Tethys’ Pullout of Bottling Plant Draws Mixed Response

Anacortes American
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Tethys’ pullout draws mixed response
BY KIMBERLY JACOBSON

Reactions are mixed to the announcement last week that Tethys Enterprises backed out of its plans for a bottling facility on the island.

Some residents were pleased the proposed 1-million-square-foot plant is off the table while others are lamenting the potential jobs lost. But all are looking to the future and how Anacortes could plan to best utilize the property — and how to attract a business that more people can get behind and support.

In a letter sent to Mayor Dean Maxwell last week, Tethys CEO Steve Winter said the project was viable, but the company and its principals had other opportunities come up over time. They opted to halt their efforts on the bottling plant project.

Tethys has worked on the project for several years and signed a water contract with the city in late 2010.

Winter has not answered requests for further comment.

Sandra Spargo, who organized Defending Water in the Skagit River Basin, said she’s received about 200 emails since the announcement last week.

“I am getting a lot of emails from people who are happy about this,” she said. “I am relieved but cautiously relieved because I don’t know what this means.”

She has heard from residents who still have questions: Can Tethys sell the water contract to another company? Has Tethys reimbursed the city for all expenses? Will the city still pursue the urban growth area expansion request?

Mayor Dean Maxwell said the contract is “dead.” In order to transfer water rights, Tethys would have to make a request and it would have to be OK’d by the City Council. He said there’s been no request. He said a new company couldn’t meet deadlines built into the contract anyway.

“It’s just not going to happen,” he said.

Tethys has one more small payment to the city to reimburse it for all expenses, Maxwell said.

He said the city will discuss the UGA expansion request after the November election. It could be rolled into the city’s 2016 comprehensive plan update — but that’s up to the City Council.

“There’s no urgency now,” Maxwell said.

City Council member Ryan Walters said he’d like the city to send a letter to Tethys thanking them for their time and indicating the contract is terminated because they say they will not fulfill their side.

“I think we need to clean that up,” he said.

Walters said he wasn’t surprised Tethys backed out. He said the idea didn’t seem conceivable. The plant was proposed to be the largest in the country, but Tethys hadn’t bottled beverages before and it didn’t appear to have any real assets, he said.

“It didn’t really strike me as a very serious effort,” Walters said.

Peggy Flynn, who met Winter in an MBA program in 1986, introduced him at some of the community events he attended.

She said Anacortes has lost the economic benefits of a construction project that would have hired 250 workers and spent $500 million to build the facility as well as the potential for a significant number of well-paying jobs.

“We’ve lost what would have been the most environmentally and technologically advanced beverage manufacturing plant in the world,” Flynn said — citing plans for biodegradable and recyclable packaging materials, reduced and recycled wastewater, and the use of rail instead of trucks.

She said the good news is that Anacortes still has water rights and can look for other economic opportunities going forward.

Spargo said now is the time for a community discussion.

“I think this is an opportunity for the community to come together and give their vision of what they would like to see out there as possibilities,” she said. “We need a plan. We need a plan for all our city.”

She sees the grassroots Defending Water group continuing to have a voice in the process.

Walters said he’d like to see the city continue to explore the current comprehensive plan proposal that would limit the size of facilities on industrial property.

“If something is going to be massive, 1 million square feet, then we need to look at it and it needs to be not outright allowed,” he said.

The approval process wouldn’t have to take long, he said. As it is now, a massive facility could come in for a building permit with environmental review, but without council consultation. He said in the future water shouldn’t be the focus.

“When we look at economic development look for industries that provide good jobs — not industries that use water,” Walters said.

Tethys timeline

• April 2008 — Tethys Enterprises is formed.

• April 12, 2010 — Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, in a letter to Tethys CEO Steve Winter, says the city will discontinue any further work on the proposed agreement to build a bottling plant there. He cited a concern that Tethys refused to link water provided to the number of jobs created.

• Sept. 13, 2010 — The Anacortes City Council approves a contract to provide up to 5 million gallons of water a day to Tethys. The contract, dated Oct. 1, 2010, requires the company to provide a legal description and map of property for the development. It must be at least 30 acres, served by rail and within the city limits.

