposed county ban, "Beverly Hills became the first city in California to pass a ban on fracking and related extreme well stimulation techniques with a unanimous vote." Food & Water Watch wrote in a press release. And, on May 6th, "The city council unanimously approved a ban on fracking, making 90210 among the first zip codes in California where fracking operations are legally unwelcome." As Grist points out, "Beverly Hills is the first Californian city to take this step, but it probably won’t be the last."
Unfortunately, midst the great strides we have made, there have been many setbacks. The arduous efforts of organizers, activists, and citizens have been challenged, yet again, by labor unions, politicians, and the Oil and Gas industry. The all too familiar theme seems to repeat itself: whenever we make progress; whenever we see success; the industry strikes back.
Democracy Crumbles In The City Of Carson
In March, the Carson City Council put a 45 day moratorium on all new oil drilling. At the crux of the issue was a proposed project (currently under review) by Occidental Petroleum. The moratorium was initially imposed due to fears that Oxy was planning to use fracking in their newly proposed 200 well project. The outcry of concerned residents was enough to push the City Council to place a 45 day moratorium on all new oil and gas drilling so that more information could be attained. Occidental Petroleum, during that time, insisted that they would not be fracking. The council also faced tremendous pressure from labor unions with powerful political and economic influence, demanding that the council deny the moratorium extension.
On April 29th, the council came together once again to consider extending the moratorium. If approved, the moratorium would have been extended until March of 2015. Hundreds of union members from all over the state were brought in to oppose the extension. The opposition included the AFL-CIO, the IBEW, the Carson Chamber of Commerce, and executives from Occidental Petroleum. Coming to show their support in favor of the moratorium were hundreds of environmental activists and Carson residents. When the meeting started, the room was filled to capacity with over 500 people.
"If you don’t stand up for the safety of the residents in this matter, you will not be credible in any other office you run for. If you abstain, then we know you were bought off.” Said Shaaron McLeod, resident of the highly contaminated Carousel Tract neighborhood. Despite the health concerns, the existing contamination of land and water, and the countless environmental hazards that have already taken a toll on the city of Carson, the city council abandoned their once united opposition to new oil & gas drilling. After more than 6 hours of deliberation, and in the face of powerful interest groups, labor union members, and strong political pressure, the council voted 2-2-1 early Wednesday morning to reject a moratorium on new oil and gas production. Councilman Al Robles and Councilwoman Lula Davis-Holmes both supported the moratorium extension. Mayor Jim Dear and Councilman Elito Santarina voted in opposition to the extension. And Councilman Mike Gipson, who received a $3,600 contribution from Occidental last year, abstained from the vote.
“It’s clear that this project is not about jobs... It’s about money. It’s about more money than any of us can fathom. We’re talking about more money than all the residents in the city of Carson will make combined... When you weigh two dozen jobs against the health, safety and well-being of a community, you don’t have to be a scientist or a geologist or a petrochemical expert to side with the residents.”
~ Councilman Al Robles
In an email sent to me on April 30th titled: "Dirty Oil Brings Out Dirty Energy In People", Latrice Carter, one of the leading members of the Carson Coalition, recalled the events that took place prior to the city council's vote:
"This Emergency City Council Meeting was a reflection of dirty energy in people's actions, brought on by dirty oil at its worst. Watson Land and Oxy Oil Company went to extreme measures of divide and conquer... The volatile measures led by them were despicable. They encouraged pitting union members against union members. In doing this, they orchestrated busloads of union members from Bakersfield and other distant cities to fight against Carson residents. They encouraged pitting Carson businesses against each other, they used children, they lied, gave false hope for jobs, provided erroneous information, paid people with food and gift cards... Additionally, they disrespected Carson's sheriff and the Carson Community Center Security by hiring 10 of their own security guards to man the entrance to the hearing area for the unions and disallowing Carson residents from entering. The Carson Sheriff had to come out in force to send them away. After all had settled and calmed down and resident were allowed to enter, the seating was beyond capacity with Carson residents and people in support of the moratorium on one side; and Oxy Oil, Watson Land, and the union members in opposition on the other."
"After about roughly five hours of debate the City Attorney provided the report and clarified the aspects of the moratorium. He informed all, that if this moratorium did not pass that night, Carson city council could never bring this issue up again. This applied to Oxy as well as all future oil companies entering Carson to extract oil through extreme methods... The elected officials who opposed the moratorium... voted to continue the plague placed on our health... The actions of the elected officials who opposed the extension of the moratorium, is an indication of how they will most likely approve the Final Environmental Impact Report for the Oxy project and allow this oil company to drill under our homes in Carson."
After the hearing, Walker Foley, an organizer with Food & Water Watch, commended the hard working activists from the Carson Coalition for their bravery and hard work: "To the Members of the Carson Coalition: That was the most difficult and emotionally taxing hearing I have ever sat through, yet you persevere and keep fighting, against stacked odds, with the indomitable spirit of people who will not rest until you find your justice."
Darth Moonbeam & The Dark Side Of The Force
The most disturbing aspect of the failed Carson moratorium extension was the influence that our very own Governor had on the outcome. Governor Jerry Brown personally called Mayor Jim Dear hours before the City Council meeting on Tuesday and urged the Mayor to oppose the moratorium extension. Brown expressed additional concern that such a moratorium would block the Occidental project currently being reviewed by the city. Adding more salt to the wounds, Governor Brown made a personal visit to the city of Carson three days after the vote to congratulate Mayor Jim Dean on his defeat of the oil and gas moratorium.
During the congratulatory speech on May 2nd, dozens of protesters rallied outside the building to express their outrage. "Activists protested outside of AFL-CIO pipe-fitting union offices on Figueroa just outside Carson where Gov. Jerry Brown was set to visit to thank union members for helping to block a moratorium on drilling in Carson." Writes Sandy Mazza. When people are pondering the cause of the recent Carson City Council decision, it helps to remember that "Occidental Petroleum alone has supported the governor to the tune of $835,000 since 2006," reports Oil Change International, "far more money than any local community group could ever dream of coming up with."
