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.

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!

There are alternatives to the Bay Delta Plan

C ross-posted from Restore the Delta | The Restore the Delta Coalition, which Alliance for Democracy supports, has put out an alternative proposal to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to meet California’s water needs without further damaging the Bay-Delta ecosystem.

Restore the Delta maintains that the “Responsible Exports Plan
by the Environmental Water Caucus, offers a truly comprehensive plan for both the Delta and the state.

The Environmental Water Caucus (EWC) is a statewide consortium of groups working to achieve comprehensive, sustainable water management solutions for all of California.   Among other measures, the EWC plan would:

  • Focus on fixing the South Delta pumps which will still be in use with the BDCP and several other alternative plans for the Delta, using known, not experimental technology.
  • Take only a sustainable yield of water from the Delta based on documented information regarding flow standards from the 1960s to the present 2010 State Water Resources Control Board hearings.  Presently, 3 million acre feet is the maximum safe yield amount for exports from the Delta.  This is the maximum cap in the EWC Plan.
  • Allow for habitat in the Delta with sufficient flow.  And it does so without weakening Delta communities by keeping habitat on already existing public lands and on wide levees.
  • Increase flow in the San Joaquin River, reduce reverse flow in Old River, and connect Delta flows to San Francisco Bay to enable salmon to reach the sea and return to spawn.
  • Improve water quality and quantity for all Delta communities.
  • Reduce discharges of salt, selenium and boron into the San Joaquin River that impair south and central Delta agriculture.
  • Not introduce new infrastructure into the heart of the Delta outside of Clifton Court.
  • Support wide levee standards set in the Delta Protection Commission’s Economic Sustainability Report.
  • Preserve the “common pool” in the Delta to ensure that Southern California will continue to have a stake in Delta protection.
  • Call for the largest investment in regional self-sufficiency. $2.7 billion, of all Delta plans in new regional water projects to conserve, recycle and reuse water outside of the Delta.  Studies predict that up to a million acre-feet of “new water” can be created for every $1 billion invested in water efficiency programs.
  • Generates jobs.  Economists estimate that investments in water efficiency projects create 10 to 20 jobs per $1 million spent.    BDCP estimates that it will only result in 5-7 jobs per $1 million spent.

The anticipated cost for all the strategies the EWC plan proposes works out under $10 billion, with a sustainable yield of Delta exports.  And it would provide south-of-Delta with about a million acre feet of more water than what is presently being exported.

From this starting point, the State can then contribute additional funds to construct new water efficiency projects to create “new water” as it sees fit in its budget.

And because the proposed water supply strategies are local and regional, the State won’t need to spend up to $55 billion over the next half century on a piece of infrastructure that will turn North Delta agricultural land into an industrial eyesore and be useless in a series of drought years.

May 28: Experts to Analyze Costs of Peripheral Tunnels:

Media Advisory |  Restore the Delta  will present a panel of experts to brief interested media on the cost and financial burden of the proposed Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), including Peripheral Tunnels, at 1:30pm on Tuesday, May 28, as the Brown Administration releases its financial impacts.

The panel will look at key questions such as : Whom would the Peripheral Tunnels benefit? What are the true costs of the Peripheral Tunnels? Who would pay? Is there a more cost-effective solution?

“The BDCP contemplates the largest public works project in our history,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta. “The State refuses to conduct a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis, in violation of its own policies.”

The panel of experts includes Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta; Dr. Jeffrey Michael, Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific; Adam Scow, Food & Water Watch; and Carolee Krieger, California Water Impact Network.

The panel can be listened to by calling 1-404-920-6442   Code: 593244#

For more information and contact details: visit Restore the Delta