• October 2010 — Defending Water in the Skagit River Basin was formed as a “grass-roots educational influence to promote citizen input regarding the contract signed between the City of Anacortes and Tethys Enterprises.” It is associated with the Alliance for Democracy.

• Sept. 26, 2011 — The City Council approves a contract extension, requiring Tethys to find property by Dec. 1, 2012.

• July 31, 2012 — The City of Anacortes requests adding about 11 acres off Highway 20 near Stevenson Road to its urban growth area. The site was being eyed for Tethys. At the time, Mayor Dean Maxwell said the city will benefit from the added industrial property no matter what ends up there.

• Oct. 10, 2012 — The county requests more information from the city about its UGA request.

• Nov. 29, 2012 — Tethys gets title commitments for 30.33 acres of property at Highway 20 and Reservation Road near Stevenson Road. At the time, Winter told the American the 30.33-acre site was just part of the plan. It also proposed to use about 11 acres the city requested to be added to its urban growth area and, at the time, Tethys was in discussion with other property owners.

According to the contract, Tethys then had two years to complete the necessary studies and apply for permits. The plant was required to be up and running by June 1, 2018, according to the contract.

• April 9, 2013 — Skagit County commissioners hold a public hearing on the city’s UGA expansion request. Speakers brought up issues including traffic concerns, the size of the proposed Tethys plant, the city infrastructure to support any amount of acreage outside the presently designated city limits and the Tethys project being out of scale for the site and nearby communities.

• July 10, 2013 — Skagit County commissioners voted unanimously to docket the City of Anacortes UGA expansion request, allowing the review process to continue. An environmental review process was the next step.

• Sept. 10, 2013 — The city announces Tethys has backed out of its proposal.

Monterey citizens group eyes ballot measure for public buyout of private water company

By Jim Johnson. Crossposted from Monterey County Herald

A citizens group in Monterrey is putting forward a ballot that would require the water district to draw up plans for taking water services back into public hands. Services are  controlled currently by private company California American Water. Their exorbitant profits and mismanagement, including a failed desalination project and an expensive dam removal, have led to growing anger against the company and provide an opportunity to put water back under public control. Continue reading

The Reporter editorial: Delta Plan misses main point

Vacaville’s The Reporter printed the following editorial that reinforced some of the arguments we have been making against the ill-conceived Bay Delta Plan,, although the proposed solution of desalinization is not a good one:

Editorial: Delta Plan Misses Main Point

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan took a dramatic turn last week, acknowledging some of the concerns of Delta farmers by re-routing a proposed massive tunnel system to affect a smaller area and stay mostly on public land.

That the concerns of those who live in and rely on the Delta are being acknowledged as valid is a welcome change of pace. But the whole process still sidesteps the main point: It is folly to keep trying to take water from where it occurs naturally and send it to places where it doesn’t.

Southern California and the Central Valley are, by nature, deserts. Trying to keep them lush and fertile by relying on dwindling supplies of Delta water disregards the lessons of Mother Nature.

For a prime example, look no further than the Owens Valley, which decades ago was raided of its water by Los Angeles. Today, Owens Lake has become a lake bed and Mono Lake is a mess because more water continues to be taken out than can be replenished.

If less snow in the Sierras and less rainfall in general is a trend, it seems probable that the Delta will have less water flowing into it than in the past. The idea that it can be tapped in the same way as it has been — or even more so — bodes badly for its ecological health.

It’s time to stop trying to siphon off Delta water and start focusing on other ways of getting water where it’s needed. Start with conservation. Those who live in a desert shouldn’t expect to have grassy green lawns or grow water-intensive crops.

Desalinization — removing salt from seawater — is another promising option, given the state’s long coastline. Yes, it’s still prohibitively expensive, but if more effort were put into developing it, the price would come down.

And what about developing more water storage, so that the rain that does fall can be captured before it runs into the ocean? In recent years, some have proposed building underground storage systems rather than dams, and that seems like a great idea. But building a pair of 30-mile-long, $25.7 billion tunnels to divert water around the Delta does not.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg was right on Friday when he said that the new route for the tunnel system announced last week doesn’t get at the fundamental problem.