Brown's Oil and Gas industry contributions go far beyond Occidental Petroleum. In 2012, Jerry Brown accepted at least $2.49 million from the Oil and Gas industry. In 2012, the Governor took another $170,000. And this year, the Oil and Gas industry's major players have already maxed out their contributions to Brown's 2014 re-election campaign. It seems like a rhetorical question at this point to ask: "Why would Jerry Brown, the self-proclaimed climate champion, advocate for a California fracking boom?" The Quantitative Answer: Nearly $4,000,000 over the past 4 years. The Qualitative Answer: Governor Brown is in bed with the Oil and Gas industry.
In a press release, Oil Change International points to the hypocrisy of the Governors actions: "Now, more than ever, it’s time to push back and demand Governor Brown protect the people of California, not Big Oil and other special interests. He can either stand with us and our communities, or stand with the oil corporations lining his pockets. He can’t do both." As Dr. Tony Ingraffea, Professor of Engineering at Cornell University, explains: "If your going to say out of one side of your mouth: "We've got to stop Climate Change" and out of the other side of your mouth, saying "Drill Baby Drill"---I'm sorry---that's cognitive dissonance... None of that makes logical sense."
As we enter month 9 of our bird-dogging efforts, the Governor is starting to feel the pressure. According to members in Brown's office, the anti-fracking protests are "really starting to get to him." Of course, Brown isn't the only politician who's been branded by the oil and gas industry. Assembly and Senate Democrats and Republicans in California are being purchased left and right. And on the local level, as we have seen with the city of Carson, the industry is fiercely pushing back.
Fracking Our Democracy: The Empire Strikes Back
In San Benito, as Kate Woods reports: "Attorneys representing the oil and gas industry sent a blustering letter to the County supervisors in mid-April threatening a lawsuit against San Benito County should county voters pass the measure..." Following the filing of the Santa Barbara County initiative, a group called "Californians for a Safe, Secure Energy Future" issued the following statement: “This arbitrary ban puts our state’s energy independence at risk, which will result in higher prices at the pump for drivers. The demand for oil will not disappear overnight, so we should produce it safely and affordably here instead of relying on more expensive foreign imports... Voters shouldn’t be scared into adopting a ban that could raise gas prices and threaten the thousands of local jobs the industry creates.” For the proposed moratorium extension in Carson, as we have already seen, the industry was far more active in their opposition, trucking in union workers and oil and gas industry advocates from all over the state in order to drown out the voices of Carson residents. Wither they are flooding the hearings, perpetuating the inflated nonsense of jobs and economic prosperity, or threatening cities and counties with lawsuits, the industry has been relentless in their opposition to proposed moratoriums and bans at the local level. Of course, at the state level, the industry is well versed with the pay-to-play politics of Sacramento.
A recent study was conducted by the ACCE Institute and Common Cause called "Big Oil Floods the Capitol: How California’s Oil Companies Funnel Funds Into the Legislature". The study's findings are quite sobering: "Over the past 15 years, Big Oil spent a whopping $143.3 million on political candidates and campaigns." Says the report. "In addition to its political contributions, Big Oil exerts considerable influence lobbying in Sacramento. Big Oil employs high profile, high powered lobbyists to ensure their interests are represented. In the past 15 years, the price tag for these lobbyists has totaled $123.6 million." When you do the math on Big Oil's expenditures in Sacramento over the past 15 years, the staggering total amounts to $266.9 million.
In just the past five years alone, the Oil and Gas Industry has flooded $56,633,498 into Sacramento.
Here's the full list of contributors:
The Western States Petroleum Association: $23,987,896, Chevron: $13,457,771, BP Global: $3,251,060, AERA Energy: $2,513,993, Conoco Phillips: $2,344,510, Occidental Petroleum: $2,256,230, Shell: $2,127,881, Exxon: $2,105,419, California Independent Petroleum Association: $1,616,756, Phillips66: $1,275,199, Fueling California: $646,799, California Independent Oil Manufacturers Association: $447,528, Tesoro: $313,999, & Valero: $288,459
"The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the most powerful corporate lobbying organization in Sacramento, spent over $4.67 million, more than any other interest group, while lobbying [California's] state government in 2013, according to data released by the Secretary State’s Office and compiled by Capitol Weekly." The WSPA is by far the largest spender in Sacramento politics. They happen to be the largest source of industry bullshit as well.
The Industry Mantra: Jobs, Jobs, Economy & Jobs
The Oil and Gas industry continues to masquerade our environmental, health and climate concerns with the typical rhetoric of a booming economy and a plethora of jobs. Earlier this year, the Western States Petroleum Association released a report to emphasize the economic and job benefits that the Oil and Gas industry has delivered to California. The report found that the Oil & Gas industry "is a major employer and leading economic driver in California, responsible for 468,000 jobs in 2012, or 2.3 percent of California's employment." To quickly debunk this hubris, all you have to do is read the actual report and break down the numbers:
Employment: Direct (188,500), Indirect and Induced (279,520), TOTAL (468,000)
Lumped into the 279,520 Indirect and Induced jobs are things like Wholesale and Retail Trade Brokers (100,960), Public Utility (33,350), Health & Social Services (33,270), Accommodation & Food Services (25,410), Finance and insurance (21,950), Real estate and rental, Arts & Educational services, Entertainment and recreation, Ag, forestry, fish & hunting, and "Other" services. All of these jobs exist without the Oil and Gas industry. Perhaps the only real induced jobs are the jobs for "Waste Management" which they lump into an indirect/induced category titled: "Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services" which they claim roughly 24,020 jobs are created thanks to the Oil and Gas industry. Given the clustered title of various jobs---most of which would exist without the oil and gas industry---we can generously attribute ~12,000 indirect and induced jobs to the oil and gas industry. Those are jobs that are literally induced by the cluster bomb of toxic sludge, chemically infused waste water, and radioactive produced water that the industry creates on a daily basis.
The 188,500 Direct Jobs the industry is boasting consists of Private Utility Distribution (32,670), Dealers and Wholesalers, Refinery Jobs, Transportation, Construction, Gas Station Jobs (56,230), Petrochemical manufacturing, and Petroleum lubricating oil and grease manufacturing. However, these are jobs that are not really dependent on California's Oil and Gas industry. Gas Stations exist without California oil and gas production--in fact, the vast majority of our gas station fuel comes from out of state. The refineries in California refine crudes from all over the world. The manufacturing employees are manufacturing products that have already been refined; they are not dealing with California crudes. Transportation, Dealing, Wholesaling, and Construction are not beholden to the oil and Gas industry; and the utilities will still exist in a 100% renewable energy world.
