The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) is not a household name in California, but it should be. It’s the trade association for the oil industry and the largest and most powerful corporate lobbying organization in the state. It represents a who’s who of oil companies including oil giants Chevron, Exxon, Occidental Petroleum and many others.
The companies that WSPA represents account for the bulk of petroleum exploration, production, refining, transportation and marketing in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, according to the WSPA website, www.wspa.org.
WSPA and Big Oil wield their power 5 ways: through (1) lobbying; (2) campaign spending; (3) getting appointed to positions on and influencing regulatory panels; (4) creating Astroturf groups: and (5) working in collaboration with media.
The biggest-ever gusher of Big Oil lobbying money into the state in one quarter was from July 1 to September 30, 2015. This resulted in the gutting/amending or the defeat of every bill that the oil industry opposed in the last session of the State Legislature.
WSPA set a new record for spending in one quarter when it spent an amazing $6,750,666.60 lobbying state officials in the third quarter of 2015 to lobby against Senate Bill 350, Senate Bill 32 and other environmental bills it opposed. The total spent by the oil industry in the third quarter was an unprecedented $11 million.
In the first 9 months of 2015, oil interests spent a total $17.7 million, putting the industry on the path to exceed its own $20 million spending record from 2014, according to a new report by the American Lung Association in California (www.cadelivers.org/...)
That $17.7 million includes approximately $9.3 million from WSPA, $3.3 million from Chevron and $5.1 million from Exxon, Valero and other oil companies.
With help from the "Big Oil Caucus," a group of oil industry friendly Democrats, the oil industry was successful at halting other important bills aimed at better regulating its practices. These included AB 356 (Williams), SB 248 (Pavley), and SB 484 (Allen).
These bills would have reformed the state’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) program by requiring disclosure of chemicals used in well treatments or injections; ensuring that oil and gas projects do not contaminate aquifers containing water suitable for drinking and irrigation; requiring the State Water Board to review aquifer exemption applications; and/or requiring the shutdown of illegal injection wells if regulators fail to shut them down.
The industry also notably stopped a bill to protect the coast from oil spills, SB 788, McGuire, despite the fact that California is still recovering from the May 2015 Refugio oil spill.
2. Campaign Spending
The past year saw the Rise of the “Big Oil Caucus” – a group of Assembly members including Henry Perea, who received $24,200 from Big Oil, Adam Gray, who received $23,400 and Jim Cooper, who received $24,200. Stop Fooling California revealed that the Big Oil has invested $3,070,480 in the Assembly Big Oil Caucus, based on Secretary of State data from direct contributions and Super PACs.
Big Oil also dumps a lot of money into local and regional campaigns. In 2014, Chevron alone spent $3 million (unsuccessfully) to elect their selected candidates to the Richmond City Council. The oil industry also dumped $7.6 million into defeating a measure calling for a fracking ban in Santa Barbara County and nearly $2 million into an unsuccessful campaign to defeat a measure banning fracking and other extreme oil extraction techniques in San Benito County during the November 2014 election.
Big Oil spent a total of $266 million influencing California politics from 2005 to 2014, according to an analysis of California Secretary of State data by StopFoolingCA.org. The industry spent $112 million of this money on lobbying and the other $154 million on political campaigns. (www.eastbayexpress.com/...)
3. Regulatory Panels & Commissions
Big Oil officials serve on regulatory panels and commissions. For example, the WSPA President, Catherine Reheis- Boyd, chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create "marine protected areas" in Southern California from 2009 to 2012 - and served on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast or North Coast from 2004 to 2012. (www.dfg.ca.gov/...
While she oversaw the crafting "marine protected areas" that fail to protect the ocean from pollution, fracking, oil drilling, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts other than sustainable fishing and gathering, her husband, James Boyd, was chair of the California Energy Commission. (www.energy.ca.gov/...)
Big Oil also gets its buddies in key positions in regulatory agencies. In November 2011, Governor Brown fired two regulators, Derek Chernow, acting director of Department of Conservation, and his deputy, Elena Miller. Brown replaced Chernow with Mark Nechodom to expedite permits in Kern County,
Nechodom, in turn resigned this summer the day after Central Valley farmers filed a RICO lawsuit alleging that Governor Jerry Brown's office ordered the California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources ("DOGGR") to approve permits to inject contaminated water in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Governor Brown recently announced the appointment of Bill Bartling, 61, of Bakersfield, who has worked as an oil industry executive and consultant, as district deputy for Bakersfield in the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) at the embattled California Department of Conservation. (yubanet.com/...)
4. Astroturf Groups
Not only does Big Oil spend millions every year on lobbying and campaign contributions, but it funds "Astroturf" campaigns to eviscerate environmental laws.
Leaked documents provided to Northwest Public Radio, Business Week, and other media outlets in 2014 exposed a campaign by the Western States Petroleum Association to fund and coordinate a network of “astroturf” groups to oppose environmental laws and local campaigns against fracking in California, Washington, and Oregon.
This network was revealed in a PowerPoint presentation from a November 11, 2014 presentation to the Washington Research Council given by Reheis-Boyd. (www.indybay.org/...)
5. Media Complicity with Big Oil
The mainstream media has done a poor job to date covering the connections between fracking and other extreme oil extraction methods and Big Oil money and power in Sacramento. (www.projectcensored.org/...)
Nor will you see mainstream media coverage of how the Los Angeles Times and the California Resources Corporation, an Occidental Petroleum spinoff, recently teamed up to create "Powering California," a Big Oil propaganda campaign website. (www.indybay.org/...)
Clean Energy California broke the story on their twitter page when they published an October 27 tweet from Western States Petroleum Association President Catherine Reheis-Boyd promoting the new site.
Reheis-Boyd tweeted, "Learn how California's #energy industry is quietly elevating the middle class & improving our quality of life: poweringcalifornia.com"
Big Oil is the most powerful lobby in the state. However, action by committed activists can defeat Big Oil in spite of its money and power, as in the case of the Richmond City Council elections and the passage of anti-fracking ordinances in San Benito counties.
For more information, go to: redgreenandblue.org/...
To read Big Oil’s Greatest Hits: The Dirty Dozen, compiled by Stop Fooling California, go to: medium.com/...