“What really needs to be discussed and resolved are the operating conditions for the Delta over the next five decades,” Steinberg said.

The Legislature needs to re-engage, he says, and make sure all of the key players have a voice in what happens.

It’s also critical to have the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office study the project. It’s the public’s best chance for an objective assessment of costs and benefits — if there are any.

Acid joins water as contaminants in planned fracking boom

An article by David Baker in the San Francisco Chronicle, Acidizing could rival fracking in the Monterrey Shale, has pointed to a growing practice of using powerful acids to dissolve rock and free petroleum within. In addition to the high volume of water that is frequently used, it poses yet another dangerous risk to groundwater from contamination. As usual the companies refuse to reveal what acids are used and how. Continue reading

Peak water in the American West

In an excellent blog on scienceblog.com, Peter Gleick argues that the plethora of stories of droughts, dropping reservoir levels and irrational water engineering projects point to the need to:

  • acknowledge that we’ve reached peak water in the American west. We have promised more water to users than nature provides. Until demand and supply are brought back into balance, groundwater levels will continue to drop and our rivers will continue to run dry, destroying natural ecosystems.
  • Agree that there are limits to new supply and that we must turn to the demand side of the problem. This means figuring out how to use water more efficiently and productively, and thinking about moving some water-intensive activities and products to more water-abundant regions. Maybe it is time to grow less rice, alfalfa, cotton, and pasture with flood irrigation. It is past time to retire the green lawn as an acceptable landscape option in arid climates. All toilets and washing machines should be water- and energy-efficient.
  • Stop assuming that the water available for future use is the same as in the past. Climate change ensures that it won’t be, but until politicians start to heed the warnings of climate scientists and the on-the-ground evidence of the current water situation, our water problems in the west, and elsewhere, will worsen.

Read the full blog here: http://scienceblogs.com/significantfigures/index.php/2013/08/19/peak-water-in-the-american-west/
Photo by flickr user (cc) TimPearce.

Let the river flow: victory for indigenous people and salmon

By Terry Winckler: There are few victories sweeter and more dramatic than the one just wrested by Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman and his tribal allies in a Fresno, California courtroom last week. They did nothing less than save an entire run of chinook salmon from a corporate grab of the water needed by those fish to survive their spawning run up the Klamath/Trinity rivers system.

The drama–and believe me, it was a mix of theater, unexpected turnarounds, and life-or-death arguments–climaxed late yesterday when a judge agreed that these salmon need the water more than the mega-farms which wanted it as a hedge against next year’s bottom line.

Dozens of Native America tribal members demonstrated outside the courtroom as U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence O’Neill heard the warning of what happened 12 years ago during a drought year like this on that same river system. That year, a water grab authorized by the Bush administration left as many as 70,000 salmon dead in the rivers, with the next generation rotting in their bellies.

Years later, those rivers were empty of salmon, as were the larders of tribes along the river, and the future of the commercial/recreational fishing industry that depends on healthy salmon runs. The collapse of the fishery was so severe that California and Oregon declared formal states of emergency, and Congress appropriated $60 million in disaster relief for fishermen.

The spectre of the 2002 disaster and scientific testimony that showed it could happen again this year convinced Judge O’Neill to let the Trinity River flow into its natural bed, rather than allow its diversion hundreds of miles south to Central Valley mega-farms.

If it sounds like a no-brainer, consider what Hasselman, the tribes and the fishing industry were actually up against. The courtroom in Fresno is right in the heart of corporate farming territory. Those business interests, which are politically powerful in California and pretty omnipotent in that particular part of the state, are what Hasselman faced off against. They wanted that Trinity water to ultimately flow through Fresno County into their back pockets–and initially the judge sided with them last week by granting a temporary restraining order on releasing water.

But here’s the real bottom line…Hasselman et al prevailed, and because of that, in the next few weeks one of the biggest chinook salmon runs on record will race up the re-invigorated Trinity/Klamath rivers with a much-better chance of giving life to the next generation.