So, if we subtract these auxiliary jobs, we get something like this: Oil & gas extraction (45,840), Support activities for oil and gas operations (10,060), Oil & gas field machinery & equipment manufacturing (1,920), and Drilling oil & gas wells (3,620). This gives us a more realistic number of 61,440 direct jobs. The industry claimed that they were responsible for the creation of 468,000 jobs. In reality, they have created 61,440 direct jobs and maybe 12,000 indirect jobs as of 2013---that's a grand total of 73,440 jobs. The WSPA and other industry lobbyists are going to use their inflated numbers to tout the economic benefits of oil & gas production. They will insist that the continuation of fracking will create innumerable jobs for unemployed Californians. In reality, the WSPA is full of shit and the numbers they tout are heinously inaccurate.
Of course, inflated and misleading job numbers are nothing new to the Oil and Gas industry. A six state study conducted last year found that the industry has a strong tendency to promise nearly eight times as many jobs than what they eventually create. "Between 2005 and 2012, less than four new shale-related jobs have been created for each new well. This figure stands in sharp contrast to the claims in some industry-financed studies, which have included estimates as high as 31 for the number of jobs created per well drilled." That's a difference of nearly 700% in jobs promised and jobs created. "Employment estimates have been overstated, and the industry and its boosters have used inappropriate employment numbers, including equating new hires with new jobs and using ancillary job figures that largely have nothing to do with drilling."
Food For Thought: Given the industry's claim that they've been safely fracking in California for over 60 years; and given their claim that fracking creates jobs; with 60 years of so-called "fracking job creation", why has the oil and gas industry only managed to create 61,440 direct jobs in California?
The Cleaner Jobs: The Core Clean Economy, as defined by Next10, "encompasses businesses that provide the products and services that allow the entire economy to transition away from fossil fuels and improve efficiencies in the use of all natural resources." This includes: Clean Energy Generation, Energy Efficiency, Clean Transportation, Energy Storage, Green Building, and Energy Infrastructure. "Employment in California’s Core Clean Economy has grown four times faster than the total state economy over the past ten years, reaching more than 176,000 jobs in January 2011." If we extrapolate the clean energy job creation for 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, with the same rate of economic growth that took place from 2010 to 2011, we find a total job creation of 180,250 in the clean energy sector as of 2013. So, given the fact that the first mega-watt system ever installed in California debuted in 1982, it's fair to say, quantitatively, that we've been paneling for over 30 years with nearly the same amount of direct jobs (188,500) that the industry loves to tout. In reality, using the more factually adjusted 61,440 direct jobs, it's fair to say that in roughly half the time, the Clean Energy industry has created nearly three times as many direct jobs in California than the fossil fuel industry. A transition to a 100% renewable energy future will only create more clean energy jobs.
The Fracking Reality
It's easy to blind politicians with fanciful jobs numbers and economic benefits. It's even easier when the industry can hire firms to conduct reports to show the economic and job creation benefits of oil and gas operations. And of course, the endless campaign contributions, bribes and lobbying efforts makes it pretty easy to pay-to-frack in California. When they say they've been safely fracking in California for over 60 years; when they say they have followed the strictest code of conduct; and when they insist they have complied with regulations; it makes it very easy for the industry to fracture the common sense of our naive politicians. The industry has complied with regulations, sure, but that's easy to do when there are no regulations to comply with. Their code of conduct is "profits before people" and "try not to get caught". So, when they say they've done it safely for 60 years, what they mean is: "Trust us, we have always done it safely. We promise." What is their definition of safety? More importantly, what deserves more attention, the baseless claims and arbitrary promises of a few big companies; or the very real and justified concerns of millions of Californians?
The problems that expanded fracking will bring to communities throughout California are well-documented and the climate exasperating effects of a fracking boom are real. No amount of regulations can make fracking safe. The truth is simple: There is no such thing as safe fracking. Many politicians and industry lobbyists claim that "SB 4 is the strongest regulatory measure on fracking---worldwide." However, SB 4 is far from adequate. In a recent study conducted by the Center of Biological Diversity, CBD issued this statement in a press release: "In a letter to the governor, the Center pointed out that state regulators with the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources have failed to disclose legally mandated reports for 47 frack jobs and notices for more than 100 uses of other risky oil production techniques. “This lack of disclosure underscores the failure of current regulations and the need for strong action that will protect public health and safety and the environment." We need a moratorium on fracking now.
Proximity: Fracking and Acidizing operations are popping up next door to hospitals, schools and densely populated neighborhoods. Fumes from these operations have caused nearby residents to break out in rashes, experience nose bleeds and migraines, and cause respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular complications.
Methane: When leaking wells make up more than 1% to 2% of the fracking fleet, the leakage of methane during shale gas development makes fracked natural gas more carbon intensive than burning coal. The leakage rates nationwide have been measured to be a staggering 5.7% +/- 2.3%. In the Los Angeles basin, leakage has been measured to be somewhere around 17%---worse yet, in California, we are primarily fracking for oil, some of which is more carbon intensive than the Alberta Tar Sands.
Earthquakes: It has been shown that fracking and waste-water injection can both induce earthquakes. Ohio, Oklahoma, and North East Texas were once home to some of the lowest rates of seismic activity. In Oklahoma, fracking and waste-water injection have caused a staggering spike in seismic events over the past few years. In California, we are the most seismically active state in the nation.
Water: Modern Fracking uses copious amounts of fresh water to complete their fracking operations. Fracking, in it's new form, can use anywhere from 2 to 8 Million gallons of fresh water per frack. During a record setting drought in California, this is the last thing we should be using water for. For the moment, we aren't doing a large amount of fracking in California, relying on methods like cyclic steam injection and water flooding. So, as it stands today, we are using 100,000 to 300,000 gallons of water per well. However, as the WSPA admits, the onset of a fracking boom could easily bump those numbers into the millions of gallons.
