As evidentiary hearings continued before the State Water Resources Control Board in Sacramento over the permits required to build Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels, activists on August 9 pushed a wheelbarrow stacked with boxes filled with 350,000 signatures up to Governor Brown’s office in the State Capitol.
The signatures urged Governor Brown and the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to stop the “potentially dangerous” practice of using wastewater from oil drilling to irrigate California’s crops. The group of over 30 people held a brief rally in front of the capitol before going into the building.
The wastewater, sold by Chevron and California Resources Corporation, is now being used to irrigate over 90,000 acres in the Cawelo Irrigation District and the North Kern Water Management District. “It is slated to expand in the near future to other districts,” according to a statement from the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups.
“We have a potential health crisis on our hands and nobody can say definitely how terrible it is,” David Braun of Californians Against Fracking told me. “Our children are not lab rats in an oil and gas industry experiment. Our elected leaders have to respond to put the health of Californians over the financial interests of the oil and gas industry.”
Speakers at the rally included Assemblymember Mike Gatto, UCSF nurse practitioner Lisa Hartmayer, Center for Biological Diversity scientist John Fleming, and Sue Chiang from Oakland.
The groups gathering the 350,000 signatures calling a halt to the controversial practice included CREDO, Care2, Food & Water Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity, RootsKeeper, Center for Environmental Health, Breast Cancer Action, Center for Food Safety, Courage Campaign, and the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment.
“Californians want to know what is in the water and the soil that is used to grow their food,” said Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles). “This should not be a problem, especially if there is nothing to hide,”
The groups said California produces almost half of the fruits, nuts and vegetables that feed the United States — and more than 100 farms in the Central Valley use oil wastewater for irrigation.
Some of the United States’ most widely-sold brands grow food in the Cawelo and North Kern water districts, including Halos Mandarins, formerly known as Cuties, owned by the Beverly Hills agribusiness power couple Stewart and Lynda Resnick; Trinchero Family Estates, makers of Sutter Home wines; and The Wine Group, the makers of Cupcake and Fish Eye wines. The Resnicks, owners of the Wonderful Company and relentless advocates for the Delta Tunnels and opponents of Central Valley salmon restoration efforts, use more water than every home in Los Angeles combined, according to Mother Jones magazine. (www.motherjones.com/...)
While the wastewater is used widely for irrigation, the activists said no comprehensive, independent study to determine if the wastewater is safe for crop irrigation has been conducted. “The limited analysis done used outdated methods; regulators don’t screen for all the chemicals used in oil extraction, many of which are carcinogens. The Los Angeles Times reported that a test of the wastewater sold by Chevron to the Cawelo Irrigation District contained acetone and benzene,” the groups stated.
“Some of the chemicals used in oil operations are linked to cancer, kidney failure, reproductive issues and liver damage,” according to the groups. “No comprehensive and independent analysis has been conducted to assess the safety of the wastewater. Oil-industry wastewater can contain high levels of benzene and other cancer-causing chemicals. State oil officials’ own study detected benzene levels in oil wastewater at thousands of times the federal limits for drinking water.”
UCSF nurse practitioner Lisa Hartmayer said, “As a nurse, one of the simplest yet most important recommendations I can give a patient is to eat more fruits and vegetables. How can our governor and water regulators sleep at night knowing that the fresh foods that millions of people eat to stay healthy may actually be threatening their health? We don’t know if our tangerines, almonds and grapes are contaminated with water that could be carcinogenic.”
Along with the dangers posed to consumers, the speakers noted that farmworkers, who are already exposed regularly to toxic pesticides, are exposed daily to the oil and gas wastewater with no protection for their health and safety.
“Oil wastewater doesn’t belong on California’s crops. It’s irresponsible to take this kind of risk with our food supply,” said John Fleming, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We should take a precautionary approach to mixing oil with food and wait until there are studies proving this practice is safe before we even consider it.”
Sue Chiang of Oakland said she traveled to Sacramento to make a statement on behalf of her two children.
“I’m here for my kids. It concerns me that Governor Brown would allow this practice without thorough testing. This is the food that I feed my kids every day. The thought that they could get sick from tainted food really worries me,” she said.
In their comments on the petition, people pointed out the contradiction between Governor Brown’s attempt to portray himself as a “climate leader” and “green governor” and his failure to take action on the oil wastewater issue to date.
For example, Rev. and Mrs. Don Baldwin from Nevada City wrote in their comments: "Dear Gov. Brown - If you are to truly go down in history as our 'environmental' governor, you MUST see this as one of the most significant actions you need to take."