The case will continue to wind its way through the courts, with important implications for the government’s authority to protect salmon in other years and in other places. Nor are this year’s salmon assured of success. So stay tuned as we follow the fish home.

P.S. Read our press release for quotes from the court and our allies on this great day for Pacific Northwest salmon: http://action.earthjustice.org/site/R?i=DwHxMw48m3ikK_RDBz8MzA

Feds give away fish water to same growers suing over Trinity releases

Post by by Dan Bacher cross-posted from fishsniffer.com. Over 60 members of the Hoopa Valley Tribe rallied in front of the federal courthouse in Fresno on August 21 as U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill held a hearing regarding the temporary restraining order obtained.  by Westlands Water District and the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority to block a plan to increase flows on the Trinity River.

They and members of the Klamath Justice Coalition held signs proclaiming, “Westlands Sucks the Trinity Dry,” “Remember the Fish Kill 2002,” “Save the Trinity,” Save the Fish – Release the Dam Water,” and “Un Dam the Klamath.” Wearing bright green shirts stating, “Save the Trinity River,” the Tribal members traced chalk outlines of salmon and people on the pavement showing what would happen to fish and people if the flows aren’t released.

“When the fish are gone, we will be gone too,” explained Dania Rose Colegrove, Klamath Justice Coalition organizer and member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe. Continue reading

Ocean fracking should be no surprise

(Edited version of article by Dan Bacher, crossposted from Daily Kos and Fishsniffer.com). The California Coastal Commission, under intense pressure from legislators and environmental activists, pledged Thursday, August 15 at its meeting in Santa Cruz to investigate reports of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) for oil in ocean waters in the Santa Barbara Channel.

“Blindsided by revelations of fracking in waters off the coast of California, the state’s Coastal Commission on Thursday vowed an investigation into the controversial practice, including what powers the agency has to regulate it, “ according to Jason Hoppin, Santa Cruz Sentinel reporter.

“We do not yet understand the extent of fracking in federal or state waters, nor fully understand its risks,” said Coastal Commission Deputy Director Allison Dettmer, who will lead the investigation.

“Blindsided” by “relevations” of fracking? How can that be possible when the Coastal Commission, Fish and Game Commission and other state regulators failed to question the leadership role of a big oil lobbyist, nicknamed the “Petro Princess” by anti-fracking activists, in the corrupt Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create alleged “marine protected areas?”

State officials and representatives of corporate “environmental” NGOs shamelessly embraced Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), as a “marine guardian.”

Reheis-Boyd, who lobbies relentlessly for increased fracking in California, the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline and the evisceration of environmental laws, served as the CHAIR of the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called “marine protected areas” in Southern California. She also served on the MLPA task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.

She oversaw the creation of questionable “marine protected areas” that fail to protect the ocean from fracking and oil drilling, pollution, military testing, wind and wave energy projects and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

“We take our obligation to protect the marine environment very seriously and we will be looking at this very carefully,” claimed Charles Lester, executive director of the Coastal Commission.

If the Commission wants to really show that they take their obligation “very seriously,” they should include in their fracking investigation a probe of Reheis-Boyd’s role in creating so-called “marine reserves” that fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution and all other human impacts on our coastal waters than sustainable fishing and gathering.

Burdick’s concerns over the push by the oil industry and others to industrialize the California coast were echoed by environmentalists including Judith Vidaver, then Chair of the Ocean Protection Coalition (OPC). (http://yubanet.com/california/Dan-Bacher-Environmental-Leader-Calls-For-MLPA-Official-s-Resignation.php)

“For over 25 years OPC, with our fisher and seaweed harvester allies, has protected our ocean from threats such as aquaculture projects, nuclear waste dumping, offshore oil development and recently, wave power plants,” Vidaver stated. “We are requesting that final Marine Protected Area (MPA) designations include language prohibiting these industrial-scale commercial activities.”