From Boom To Bust: Crippling The Death Star
In California, the WSPA and the rest of the oil and gas industry likes to tout the already debunked USC job creation study that claims that a fracking boom in California would boost the state’s economic activity by 14.3 percent. As Bloomberg reports, "such drilling in the Monterey Shale Formation, in addition to increasing per-capita gross domestic product, may add as much as $24.6 billion in state and local tax revenue and as many as 2.8 million jobs by 2020, according to the report released yesterday by the Los Angeles-based university."
That study had a lot to do with the pending "oil boom" in the Monterey Shale formation, which, at the time, was thought to have something like 15.7 Billion Barrels of oil reserves trapped inside of it. Of course, months later, that number was reduced to 13.7 Billion barrels of oil. That number, again, has taken a significant blow. News Flash: That number has been downgraded to 0.6 Billion Barrels of recoverable Monterey Shale Oil."Federal energy authorities have slashed by 96% the estimated amount of recoverable oil buried in California's vast Monterey Shale deposits, deflating its potential as a national "black gold mine" of petroleum."Writes the LA Times. "Just 600 million barrels of oil can be extracted with existing technology, far below the 13.7 billion barrels once thought recoverable from the jumbled layers of subterranean rock spread across much of Central California, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said."
Let's do the math: 600 Million barrels of recoverable Monterey Shale Oil is 25 times less than what was projected by the industry funded USC fracking jobs study. So, let's first divide that 2.8 Million jobs by 8 in order to properly anticipate the industry's job inflation tactics; and then we'll divide by 25 to adequately adjust these numbers to reflect the shale reality of a 96% downgrade of oil reserves. Calculation: 2.8 Million jobs divided by 8 divided by 25 = 14,000 total jobs These are jobs that champion a fatality rate that is seven times higher than all other workers in the United States. In fact, from 2007 to 2012, jobs in the oil and gas fields killed 664 workers, making oil and gas field jobs among the deadliest jobs in America.
So, do politicians want to let the oil and gas industry create 14,000 hazardous jobs over the next 6 years and create a minuscule economic boost at the expense of our environment, the climate, and public health? Or will our politicians hear the demands of the majority of Californians and put an end to fracking?
The Fractivist Force Is Strong In California. Last year, a poll found that 58% of California voters supported a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and other forms of advanced well stimulation. A poll released earlier this week shows that 68% of California Voters support a moratorium on fracking, acidizing and other forms of unconventional well stimulation. That means that 24% of the people who didn't support a moratorium last year have experienced a change of heart on the issue. The study also found that 78% of California Democrats support a moratorium on fracking.
The public's opinion on fracking has taken a monumental shift over the past few years and the anti-fracking movement in California is growing stronger by the day. The Democratic party's rank and file members have made their voices heard; and we will hold our elected officials accountable on this issue from here on out. The data is mounting and the evidence continues to unravel the veil of deception that the industry has cast over the real dangers of fracking. The environmental, climate and health concerns are real; the scientific evidence grows stronger by the day. And now, with SB 1132 on the Senate floor, the only thing that must change is the will of our elected leaders. Will they remain beholden to the oil and gas empire, blinded by the dark side of money, deception, and deceit? Or will they finally see past the illusion that has been cast over them, and finally represent the people they were elected to serve? One thing is for sure: The anti-fracking movement in California will continue to grow, our collective resistance will continue to intensify, and we will ban fracking in our state.
"You do not measure the fruit of your action, you have to measure your obligation for action. You have to find out what's the right thing to do. THAT is your duty. Whether you win or lose is not the issue. The obligation is to do the right thing." ~ Vandana Shiva
They say all politics is local. The loosening of campaign finance laws may have altered this a smidge, but I think the maxim still holds mostly true. Consider the fracking fight, where the adoption of county-level bans could send a strong message to Sacramento that the expansion of fracking in California doesn’t enjoy popular support. This in turn could lead to a ban if things break the right way.
"California is home to one of the largest remaining deposits of oil in the country: the Monterey Shale. It has 13.7 billion barrels of oil locked underground and fossil fuel companies are spending millions trying to dig it up with hydraulic fracturing techniques. If they’re successful, this oil would be above and beyond what our best scientists say we already can’t afford to burn. Governor Brown’s latest actions make it clear he’s excited by the potential of the Monterey oil play and is paving the way for increased fracking across the state." ~Oil Change International
One would think that Governor Brown would be opposed to fracking, given his statements on the climate crisis in the past: “After decades of pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, humanity is getting dangerously close to the point of no return… Those who still deny global warming’s existence should wake up and honestly face the facts.” However, the self-proclaimed "climate champion" tends to show his true colors in more recent statements: “California is going to need petroleum-based energy for a long time, even as it transitions to a lower carbon future,” says Governor Brown. And to make his hypocrisy all the more evident, he tends to drool over the potential of California fracking with other statements: “The fossil fuel deposits in California are incredible, the potential is extraordinary.”
"It doesn’t take a whole lot of research to discover why Brown is so friendly to big oil, since oil companies are among his biggest campaign donors. For example, Occidental Petroleum contributed $250,000.00 to the campaign to pass Brown’s tax initiative this November, according to the California Secretary of State’s website." ~Dan Bacher
Adding to the outrage, this is certainly not the only contribution that Governor Brown has taken from the oil industry. This is merely the tip of the iceberg. To start, Brown received $170,452 from fossil fuel companies in 2010 according to Oil Change International's "Dirty Energy Money" database.
"The governor signed a bill that likely will expand fracking in California after taking $2.5 million in contributions from oil and natural gas interests." Writes Robert Gammon. "SB 4 also originally sparked opposition from within the Brown administration not long after state Senator Fran Pavley, a Southern California Democrat, introduced it earlier this year. In May, the state Department of Finance issued an official opposition letter on SB 4, essentially contending that the legislation was too tough on oil and gas companies and that it threatened to stifle the economic boom that fracking may create in California. At the time, the bill proposed a moratorium on fracking while the state conducts a full environmental analysis of the oil and natural gas extraction method. "This bill could result in significant negative impacts to California's economy," Brown's Department of Finance argued back then. "A moratorium would likely result in a significant loss of jobs and tax revenues.""
Additionally, one would think that the so-called "climate conscious" democrats in the California legislature would be far more conscious of the climate exasperation that fracking for heavy, sour crude in California shale formations would inevitably deliver. Of course, as I have explained in previous blogs, you would be wrong.
