SACRAMENTO — State lawmakers will urge legislation on a windfall profits cap on oil companies on Monday at 9:30 a.m. on the West Steps of the State Capitol in Sacramento, according to a news advisory from Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA).
EOPA and California local electeds from frontline communities will talk about how their communities are being affected from gas prices as the oil industry continues to rake in billions of dollars in profits with no regard for how it hurts Californians, our climate and security, according to an EOPA press advisory.
The host of the event will be Alex Cornell du Houx, a former Maine state Representative, Marine combat veteran, and Co-Founder and President of Elected Officials to Protect America.
SPEAKERS scheduled for the event will include:
- CA State Senator Henry Stern
- CA Assemblymember Alex Lee
- Phillip Williams, Councilmember, Yurok Tribe, veteran, EOPA CA Leadership Council
- Alex Walker-Griffin, Vice Mayor, Hercules, veteran, EOPA CA Leadership Council
- Igor Tregub, a Ukraine native, former Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board Member
- Heidi Harmon, former Mayor San Luis Obispo, EOPA CA Leadership Council
(Note: State lawmakers might be pulled away due to scheduling)
Advocates will stand in solidarity behind the lawmakers on the west steps of the CA State Capitol. A pop-up tent will be provided for speakers and another for the press in case of rain, the advisory stated.
Virtual Access: EOPA Zoom live: https://protectingamerica-net.zoom.us/j/81118789490
“Profits of ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, and Shell have skyrocketed 169 percent this year to $125 billion,” said CA State Senator Henry Stern. “The oil industry is using Putin’s war and inflation as shields to hide their price gouging. Enough is enough. We stand with the people of our state and urge the enactment of a windfall profits cap.”
While crude oil prices were dropping, oil and gas companies were raising prices on California consumers by a record 84 cents per gallon in just 10 days.
“Oil refiners more than doubled their CA profits from the recent gas price spikes — making a clear case to enact a windfall profits cap,” said Assemblyman Alex Lee. “It’s high time the people of California see relief from this price gouging. I commend Gov. Newsom’s plan for a windfall tax on oil companies and urge legislative action. This is just the latest of countless incidents underlining the urgency for California to become energy independent from fossil fuels.”
These dramatic price hikes cannot be attributed solely to refinery maintenance issues, hurricane disruptions, OPEC cutting production by 2 percent nationally, or state taxes that remain stable, according to advocates.
On November 30th, Governor Newsom issued a declaration calling for a special legislative session on December 5th to enact a price gouging penalty and rebate for excessive profits. Last Autumn, the unprecedented rise in gasoline prices led Governor Gavin Newsom to announce his intentions to enact a new windfall profits tax on oil companies. He said oil companies need to provide an explanation as to why gas prices are so high and should be held responsible for “fleecing” customers.
“The audacity of the oil industry raising gas prices when crude was dropping in value is unconscionable,” said Alex Cornell du Houx, former Maine state Representative, Marine combat veteran, President and Co-Founder of Elected Officials to Protect America. “EOPA California, representing over 462 elected officials from 49 counties, strongly support Governor Newsom and his proposal for a windfall profit cap on the oil industry. We must protect consumers from price gouging. We urge action to bring justice and security to the people of California, and enact a windfall profit cap.”
“Too many people have been forced to cut back on necessities just to fill their tank for their working commute. This issue highlights the absolute necessity to become energy independent from fossil fuels. People shouldn’t needlessly suffer from oil price fluctuations, and deadly greenhouse gas emissions. The transition to a 100 percent clean energy economy must be accelerated for our national security,” he added.
According to a poll conducted for Consumer Watchdog by FM3 Research, Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, more than 60 percent of California voters support a proposal to impose a windfall profits cap and price gouging rebate on oil refiners for the abnormally higher gas prices and profits in the state.
“Oil companies have failed to provide a credible explanation for the divergence between prices in California compared to the national average. Industry spokespeople blame it on five refineries temporarily shutting down at the same time,” the advisory stated. “But this has happened in the past without prices at the pump skyrocketing anywhere near this degree. In September 2019, five refineries experienced unplanned maintenance issues, and California was faced with several refinery outages. The price spike was a mere 34 cents — a fraction of what Californians have been paying.”
“Refinery pre-scheduled maintenance is not a credible explanation for the sudden $1.54 increase in what refineries charge for every gallon of gas Californians buy,” said Igor Tregub, former Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board Member, Ukraine native and EOPA California Leadership Council member. “Furthermore, the nerve of the oil companies using the war in my homeland to make exorbitant profits is inhumane. The people of Ukraine would not be suffering if Europe wasn’t dependent on Russian gas.”
“The people of California wouldn’t be deciding what supplies not to buy because they have to fill up their gas tanks to get to work. For our security and the world’s, we need energy independence from fossil fuels. First, we need to ensure a windfall profit cap and rebate for consumers becomes law. The legislature must see this as a national security issue and get it done,” noted Tregub.
By the end of August, crude oil prices were around $100 per barrel, and the average gas price in California was $5.06. Even though the price of oil decreased to $85 per barrel, the average gas price at the pump surged to $6.43 per gallon average, and in some locations was over $7 within a little over a week.