“Oil and water do not mix—as we are being reminded daily by the disaster spewing in the Gulf,” she stated. “Mrs. Reheis-Boyd’s position as President of the Western States Petroleum Association and her lobbying efforts to expand offshore oil drilling off the coast of California are a patent conflict of interest for which she should recuse herself from the BRTF proceedings which are ostensibly meant to protect the marine ecosystem.”

What Is Fracking and Why Should It Be Banned? (from Food and Water Watch website: http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/water/fracking/)

“Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing. It’s a water-intensive process where millions of gallons of fluid – typically water, sand, and chemicals, including ones known to cause cancer – are injected underground at high pressure to fracture the rock surrounding an oil or gas well. This releases extra oil and gas from the rock, so it can flow into the well.

But the process of fracking introduces additional industrial activity into communities beyond the well. Clearing land to build new access roads and new well sites, drilling and encasing the well, fracking the well and generating the waste, trucking in heavy equipment and materials and trucking out the vast amounts of toxic waste — all of these steps contribute to air and water pollution risks and devaluation of land that is turning our communities into sacrifice zones. Fracking threatens the air we breathe, the water we drink, the communities we love and the climate on which we all depend. That’s why over 250 communities in the U.S. have passed resolutions to stop fracking, and why Vermont, France and Bulgaria have stopped it.”

Peripheral tunnels will provide water for fracking

(Edited version of article by Dan Bacher) There is growing concern that one of the key driving factors behind the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) is the water that it will provide for expanding fracking operations.

Certainly the oil industry has been spending plenty of money in Sacramento to push for expansion of oil drilling and fracking across California. The Western States Petroleum Association spent the most on lobbying in Sacramento in the first six months of 2013 of any interest group, according to quarterly documents released by the California Secretary of State. The association spent $1,023,069.78 in the first quarter and $1,285,720.17 in the second quarter, a total of $2,308,789.95, to lobby legislators and other state officials. They have also been one of the biggest contributors to Governor Brown, supporting his 2014 campaign and his Proposition 20 campaign.

These contributions include the following: Aera Energy (Exxon-related), $125,000; Berry Petroleum, Denver, $35,000;  Breitburn Operating, Houston, $21,250; CA State Pipe Trades Council (usually the pipeline union supports Big Oil), $100,000; Conoco Phillips, $25,000; E & B Natural Resources Management, Bakersfield, $20,000; MacPherson Oil Co., $50,000; Naftex, $10,000; Occidental Petroleum, $500,000; Plains Exploration & Production, $100,000; SoCal Pipe Trades Council, $125,000; Signal Hill Petroleum, $10,000;  Vaquero Energy, $35,000; Venoco, $25,000

“A state senator has told me that Brown has cut a deal with the oil companies – he’ll push fracking in exchange for campaign contributions to his 2012 Proposition 30 and his 2014 reelected,” said RL Miller in her recent article on Daily Kos.

It may explain in part why Governor Jerry Brown, is currently fast-tracking the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) as it will benefit both corporate agribusiness and oil companies seeking to expand fracking operations. Against these interests the  potential extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species does not swing many votes.

Nobody knows exactly how much water is used specifically for fracking in California now, since reporting by the oil companies on water utilized in fracking is voluntary. One thing is for certain – oil companies use big quantities of water in their current oil drilling operations in Kern County. Much of this water this comes through the State Water Project’s California Aqueduct and the Central Valley Water Project’s Delta-Mendota Canal, the canals that will export the water diverted through the tunnels.

“In the time since steamflooding was pioneered here in the fields of Kern County in the 1960s, oil companies statewide have pumped roughly 2.8 trillion gallons of fresh water—or, in the parlance of agriculture, nearly 9 million acre-feet—underground in pursuit of the region’s tarry oil,” according to Jeremy Miller’s 2011 investigative piece, “The Colonization of Kern County,” in Orion Magazine. “Essentially, enough water has been injected into the oil fields here over the last forty years to create a lake one foot deep covering more than thirteen thousand square miles—nearly twice the surface area of Lake Ontario.”

Because of the enormous influence exerted by the group and the oil companies themselves in the Capitol, all but one bill to regulate or ban fracking was defeated in the Legislature this year. The only bill that passed through the Legislature was the weak bill to “regulate” fracking sponsored by State Senator Fran Pavley.