"One would also assume that our Democratic state leaders would vote in support of legislative bills that actually reflected our overbearing pleas for a fracking moratorium; that truly echoed the hard work, determination and persistence that we endured in order to get such a resolution passed in the first place.
"One would rationally conclude that these democratic leaders, who claim to champion the issue of climate change, would incessantly fight for legislation that would sincerely address our catastrophic climate crisis. If one was as naive as my past self, one would think that the overwhelming speciousness favoring a moratorium or ban on fracking would necessarily induce tangible legislation reflecting the convictions of their constituent base. Unfortunately, one would be wrong."
Following the money, the reason our super majority failed to pass these proposed moratorium bills (AB 1301 and AB 1323) becomes quite clear...
"How could we fail with AB 1323 when we had so much hope for it's passing? Perhaps our elected Democratic representatives were distracted by more important things. Maybe they were just too busy figuring out what to do with $195,306 of contributions from the oil industry---The world may never know; but i certainly have a pretty good guess as to which of the two seems more plausible. After all, when was the last time we've seen anything important come to fruition thanks to a legislative body?"
"I think many of us now understand this monetary deception corroding our political system. As Lauren Steiner explains: “In states where there are regulations on fracking, they aren’t enforced either by design, or because agencies are both underfunded and understaffed by state governments often bought and paid for by Big Oil.”"
"How much money did your Democratic Assembly Member get paid to dismantle our fracking moratoriums? How much were they compensated to explicitly ignore your voices? What is their reasonable price for allowing our planet's future to rest in the hands of oil and gas companies? Find out here."
It's also not too difficult to understand how influential the oil and gas industry can be when trying to gut regulatory bills like SB 4. As I mentioned in another blog, another big player in California lobbying is the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), who loves to make "good impressions" on our politicians as they are gearing up to amend and vote on crucial regulatory bills.
"The Western States Petroleum Association... has positioned itself as one of the largest donors to the Democratic Party over the last few years. Besides purchasing policies from Governor Brown's office, the WSPA has been an instrumental force in the weakening of SB 4. In fact, they were kind enough to treat some of our assembly members with a generous $13,000 dinner the night before the assembly voted to pass SB 4."
"The word is "Pay-to-Play-politics" where the "pay" is a five course meal at one of Sacramento, California's toniest restaurants. The "play" is to take pre-written amendments that water down a landmark fracking bill... The payer for [the] $13,000 dinner for twelve California lawmakers was the WSPA."
"Moderate Democrats seemed to be the target audience for the treat: Assembly members Adam Gray, Henry Perea and Cheryl Brown attended, as did Senators Norma Torres, Ron Calderon and Lou Correa." Laurel Rosenhall writes. "For Perea, Correa, Calderon and Torres, the September dinner was not the first time they'd been treated to The Kitchen by the oil industry. They were among 11 legislators who attended a WSPA dinner there last year, valued at ~$11,000."
As DeSmog Blog reported: "There’s a lot of money at stake for oil companies that want to frack California’s Monterey Shale, so it’s no wonder Big Oil is spending big to forestall any new environmental regulations from biting into profits."
"But why?" You ask. The answer is simple: Democrats are awash in campaign contributions from the oil industry, eager to establish their political tenure. Apparently the idea of political office has transformed from a "public service" to a "tenured career", despite the ideals of a representative democracy. Given the nation's history of political corruption, no one should be too surprised, even when the lobbied electeds in these circumstances are, overwhelmingly, democrats. To understand more on the mechanical manipulation of California policy making, here's a comprehensive breakdown I was able to find on Oil Change International's new site "Big Oil Brown":
"Dirty Energy Money: The oil and gas industry has given millions to California's elected officials over the years and money keeps pouring in. Near the top of the dirty donor list is Occidental Petroleum a California-based oil company with a massive stake in the future of fracking the Monterrey Shale. It, along with buddies like Chevron, regularly 'max out' each election cycle, meaning they give as much as they legally can to their favorite candidates. This makes sure their interests are well served in Sacramento."
"Doing the Industry's Dirty Work: The fossil fuel industry's influence in California goes deep. Early in 2013 State Senator Rubio resigned his position and took a comfy job at Chevron. But it doesn't stop at revolving doors. Two top oil and gas regulators were abruptly fired in 2011 after industry complaints. The reason? They refused to create a shortcut for drillers looking to move forward with a risky oil extraction process."
A Case In Point: Big Money Democrats
The FPPC announced on Monday that it had levied a record $133,500 fine against Kevin Sloat and his Sacramento firm, Sloat Higgins Jensen Associates.
"Under California law, it's illegal for lobbyists to make campaign donations directly to candidates. The law is designed to limit pay-to-play politics so that a lobbyist who is actively working to support or oppose legislation can't get what he or she wants simply by making large contributions to key politicians." 1
"But the Sloat scandal showed that lobbyists are easily circumventing this law. Instead of making donations themselves, they hold lavish parties that they call "fundraisers," and they invite their clients to meet face-to-face with high-ranking politicians. Then, as the lobbyists and their clients press the politicos to give them what they want, the clients hand over $10,000 checks. According to the FPPC, from 2009 to 2012, Sloat held at least 26 such soirées at his upscale Sacramento home, involving at least forty politicians." 1
"The scandal is that a lobbyist, who makes his living off of money he gets from his clients and who is prohibited by law from using this money to make campaign contributions to politicians, can instead hold exclusive parties in which his clients can hand over those donations themselves." 1
Among the recipients of these contributions were: Gov. Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov Gavin Newsom, former Republican candidate for governor Meg Whitman, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles), the two Republican leaders, Sen. Bob Huff of Diamond Bar and Assemblywoman Connie Conway of Tulare; Democratic Senators Roderick S. Wright of Inglewood, Alex Padilla of Pacoima, Jerry Hill of San Mateo, Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles, Leland Yee of San Francisco, and Ted Lieu of Torrance.
Many of these members, particularly the Democratic members, were among the coalition of legislatures that worked tirelessly to block our Fracking moratorium efforts in 2013, as well as our push for a plastic bag ban.