“Families have been forced to cut back on spending and rethink their budgets. I thank Governor Newsom for standing up for Californians who are being taken advantage of at the gas pump by a cartel of oil refiners,” stated Eduardo Martinez, Richmond Vice Mayor, Mayor-elect, EOPA California Leadership Council.It’s apparent that this situation is the consequence of the five big oil refiners in California who make 97 percent of the gasoline — controlling the supply to artificially drive-up prices.”
“A windfall profits cap solution that takes excessive profits out of the hands of oil corporations and puts money back into the hands of consumers must happen,” he commented. “We live in the shadow of these refineries that spew toxic pollution into the air we breathe on a daily basis. People I represent have died prematurely because of our zip code’s dirty air. Now those same companies are stealing from the people of California.”
A windfall profit cap would mean: “companies engaged in extraction, production, and refining of oil will pay a higher tax rate on their earnings above a set amount each year, and these recouped windfall profits will then be directed to rebates and or refunds to California taxpayers impacted by high gas prices.”
Elected Officials to Protect America is a network of current and former elected officials who care deeply about protecting the planet and people. EOPA is committed to solving the climate crisis, ensuring environmental justice, and protecting our lands and waters. EOPA educates through value-based storytelling, training lawmakers, and connecting elected officials to inspire strong environmental leadership.
EOPA California is a statewide, non-partisan network of California elected officials committed to protecting our communities, public health, and climate for all we represent.
Background: Gusher of oil industry money has fouled California politics
Flush with billions of dollars in record profits, the oil and gas companies in California have been spending big money lately in an attempt to influence the California Legislature and voters and continue the systemic regulatory capture that has fouled California government for decades.
The oil and gas industry has spent an astounding $30 million to date in the 2021-22 Legislative Session against SB 1137, legislation to mandate buffer zones around oil and gas wells, and other bills they were opposed to. We won't know the final lobbying numbers until around January 31, 2022.
Big Oil and the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) spent $4,573,758 in lobbying expenses from September 1 to October 31, 2022. That brings the total of oil and gas corporation lobbying expenses to $30,029,638 in the last seven quarters of the 2021-22 Legislative Session: cal-access.sos.ca.gov/…
The Western States Petroleum Association, the largest and most powerful corporate lobbying group in Sacramento, spent $2,164,967 of that $4,573,758 in lobbying expenses in the seventh quarter of the legislative session. That brings the total of the lobbying expenses by WSPA alone to $8,910,825 in the 2021-22 session.
While a long and hard-fight campaign by environmental justice groups, with the help of Governor Gavin Newsom, was able to finally get SB 1137 approved by the Legislature, other important bills were stopped by oil industry-backed legislators. Those measures include a bill to ban offshore drilling off the California coast and another bill to divest State of California pension funds from investments in the fossil fuel industry.
The oil and gas drillers have also spent $9.2 million to date to gather signatures for a ballot referendum to overturn SB 1137, the new law to mandate 3200 foot setbacks between oil and gas operations and homes, schools, hospitals and other facilities.
Just 3 days after California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill on September 16, in Vallejo mandating health and safety setbacks of 3200 feet between oil wells and vulnerable communities in California, the powerful oil industry launched an initiative campaign to reverse the new law.
Signature gatherers funded by the oil drillers are now asking the public to sign petitions to put the referendum overturning the setbacks law, SB 1137, on the ballot. But petition circulators are telling California voters that their ballot measure would ban new oil and gas wells near homes when it would actually do the very opposite: insideclimatenews.org/
An analysis of the state’s data by the Fractracker Alliance and Consumer Watchdog reveals that 8 companies funding the campaign have already received 89 permits, including 86 rework permits and 3 new permits, for drilling closer to communities than the ban allows ahead of the January 1, 2022 date: www.dailykos.com/…
These 8 oil companies, who currently operate thousands of wells within the banned distance of 3200 feet from homes, schools, hospitals and other facilities, have contributed $7.5 million of the total $9.2 million raised to overturn the law by gathering signatures to qualify a referendum, according to the groups, according to the two groups.
And this is just part of the gusher of money spent by the oil and gas industry on campaigns and lobbying in 2022 to date.
The biggest sources of outside spending in legislative races in the November 2022 election cycle were oil and gas companies and electric utilities, according to Ben Christopher and Sameea Kamal of Cal Matters.
“Those organizations have spent more than $7.6 million, roughly one-fifth of the total. Most of that spending happened before Newsom announced a December special legislative session on his oil tax plan.”
Big Oil has been able to get away with what it does in California for decades because of the enormous influence the Western States Petroleum Association, the trade group for the oil industry, and oil and gas companies, has exerted over the California Legislature, regulatory agencies and media.
Over the past four years, fossil fuel companies paid almost $77.5 million to lobby lawmakers in Sacramento, reported Josh Slowiczek in Capital and Main on May 14.
“Oil and gas interests spent four times as much as environmental advocacy groups and almost six times as much as clean energy firms on lobbying efforts in California between 2018 and 2021, according to a Capital & Main analysis — reflecting the intensity of the industry’s efforts to influence policy in a state whose leaders have vowed to build an energy future free of fossil fuels,” Slowiczek wrote.
WSPA and Big Oil wield their power in 8 major ways: through (1) lobbying; (2) campaign spending; (3) serving on and putting shills on regulatory panels; (4) creating Astroturf groups; (5) working in collaboration with media; (6) creating alliances with labor unions; (7) contributing to non profit organizations; and (8) sponsoring awards ceremonies, including those for legislators and journalists.
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