The top 20 interest groups who spent the most money in the first six months included labor unions, the California Chamber of Commerce, Chevron and health care corporations. (http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/)

Ocean fracking expanding

The latest report on spending on lobbying emerged as the Associated Press revealed that companies prospecting for oil off California’s coast have used the controversial practice of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) on at least a dozen occasions to force open cracks beneath the seabed.

Now regulators are investigating whether the environmentally destructive practice, one that threatens fish and wildlife populations in the state’s marine waters, should require a separate permit and be subject to stricter environmental review.

“Hundreds of pages of federal documents released by the government to The Associated Press and advocacy groups through the Freedom of Information Act show regulators have permitted fracking in the Pacific Ocean at least 12 times since the late 1990s, and have recently approved a new project,” wrote AP reporters Jason Dearen and Alicia Chang.

“Companies are doing the offshore fracking — which involves pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of salt water, sand and chemicals into undersea shale and sand formations — to stimulate old existing wells into new oil production,” they said.

“Federal regulators thus far have exempted the chemical fluids used in offshore fracking from the nation’s clean water laws, allowing companies to release fracking fluid into the sea without filing a separate environmental impact report or statement looking at the possible effects. That exemption was affirmed this year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to the internal emails reviewed by the AP,” Dearen and Chang stated.

Big oil lobbyist oversaw creation of marine protected areas

Inexplicably missing from the mainstream media and even most “alternative” media reports on this issue is any mention of one of the biggest environmental scandals of the past decade – the alarming fact that Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, CHAIRED the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force that created the alleged “marine protected areas” that went into effect in Southern California waters in January 2012. She also served on the task forces to create “marine protected areas” on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.

Grassroots environmentalists, Tribal leaders, fishermen and advocates of democracy and transparency in government blasted the leadership role of the oil industry lobbyist in creating these “marine protected areas,” but state officials and representatives of corporate “environmental” NGOs embraced her as a “marine guardian.” MLPA Initiative advocates refused to acknowledge the overt conflict of interest that a big oil lobbyist, who supports fracking and offshore oil drilling, had in a process allegedly designed to “protect” the ocean.

You see, the “marine protected areas” created under Reheis-Boyd’s leadership weren’t true “marine protected areas” as the language of the landmark Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 called for. Reheis-Boyd, a marina corporation executive, a coastal real estate developer and other corporate operatives on MLPA Initiative task forces oversaw the creation of “marine protected areas” that effectively allow fracking and offshore oil drilling to continue and expand.

These “marine protected areas” fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling and spills, pollution, wind and wave energy projects, corporate aquaculture, military testing and all human impacts other than fishing and gathering.

Reheis-Boyd apparently used her role as a state marine “protection” official to increase her network of influence in California politics to the point where the Western States Petroleum Association has become the most powerful corporate lobby in California. The association now has enormous influence over both state and federal regulators – and MLPA Initiative advocates helped facilitate her rise to power.

Oil and gas companies spend more than $100 million a year to buy access to lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento, according to Stop Fooling California (http://www.stopfoolingca.org), an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse Californians. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) alone has spent more than $16 million lobbying in Sacramento since 2009.
There is no doubt that the powerful oil industry and its chief lobbyist are going to use every avenue they can to divert more water forfracking, including taking Delta water through the peripheral tunnels proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). The industry will also use its increased power in California politics and environmental processes to expand fracking in the ocean unless Californians rise up and resist these plans.

It is time that Californians question state officials and MLPA Initiative advocates about why they supported the leadership role of an oil industry lobbyist in creating so-called “marine protected areas” off the California coast. After all, oil and water don’t mix!
Oil lobby leads California spending as ocean fracking proceeds

Written By: Dan Bacher, August 5, 2013
Oil lobby leads California spending as ocean fracking proceeds

Some may consider California to be a “green” state and the “environmental leader” of the nation, but that delusion is quickly dispelled once one actually looks at who spends the most on lobbying in California – the oil industry.