"Senator Alex Padilla was one of some 40 lawmakers and other officials who received warning letters saying that Sloat’s payment of expenses at fundraisers amounted to improper campaign contributions." 2
In a statement to Padilla, Secretary of State candidate Derek Cressman said: “I urge you to take all steps possible to ensure that as a potential next chief elections officer you have the full confidence of all Californians,” Cressman said. “Returning any funds raised by Mr. Sloat would be an important step toward that goal.” 2
The Padilla camp, despite the clear violations and the request of several other lawmakers to return these donated contributions, responded with this statement: “There is no indication from the FPPC that any of the contributions were improper (i.e. since there was no legal steps taken due to the loopholes that allowed these contributions to take place, the Padilla camp has sided with technicalities, rather than the moral issue at play) and therefore we do not intend to return them." 2
Based on public records filed with the Secretary of State's Office, Sloat's clients have paid him and his firm millions of dollars to push environmentally detrimental legislation, and to weaken and/or kill environmental safeguards on their behalf for years. According to investigations, Sloat's contributions have come from clients who have "worked against the best interests of California residents and the environment." 1
"One of his best clients, for example, is Aera Energy LLC, which is jointly owned by Shell Oil and Exxon Mobile. Over the past decade, Aera has paid Sloat's firm $740,618 to lobby against proposed stricter regulations and new taxes on the oil industry in California. And since 2012, Sloat has worked tirelessly — and successfully — on behalf of Aera to block attempts to enact a moratorium on fracking in the state." 1
"Another of Sloat's clients is the powerful Metropolitan Water District, which supplies water to much of Southern California. In the past decade, Metropolitan has paid Sloat's firm $1.89 million, and in the past few years, his primary job on behalf of the district has been to lobby for the construction of two giant water tunnels in the Central Valley that would ship Northern California river water to the south." 1
"Sloat's client list also includes Pacific Gas & Electric Company. The investor-owned utility has paid his firm $1.86 million since 2003, and in the past few years, Sloat has lobbied on behalf of PG&E to limit home-solar rooftop installations throughout the state and to prevent stricter regulations for nuclear power plants from being enacted." 1
"Another of Sloat's clients, the American Progressive Bag Alliance, an industry group representing plastic bag manufacturers, paid him $50,000 last year to lobby against a proposed statewide ban on plastic bags." 1
"They even fail to acknowledge the crises they have created. They are so beholden to corporate interests that they no longer even bother to listen to us -- they just pat us on the head and smile -- and do what their corporate masters tell them. They don't understand environmental issues, they don't understand history, they don't understand economics, they don't understand science, they don't understand human rights, they don't understand globalization, and they don't understand capitalism. This is a crisis of capitalism. It will not be solved by regulations, it will not be solved by economic incentives, it will not be solve by the market. There may be a few sane voices shouting in the dark, but they are ignored."
Regardless of how the legal case unfolds moving forward, what this scandal says to me is quite simple: We need more honesty and integrity in Sacramento. Given that this year is an off-year election, Californians have a great opportunity to change the moral fabric of Sacramento by electing people who can truly step into a leadership role with real accountability and representation. There are two races that are of particular importance given the past year of California politics: The race for "Secretary of State" and the race for "State Controller".
Accountability & Representation: Needles In A Haystack
Based on this scandal and the past year of anti-environmental efforts, Speaker John Perez is clearly awash in questionable campaign contributions. Moreover, he was a shining star for the oil and gas industry last year, working with the Brown administration to pressure the Assembly and Senate Democrats to withhold their votes on crucial Fracking moratorium bills that many in the Environmental Caucus worked tirelessly to promote. In fact, the democratic party base passed a resolution in 2013, calling on our elected democrats to place an immediate moratorium on fracking.
The leaders of the Democratic Party -- including Governor Brown, Speaker John Perez, and President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg -- have blocked our attempts to pass a moratorium. Instead, we passed a severely crippled fracking regulation bill called SB 4. The moratorium bills were killed, SB 4 was gutted, defiled, and ultimately passed, and now we are Fracking up the golden state midst a record setting drought, with no end in sight. Speaker Perez is running for State Controller in 2014, but with a legacy of being controlled by oil and gas, it would be a tragedy to let such an important position go to someone who values the Oil and Gas industry more than the voices of his constituents.
On the other hand, we have a wonderful alternative for this position: Betty Yee. This remarkable woman is a grassroots champion, a true representative, and someone determined to put California on the right track. She happens to be one of the nicest people I have ever met and she is a lover of the environment. Listening to her speak is like listening to a symphony of genuine passion for progressive change. She wants big money out of politics and as such, she is running a purely grassroots campaign to gain our support.
About: With demonstrated leadership in serving as a responsible steward of our tax dollars, Ms. Yee will bring her fair yet tough-minded discipline to the office of Controller, California’s independent fiscal watchdog. She will work hard to restore and maintain California’s fiscal health so that the doors of opportunity in the Golden State may stay open for all. Check out her website, facebook and twitter.
With the Secretary of State position, we have three Democrats battling for our support. As I mentioned earlier, both Leland Yee and Alex Padilla have been hounded by this shady parade of donation gymnastics. Derek Cressman, on the other hand, is running a grassroots campaign with an impressive resume of progressive activism. While these candidates may not be entering a position that will have any influence on what the state does with the issue of Fracking, Derek Cressman seems to be the only person in this triple-threat that has any understanding of the dangers of Fracking. (Leland Yee seems confused on what Fracking actually is, and Senator Padilla has given various responses to his position on Fracking based on the audience and the time of year, all of which have been different -- i.e. I have no idea what his current position is at the moment... perhaps the convention will clear that up, or make it all the more confusing).
Beyond his environmentally sound opinions, Derek is a grassroots champion, a genuine sympathizer for the issues that Californians are truly concerned about, and he is a passionate activist for progressive ideals. We need someone who will work on campaign finance reform -- a personal mission of his -- and we need someone who will help our state take a leading roll in abolishing, to the greatest extent of his power, both corporate personhood and the deplorable amount of money that continues to hound our election process.
About: Derek is committed to overturning Citizens United, protecting voting rights, and conducting elections with integrity. For the past 18 years, Derek Cressman has been a national leader in the fight for fair elections, expanded democracy, and more transparent government, most recently as a national Vice President at Common Cause. Find out more on his Website, Facebook, and Twitter. He is genuine, bold, intelligent, fearless, and passionate. Derek has all the qualities of a great leader and a great organizer. And if that wasn't already enough, he truly is a great human being.
