Internal memo reveals ‘the fix is in’ on Delta tunnel plan

by Dan Bacher

Advocates for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Central Valley salmon and openness and transparency in government have often stated that the “fix is in” on Governor Jerry Brown’s peripheral tunnel plan.

Their contention that the process is rigged and unjustly manipulated by state officials and water contractors was only confirmed in a May 6 memorandum sent to Department of Water Resources (DWR) staff from DWR Director Mark Cowin indicating that the Brown administration is stepping up its efforts to fast-track the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels.

Cowin said two new organizations will be established within the agency to implement the controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan – a DWR BDCP Office and the Delta Conveyance Facilities Design and Construction Enterprise (DCE) – beginning June 1.

“While many milestones remain before a positive decision to implement BDCP is achieved, DWR must begin to prepare to carry out its critical role in the implementation phase of this important project, should a conclusion be reached to move forward,” said Cowin. “To this end, we are establishing two new DWR organizations beginning June 1, 2014 – the DWR BDCP Office and the Delta Conveyance Facilities Design and Construction Enterprise (known as the DCE).”

“Undoubtedly, a number of questions will arise about how these two structures will mesh with our existing organization at DWR, and we will be working with you all to elicit your questions and develop solutions together. I look forward to your continued support as we enter into this exciting phase of the BDCP which will shape the future of Delta ecological restoration and water project operations,” Cowin concluded.

Delta advocates criticized the memo for being the latest in a series of actions taken by the Brown administration to rush the construction of the peripheral tunnels before permitting of the process is complete – and before any financial plan or agreement to pay for the tunnels, estimated to cost $67 billion or more, is in place.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, said, “Permitting is not complete. There is no financial plan or agreement. The Implementing Agreement will not be released to the public until after the public comment period on the BDCP and its EIR/S is complete.”

“Yet, DWR is moving forward to implement the project?” she asked. “They are trying to steamroll Delta communities which will be harmed by the impacts, and the people of California who will be stuck paying the bill for the boondoggle.”

Carolee Krieger, Executive Director of the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN), after reading the memorandum, said, “It sounds to me like DWR is going ahead full steam, facts or lack of facts be damned. They have no idea what the project looks like because they have not been able to do the drilling tests because the Delta landowners have won their lawsuits. So they (DWR) have no idea what problems they may face with tunnel construction; they have no real idea of the costs…only guesses.”

“It sounds to me like the same thing the Third District Court said about paper water in our Monterey Agreement case…they are going on ‘a wish and a prayer!'” she stated.

“And where in the State Water Project (SWP) contracts does it allow DWR to collect funds from the contractors for this BDCP/Twin Tunnel planning, as this is not maintenance but a huge new project?” asked Krieger.

Nancy Vogel, Director of Public Affairs for the Department of Water Resources and former reporter for the Sacramento Bee and LA Times, confirmed that Cowin had sent out the memo, but couldn’t answer several questions posed to her by the Central Valley Business Times (CVBT).

The CVBT reported, “Nancy Vogel, chief spokeswoman for DWR, says she does not know how much of the existing DWR budget, including money and staff, will be diverted to the two offices; what prompted the decision to move forward with the two offices or how many additional staff have been or will be hired to staff the offices.

As the Brown administration continues to rush the construction of the twin tunnels, opposition to the project by a coalition of family farmers, Indian Tribes, fishing groups, environmental organizations, Delta residents and elected officials continues to grow.

The public review and comment period for the Draft BDCP and BDCP Draft EIR/EIS will run through June 13, 2014. Restore the Delta will host a “Public Comment Party” to complete more than one hundred citizens comments against the environmentally destructive peripheral tunnels on May 13, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Reserve at Spanos Park, Mt. Diablo Room 6301 W. Eight Mile Rd. in Stockton.

Refreshments will be provided. RSVP and letter writing information, language translators or childcare can be arranged: contact stina [at] restorethedelta.org or call (209) 475-9550. (RSVP is encouraged, but not required.)

The water diverted from the Sacramento River through the tunnels would go to corporate agribusiness interests farming toxic, drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, oil companies conducting fracking and steam injection operations in Kern County, and Southern California water agencies. The construction of the twin tunnels would hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperil the salmon and steelhead populations of the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

Below is the memo:

State of California California Natural Resources Agency

M e m o r a n d u m

Date: May 6, 2014

To: All DWR Employees

From: Department of Water Resources

Subject: Establishment of the DWR BDCP Office and the DHCCP Design and

Construction Enterprise

As many of you are keenly aware, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) has been deeply engaged in the development of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) since 2006. Several DWR offices and divisions are currently working on BDCP, either as part of the Delta Habitat Conservation and Conveyance Program (DHCCP) or as part of the planning and analysis of the overall BDCP program.

We are approaching a critical juncture for BDCP as the planning phase reaches completion, State and federal resource agencies consider permitting decisions, and a more detailed financing plan is developed. While many milestones remain before a positive decision to implement BDCP is achieved, DWR must begin to prepare to carry out its critical role in the implementation phase of this important project, should a conclusion be reached to move forward. To this end, we are establishing two new DWR organizations beginning June 1, 2014 – the DWR BDCP Office and the Delta Conveyance Facilities Design and Construction Enterprise (known as the DCE).