The Western States Petroleum Association spent the most on lobbying in Sacramento in the first six months of 2013 of any interest group, according to quarterly documents released by the California Secretary of State.

The association spent $1,023,069.78 in the first quarter and $1,285,720.17 in the second quarter, a total of $2,308,789.95, to lobby legislators and other state officials. (http://cal-access.sos.ca.gov/Lobbying/Employers/Detail.aspx?id=1147195&session=2013&view=activity)

Because of the enormous influence exerted by the group and the oil companies themselves in the Capitol, all but one bill to regulate or ban fracking was defeated in the Legislature this year. The only bill that passed through the Legislature was the weak bill to “regulate” fracking sponsored by State Senator Fran Pavley.

The association’s members are a “who’s who” of big oil companies, including BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillip, ExxonMobil, Navajo Refining Company, Noble Energy Company, Occidental Oil and Gas Corporation, Shell Oil Products US, Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company, U.S. Oil & Refining Company, Venoco, Inc. and many others.

The top 20 interest groups who spent the most money in the first six months included labor unions, the California Chamber of Commerce, Chevron and health care corporations. (http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/)

The latest report on spending on lobbying emerged as the Associated Press revealed that companies prospecting for oil off California’s coast have used the controversial practice of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) on at least a dozen occasions to force open cracks beneath the seabed.

Now regulators are investigating whether the environmentally destructive practice, one that threatens fish and wildlife populations in the state’s marine waters, should require a separate permit and be subject to stricter environmental review. (http://www.mercurynews.com/california/ci_23789784/fracking-off-california-coast-draws-call-greater-regulation)

“Hundreds of pages of federal documents released by the government to The Associated Press and advocacy groups through the Freedom of Information Act show regulators have permitted fracking in the Pacific Ocean at least 12 times since the late 1990s, and have recently approved a new project,” wrote AP reporters Jason Dearen and Alicia Chang.

“Companies are doing the offshore fracking — which involves pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of salt water, sand and chemicals into undersea shale and sand formations — to stimulate old existing wells into new oil production,” they said.

“Federal regulators thus far have exempted the chemical fluids used in offshore fracking from the nation’s clean water laws, allowing companies to release fracking fluid into the sea without filing a separate environmental impact report or statement looking at the possible effects. That exemption was affirmed this year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to the internal emails reviewed by the AP,” Dearen and Chang stated.

Big oil lobbyist oversaw creation of marine protected areas

While federal regulators allowed oil companies to frack offshore, state officials have also left the door open for the expansion of fracking in California.

Inexplicably missing from the mainstream media and even most “alternative” media reports on this issue is any mention of one of the biggest environmental scandals of the past decade – the alarming fact that Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, CHAIRED the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force that created the alleged “marine protected areas” that went into effect in Southern California waters in January 2012. She also served on the task forces to create “marine protected areas” on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast. (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/brtf_bios_sc.asp)

Grassroots environmentalists, Tribal leaders, fishermen and advocates of democracy and transparency in government blasted the leadership role of the oil industry lobbyist in creating these “marine protected areas,” but state officials and representatives of corporate “environmental” NGOs embraced her as a “marine guardian.” MLPA Initiative advocates refused to acknowledge the overt conflict of interest that a big oil lobbyist, who supports fracking and offshore oil drilling, had in a process allegedly designed to “protect” the ocean.

You see, the “marine protected areas” created under Reheis-Boyd’s leadership weren’t true “marine protected areas” as the language of the landmark Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 called for. Reheis-Boyd, a marina corporation executive, a coastal real estate developer and other corporate operatives on MLPA Initiative task forces oversaw the creation of “marine protected areas” that effectively allow fracking and offshore oil drilling to continue and expand. (http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/01/02/the-oil-industrys-marine-reserves/)

These “marine protected areas” fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling and spills, pollution, wind and wave energy projects, corporate aquaculture, military testing and all human impacts other than fishing and gathering.