If you want representation, responsibility and leadership in California, look no further. Derek Cressman and Betty Yee are two steps in the right direction. California deserves real leadership; Californians deserve real representation; and both Derek Cressman and Betty Yee deserve your vote in 2014.
2014 : The Year We Put An End To Fracking In California
(Elected Officials Should Pay Close Attention...)
In 2014, you can count on a lot of changes in Sacramento. While both Betty Yee and Derek Cressman have very good views on the issue of fracking, the people who will have the greatest influence on upcoming moratorium bills in the 2014 legislative session, as well as other important pieces of climate change legislation, are none other than the state assembly, state senate, and of course, our governor.
The people of California, as well as the democratic party's base members, have learned their lesson from last year's trainwreck. We will, yet again, fight for real action on climate change, as well as another attempt to put a moratorium on Fracking in California. And this time, there will be real consequences for inaction. I have started a petition to demand a fracking moratorium in 2014.
So, I suggest that all elected and running Democrats in the Assembly and Senate take a really good look at Assemblyman Marc Levine's letter to Governor Brown, calling for an immediate moratorium on fracking. And for the sake of your 2014 election efforts, I suggest you sign onto it immediately.
A Message To My Fellow Democratic Party Delegates
We cannot avert climate catastrophe with a regulatory approach. A regulation doesn't put an end to the destructive process it aims to permit. Regulations create a new set of rules in which the destructive process is allowed to continue while adhering to a new subset of rules. Given the failure of our regulatory agencies (e.g. DOGGR) to protect the health and safety of Californians from the harms in which they are supposed to police, what do people really expect a regulatory law like SB 4 to do? How often will these wells be checked? How many wells can the agency be expected to oversee on a regular basis? Do we really trust the good old oil industry to self report with the utmost integrity and honesty? Does anyone truly believe that fracking can be done safely in the first place? How many overseers are they going to hire to monitor California's 55,000 oil and gas wells? How many of them are going to regularly monitor the 2,100 wells that have already been fracked? (Or, as Governor Brown likes to say: "Fracking can't happen until a major and the first serious scientific study to an environmental impact analysis that I required by a law I signed two months ago is done." His ignorance is appalling...)
Are you content with the fact that all of us have been severely undermined by our own Democratic Governor, who threatened to veto a moratorium bill despite the California Party having passed a resolution demanding a moratorium? Are you comforted by the fact that our Super-Majority of Assembly and Senate Democrats failed to pass a moratorium (twice), despite our unanimous demands for an end to fracking? Are you fed up with this misrepresentation yet? Have you had enough? Isn't it about time we did something about it?
The fact is, SB 4 is utterly ineffective. We voted for a moratorium last year, and this year, the message is the same: we need a moratorium on fracking immediately. Senate Bill 4 does nothing to confront the climate crisis, and it does nothing to protect the public or the environment. As I have stated previously, "If the aim is to regulate Fracking in California... we are, in essence, accepting that fracking is acceptable. And in 2015, whatever SB4 defines as "properly regulated fracking" will be the new industry standard; the next set of guidelines for fracking to follow. They will adhere to these new definitions so that they may continue to extract, refine, and ultimately burn the oil and gas they seek."
As a matter of fact, the oil industry is praising this bill, and they are wasting no time in expanding their exploration of California shale deposits. As Claire Sandberg writes: "The passage of SB4 has been good news for Occidental. In an October investor call, Occidental executives cited "more favorable permitting" as the impetus behind its plan to increase capital expenditures by $500 million next year in California. "Most of this increase will be directed towards unconventional drilling opportunities where we have more than 1 million prospective acres for unconventional resources," said Occidental president and CEO, Steve Chazen."
“SB4 could be viewed as a pro-fracking bill dressed up as an anti-fracking piece of legislation.” ~Wayne Lusvardi
SB 4 undermines 70% of Californians who are concerned about resource extraction via hydraulic fracturing and/or acidization. It explicitly ignores the 58% of Californians who, in a 2013 poll, said they strongly supported a moratorium and/or an outright ban. It willfully dishonors the California democratic party’s rank and file, who have been calling on the state elected to put an immediate moratorium on fracking.
Amending the party platform, endorsing candidates, and passing resolutions, as far as I know, are the greatest powers that a party's base has to effectively influence elected officials. To witness first hand such a blatant disregard of the Democratic party's base on such a unanimous deliberation is incredibly irritating and completely disrespectful. It seems as though we have been beguiled by our elected officials in order to get them into office, only to see our most arduous efforts and unanimous directives haughtily ignored.
SB4 is insufficient in and of itself. It tells us when they are fracking, where they are fracking (and if you live within the vicinity of the well, you get a letter in the mail), and it tells us how deep they are drilling, with how much water (a lot), and some disclosure of chemicals thy are going to use. Basically, we get information on the where and when of a process most of us know all too well. If Pavley's bill is truly "the strongest regulatory law on fracking" in the nation, then our state and national representatives are nothing but insolent sympathizers to our most genuine environmental concerns. They are absentminded to the moral imperative for prudent action on climate change. Our electeds are completely ignorant of their representative roles, desensitized by the endless flow of campaign contributions, and blinded by their egotistic thirst to maintain power. Let's make a stand on this issue. Let's make it abundantly clear that we are fed up with this dog and pony show. We need a serious commitment to climate action and this lolly gagging nonsense must end immediately. We have a damn super majority for crying out loud.
If we can put enough pressure on our elected California Democrats, I believe that we can illicit real action from our state party. Many of us are outraged by the lack of progressive policies being proposed in California, and we have more than enough reasons to be upset with the clear lack of communication between our democratic base and the elected officials we work tirelessly to get into office. We must stand our ground this year, and we must demand an end to this bullshit political posturing.
My Petition & Pledge: We Demand A Moratorium Now
This petition serves to address the failure of real representative democracy in the state of California. Despite the overwhelming support for a fracking moratorium, our representatives have failed to address the demands we have made thus far. The petition reads as follows:
Dear Elected California Democrats: We Demand A Moratorium On Fracking
TO: Governor Jerry Brown, California Assembly Democrats, California Senate Democrats, Democrats Running For State Assembly or Senate Seats
(1) We are demanding a moratorium on fracking right now. We are demanding that Governor Brown place an immediate moratorium on fracking or he will not receive our vote for any re-election campaign he may be considering.