First, a new BDCP Office will be established within the Executive Division. The initial focus will be the completion of the conservation plan while providing early coordination and transition to implementation of BDCP conservation measures 2 through 22, including, for example, tidal marsh restoration, Yolo Bypass fishery enhancement and urban stormwater treatment. This team will work to plan, manage, and integrate coordination among DWR’s various divisions involved with development of BDCP and initiate preliminary evaluations needed to implement BDCP. In addition, this team will play an important role in agency and stakeholder engagement needed to complete the plan. To help facilitate the completion of BDCP, including the needed close coordination with the Governor’s Office and the State administration, the office will initially be led by the Chief Deputy Director.

This office will lay the foundation for the implementation of BDCP, and once the BDCP is finalized, that work will be merged into the formal BDCP Implementation Office as is defined in Chapter 7 of the BDCP. This organization will likely be a multi-agency effort involving DWR or supported by DWR.

Second, a Delta Conveyance Facility Design and Construction Enterprise (DCE) will be established within the Department as a new program to support activities associated with design and construction of conservation measure 1, the Delta Conveyance facilities. The mission of this enterprise is intended to be limited to this singular focus, and the life span of the enterprise will be limited to the time necessary to complete construction of these facilities. The organizational structure and staffing of the DCE is envisioned to be somewhat unique in comparison to a typical DWR organization. It will be managed by a Program Manager under contract to DWR, and will be staffed by highly qualified individuals from within DWR, participating regional and local public water agencies, and private consulting firms. As part of DWR, it will have the capacity to issue contracts for consulting services as well as construction, using DWR’s authority and in keeping with all applicable State contracting statutes. Initially the DCE will be located in the Bonderson Building, but it is anticipated that it will move to another location to accommodate the growth needed to complete the design and construction of the conveyance facilities.

Undoubtedly, a number of questions will arise about how these two structures will mesh with our existing organization at DWR, and we will be working with you all to elicit your questions and develop solutions together. I look forward to your continued support as we enter into this exciting phase of the BDCP which will shape the future of Delta ecological restoration and water project operations.

Mark W. Cowin

Director

California can’t tunnel its way out of drought

Crossposted from Restore the Delta. Opponents of Gov. Brown’s rush to build Peripheral Tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today called the tunnels a flawed solution for a drought-plagued state. The experts criticized the tunnels as an outdated, inappropriate solution to California’s water challenges, one that would create no new water, be of no use in dry years, and drain $70 billion that could otherwise be spent on projects that create new water and increase regional water independence.

“The governor’s tunnels are based on flawed and outdated assumptions that there is ‘surplus’ water to export,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of RTD. “We have had three dry years in a row and the governor admits the tunnels won’t add one drop of water to our drought-plagued state. We need solutions more appropriate to our future water challenges, not this $70 billion mega-project that would misspend the billions needed for sustainable water solutions. Continue reading

Campaigners call for more consultation as Delta plan costs rise to $67 billion

By Dan Bacher. Campaigners have called for the Brown Administration to extend the time for citizens to comment on the massive Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) as news emerged that the total costs for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan  could be as high as $67 billion.

This new figure was revealed at a Westlands Water District board meeting in November 2013 by a Westlands staff member and a Citigroup bond consultant. It counters the claims by Brown administration officials over the past two years that the plan would cost $24.5 billion during its 50-year implementation period. Continue reading

10 reasons to oppose the Bay Delta tunnel project

Thanks to Restore the Delta for the suggested points.

  1. It will cost a lot of money: close to $17 billion to construct the Peripheral Tunnels, plus $8 billion for conservation measures.  This doesn’t include financing costs over the 50-year term of the project, which bring the total to over $50 billion. When was the last time that you saw a major public works project that didn’t far exceed initial cost estimates? Continue reading

 Bay Delta Conservation Plan is not the ‘most realistic plan’

by Dan Bacher

Dennis McEwan’s opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee glorifying the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels is a classic example of the triumph of political science over natural science that characterizes the agency that he works for, the Department of Water Resources (DWR).

Nowhere in this piece does the DWR biologist mention that federal agency scientists skewered the BDCP’s draft environmental documents – and have repeatedly said that the plan’s implementation may hasten the extinction of Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other species. Continue reading

Winnemem Wintu Reject Bay Delta Conservation Plan

Chief Caleen Sisk re-affirmed the Winnemem Wintu opposition’s against the construction of the peripheral water export tunnels and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), as Governor Jerry Brown’s administration released the preliminary Environmental Impact Report and the BDCP plan to the public on December 9 2013.

As California’s State Water Project currently operates, far too much water is sucked from the San Francisco/Sacramento Delta, the largest estuary on the Pacific Coast, and sent to the state’s water brokers, who support unsustainable industrial agriculture, destructive hydraulic fracking for oil extraction and municipal developments in the desert. 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.

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