A growing number of Californians are raising concerns about the use of wastewater for crop irrigation and organized Protect California Food, an affiliate of Californians Against Fracking. The group is calling on Governor Brown and state water regulators to immediately ban the practice.
Californians Against Fracking is a coalition of about 200 environmental business, health, agriculture, labor, political and environmental justice organizations working to win a statewide ban on fracking and other dangerous extraction techniques in California. Follow @CAagainstFrack on Twitter.
Visit www.protectcafood.org and www.californiansagainstfracking.org for more information.
Unfortunately, both the mainstream media and many “alternative” media outlets have to date failed to explore the reason WHY it has been possible for the oil industry to sell its wastewater to irrigate California farms — Big Oil’s capture of the regulatory apparatus in the state under the administration of Governor Jerry Brown.
In spite of California’s “green” image, Big Oil is the largest and most powerful corporate lobby in the state. The Western States Petroleum Association, the trade association for the oil companies in the western states, is the largest and most powerful corporate lobbying group in Sacramento. No bill opposed by Big Oil and WSPA was able to make it out of the Legislature to the Governor’s Desk last year because of the enormous money and power the oil industry wields.
Consumer Watchdog releases report exposing millions in oil, gas & energy donations to Jerry Brown
On the day after the activists delivered the petitions, Consumer Watchdog released a groundbreaking report, “Brown’s Dirty Hands,” that could explain why no comprehensive, independent study to determine if the wastewater is safe for crop irrigation has been conducted. The report exposes the millions Jerry Brown’s rakes in from oil, gas and utility companies: www.consumerwatchdog.org/...
The group found that twenty-six energy companies including the state’s three major investor-owned utilities, Occidental, Chevron, and NRG—all with business before the state—donated $9.8 million to Jerry Brown’s campaigns, causes, and initiatives, and to the California Democratic Party since he ran for Governor.
“Donations were often made within days or weeks of winning favors. The three major investor-owned utilities alone contributed nearly $6 million,” the group said.
“An exhaustive review of campaign records, publicly-released emails and other documents at PUCPapers.org, court filings, and media reports, shows that Brown personally intervened in regulatory decisions favoring the energy industry, and points to Brown and his operatives having used the Democratic Party as a political slush fund to receive contributions from unpopular energy companies in amounts greater than permitted to his candidate committee. Between 2011 and 2014, the energy companies tracked by Brown’s Dirty Hands donated $4.4 million to the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party gave $4.7 million to Brown’s re-election,” according to Consumer Watchdog.
In spite of the mostly fawning media coverage of Jerry Brown’s appearances at climate conferences across the globe, Brown is a big supporter of the expansion of fracking in California and environmentally unjust carbon trading and REDD policies. You can read more about the real environmental record of Governor Brown at: www.dailykos.com…
Big Oil regulatory capture runs deep
The oil industry, including WSPA, Chevron, Phillips 66, AERA Energy, Exxon and Shell, have spent more than $25 million so far in the 2015-16 legislative session. WSPA has spent $12.8 million so far in the session, making them, as usual, the top California lobbying spenders of the session. (www.oaklandmagazine.com/...)
In a huge conflict of interest that the mainstream media refuses to discuss, WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd chaired the South Coast Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue) Ribbon Task Force that created the so-called “marine protected areas” that went into effect in Southern California waters on January 1, 2012. She also served on the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces to create alleged “marine protected areas” on the North Coast, North Central Coast and Central Coast. (www.dfg.ca.gov/...)
The “marine protected areas” created under her leadership fail to protect the ocean from fracking, acidizing, other offshore oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering.
While Reheis-Boyd served on the task forces to "protect" the ocean, the same oil industry that the "marine guardian" represents was conducting environmentally destructive fracking operations off the Southern California coast. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and media investigations by Associated Press and truthout.org in 2013 reveal that the ocean has been fracked at least 203 times in the past 20 years, including the period from 2004 to 2012 that Reheis-Boyd served as a "marine guardian.”
Besides exerting enormous influence over state regulators, WSPA and Big Oil also wield enormous power over federal regulators. Claiming that fracking poses “no significant impact” to the environment, Obama administration officials on May 27 finalized their plans to allow oil companies to resume offshore fracking and acidizing in California’s Santa Barbara Channel after a moratorium on fracking was temporarily imposed as the result of a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit. (theecoreport.com/...)
WSPA and Big Oil wield their power in five major 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. For my in-depth investigation on the five ways WSPA and Big Oil have captured California politics, go to: www.dailykos.com/...