As I have pointed out in article after article, Reheis-Boyd apparently used her role as a state marine “protection” official to increase her network of influence in California politics to the point where the Western States Petroleum Association has become the most powerful corporate lobby in California. The association now has enormous influence over both state and federal regulators – and MLPA Initiative advocates helped facilitate her rise to power. (http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/site/lawsuit-filed-against-fracking-oil-lobbyist-says-its-safe)

Oil and gas companies spend more than $100 million a year to buy access to lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento, according to Stop Fooling California (http://www.stopfoolingca.org), an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse Californians. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) alone has spent more than $16 million lobbying in Sacramento since 2009.

Peripheral tunnels will provide water for fracking

Not only do the association and oil companies buy access to lawmakers, but they exert enormous control over Governor Jerry Brown, who is currently fast-tracking the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The water destined for the tunnels will go to corporate agribusiness and oil companies seeking to expand fracking operations. The construction of the tunnels will hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species.

Nobody knows exactly how much water is used specifically for fracking in California now, since reporting by the oil companies on water utilized in fracking is voluntary. One thing is for certain – oil companies use big quantities of water in their current oil drilling operations in Kern County. Much of this water this comes through the State Water Project’s California Aqueduct and the Central Valley Water Project’s Delta-Mendota Canal, the canals that will export the water diverted through the tunnels.

“In the time since steamflooding was pioneered here in the fields of Kern County in the 1960s, oil companies statewide have pumped roughly 2.8 trillion gallons of fresh water—or, in the parlance of agriculture, nearly 9 million acre-feet—underground in pursuit of the region’s tarry oil,” according to Jeremy Miller’s 2011 investigative piece, “The Colonization of Kern County,” in Orion Magazine (http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/6047/). “Essentially, enough water has been injected into the oil fields here over the last forty years to create a lake one foot deep covering more than thirteen thousand square miles—nearly twice the surface area of Lake Ontario.”

Governor Brown has pursued an increasingly cozy relationship with oil companies, leading many to believe that he is going to promote the practice of fracking, in addition to pushing for the construction of the tunnels that will provide more water for fracking.

“A state senator has told me that Brown has cut a deal with the oil companies – he’ll push fracking in exchange for campaign contributions to his 2012 Proposition 30 and his 2014 reelected,” said RL Miller in her recent article on Daily Kos. (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/08/01/1228191/-Drowning-Sacramento-in-a-tide-of-oil)

She cited as evidence for a deal the $27,200.00 that Occidental Petroleum Corporation contributed to Brown’s 2014 campaign. That’s the maximum allowable under California law.

Miller also noted the roughly $1 million that oil companies – members of the Western States Petroleum Association – contributed to Brown’s Proposition 30 campaign. These contributions include the following:

Aera Energy (Exxon-related), $125,000
Berry Petroleum, Denver, $35,000
Breitburn Operating, Houston, $21,250
CA State Pipe Trades Council (usually the pipeline union supports Big Oil), $100,000
Conoco Phillips, $25,000
E & B Natural Resources Management, Bakersfield, $20,000
MacPherson Oil Co., $50,000
Naftex, $10,000
Occidental Petroleum, $500,000
Plains Exploration & Production, $100,000
SoCal Pipe Trades Council, $125,000
Signal Hill Petroleum, $10,000
Vaquero Energy, $35,000
Venoco, $25,000

There is no doubt that the powerful oil industry and its chief lobbyist are going to use every avenue they can to divert more water for fracking, including taking Delta water through the peripheral tunnels proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). The industry will also use its increased power in California politics and environmental processes to expand fracking in the ocean unless Californians rise up and resist these plans.

It is time that Californians question state officials and MLPA Initiative advocates about why they supported the leadership role of an oil industry lobbyist in creating so-called “marine protected areas” off the California coast. After all, oil and water don’t mix!

Federal reports confirm Delta tunnel plan not based on sound science

by Dan Bacher: crossposted from http://www.fishsniffer.com

In March, California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird claimed that the controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDC) to build two giant peripheral tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is driven by “science.”

However, on July 18, scientists from federal lead agencies for the BDCP EIR/EIS – the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service – exposed the hollowness of Laird’s claims that the BDCP is based on “science.” Continue reading