We are demanding that our elected Democrats respect the Democratic Party's position on unconventional methods of oil and gas extraction; We are demanding an immediate moratorium on fracking and acidization. We are demanding that our elected Democrats start listening to the majority of their constituents, 58% of whom are demanding a moratorium or a ban on fracking. Finally, we are demanding that our elected Democrats start responding to the irrefutable science of climate change with genuine prudence by ending the fracking nonsense.
Until such actions are taken by each and every individual candidate in the Democratic party, the individual members who are not dedicated to placing a moratorium on fracking will lose our assistance or support until such actions are taken. Such lack of support is mapped out below.
No more donations to any candidate that does not respect the position of the party platform. No more phone banking, no more canvassing, no more fundraising, no more grassroots organizing, no more event planning, and no more assistance to democratic candidates that do not make the implementation of a fracking moratorium a top priority. No more volunteering, no more voter registration, and no more endorsements for candidates that do not favor a moratorium or ban on hydraulic fracturing.
(3) Finally, our elected Democrats, and those who are running for election this fall, will come out against fracking and they will work to immediately place a moratorium on fracking in California or they will not receive our vote in the 2014 elections.
Contested elections against Republicans, regardless of the tightness of the race, will receive the same absence of a vote unless a fracking moratorium is a top priority. Our demands are clear. The implications are real. The choice is theirs.
--------- THE PLEDGE ---------
We, the undersigned, pledge to withhold our support and our votes for any member of the Democratic Party who does not support the Democratic Party platform's position on fracking. We pledge to withhold support and votes from any Democratic candidate that fails to make a fracking moratorium a top priority in 2014. We are demanding a fracking moratorium in California right now.
You've Got To Let It All Go... Fear, Doubt & Disbelief
Of course, there are many reasons to hesitate with this idea. The problem to many is: "If we tell them we will not vote for them if they don't take the climate and other progressive values to heart, then they will get bad press in their 2014 race." Then they pose the question: "Would you rather have a Republican win that election?"
My point: "If the Dems want to win their races, they have a duty to push their policies towards climate action and progressive ideals." I truly think this is what the inside game has boiled down to. I think there needs to be a progressive wave of transformation. They do everything else for the sake of political gains... why not put them on the spot for the climate. If they want democrats, greens and independents voting for them, they better move their priorities towards our demands.
After all, we are their base --- we run their campaigns, we register their voters, we knock on doors for them, we call for them, we write their emails, we raise money for them, we give them their good PR, we get out the vote for them, and we are the primary reason they are eventually elected. We need to make it clear that our resolutions are passed for a reason. If they expect success---from our coordinated efforts---they need to respect our demands. A resolution isn't some elementary school project; we aren't asking for a pat on the head. These are majority demands; and we expect some god damn respect for the efforts we make. People are pouring their lives into this party, and the party stands for many great virtues that we all share passion for. But jesus christ batman, we expect some real recognition for the laborious efforts we make as a party base.
Climate action is a moral imperative. (Our current climate predicament: HERE)
“As a longtime oil and gas engineer who helped develop shale fracking techniques for the Energy Department, I can assure you that this gas is not “clean.” Because of leaks of methane, the main component of natural gas, the gas extracted from shale deposits is not a “bridge” to a renewable energy future — it’s a gangplank to more warming and away from clean energy investments.” ~Anthony R. Ingraffea.
The rhetorical nonsense that politicians are spewing about the benefits of fracking is nearly as detrimental as the methane that these wells are leaking into the atmosphere. In fact, natural gas fracking is worse for the climate than burning coal. Fracking is a bridge to environmental perdition, and as far as elections are concerned, any further pro-fracking hubris will be a one way ticket to a failed 2014 election bid.
It's time for a real shift in our energy policy, and rhetorical statements without tangible results won't cut it any longer. We demand real action on climate change; we demand clean energy; we demand an end to Fracking, and we demand it now.
Upcoming Event : Don't Frack California Rally & March
It's time to #UnFrackCal. Please join us In Sacramento on March 15th to tell Governor Brown to put an end to #Fracking now! More information & Bus/Housing Details: Here.
Some sentences you never expect to type. Here's one of them:
Doug LaMalfa and his local staff want First District counties to secede from California.
I know, it seems too outrageous to be true. But when Siskiyou County’s far-right board of supervisors voted to encourage an effort to have the county secede from California, Doug LaMalfa’s own staff came by to lend support to the cause:
“Among those in attendance was Erin Ryan, field representative for Rep. Doug LaMalfa. She said that she and other LaMalfa staff members supported the effort to secede….”
Then, just this Saturday, LaMalfa himself came out in support of secession:
“Every uprising has to start somewhere,” LaMalfa said after the town hall. “It’s something that needs to come from the people.”
The Republican representative for California’s first congressional district said if the state of Jefferson was something the people of that area, which includes parts of Northern California and Southern Oregon, wanted, he would support the new state at the legislative level.
LaMalfa said he was proud of the people of the county for taking the first step.
“I encourage people that if this really lights a fire for them, go for it,” LaMalfa said.
Someone who isn’t proud to be a Californian shouldn’t represent our state in Congress. I was born and raised in Northern California, and this is where I chose to raise my boys and build my career. I can’t imagine a better place to make a home. So you can believe that I won’t be hiring a staff full of people who would rather break apart our state than help solve its problems, and I won't be supporting efforts to rip California apart instead of doing the hard work to find real solutions to address North State issues.
Reposted from Caddis Fly by smileycreekEditor's Note: Beautiful! -- smileycreek
Bidwell Park is the City of Chico's main recreation area. At over 3600 acres and ten miles long there is a lot of land to explore. It is divided into 3 distinct yet contiguous sections.
The Upper Park: Chico Creek, Rocks and Blue Oaks.
The Upper Park is in the foothills of the Cascade Range or Sierra Nevada Mountains. To the left you can see boulders of lovejoy basalt which would argue for the Cascades. The vegetation, however tends to argue for the foothills of the Sierra. You choose, it is claimed by both.