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LA Times Greenwashes Marine Life Protection Act Initiative

by: Dan Bacher

Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 21:06:37 PM PST


Alleged "marine reserve" network doesn't protect the ocean  

Today's LA Times article, "California's marine reserve network now complete," claims that "California officials today completed the largest network of undersea parks in the continental United States - 848 square miles of protected waters that reach from the Oregon state line to the Mexican border." (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-undersea-parks-20121219,0,4717471.story)

However, this article, as previous ones in the Times, fails to address any of the real, substantial criticisms of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative process by grassroots environmentalists, Indian Tribe members, commercial fishermen, recreational anglers and advocates of democracy and transparency in government.

The reporter, Kenneth R. Weiss, portrays a false conflict of "fishermen versus environmentalists" over the MLPA Initiative when the real conflict is one of public policy between those that favor corporate greenwashing and the privatization of conservation and those who oppose corporate greenwashing and the privatization of conservation. The reporter fails to mention the "inconvenient truths" about the MLPA Initiative.

First, the Times falsely portrays the new closed zones as "undersea parks" when they are anything but. These so-called "marine protected areas" do not protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, military testing, corporate aquaculture, wind and wave energy projects and all other impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

In violation of the letter and spirit of the landmark Marine Life Protection Act of 1999, these marine reserves fail to comprehensively protect the ocean from ocean industrialization and other threats to the marine ecosystem.

"Marine protected areas can in some instances be beneficial for specific areas, species or ecosystems," said Zeke Grader, Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "However, the problem we have here is that these 'marine protected areas' are in essence no fishing zones and they don't protect for water quality and other types of development or insults to the environment from activities such as seismic testing."

Oil-industry overseen 'protection'

Second, the Times fails to mention that the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces that oversaw the implementation of these "marine protected areas" included a big oil lobbyist, marina developer, real estate executive and other individuals with numerous conflicts of interest.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, served on the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces for the South Coast, Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast. Reheis-Boyd, a relentless advocate for offshore oil drilling, hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the Keystone XL Pipeline and the weakening of environmental laws, CHAIRED the task force that developed the MPAs that went into effect in Southern California on January 1. (http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2012/06/24/the-most-censored-environmental-story-of-2012)

Most recently, Reheis-Boyd on December 10 claimed that "hydraulic fracturing is safe for California" in her letter to the editor in the Sacramento Bee. (http://www.sacbee.com/2012/12/10/5040406/hydraulic-fracturing.html)

"Hydraulic fracturing has been employed in California for 60 years and there has never been evidence that it has caused harm to water supplies or the environment," she claimed. "As president of the Western States Petroleum Association, I can state that members remain committed to producing safe, reliable California energy supplies while continuing to protect the environment and public health."

If having a big oil lobbyist, an advocate for offshore oil drilling and hydrofracking, in charge of the development of "marine protected areas" on the South Coast isn't corporate greenwashing and bad public policy, I don't know what is!

Many grassroots environmentalists and fishermen believe that Reheis-Boyd was appointed to the task force to make sure that the oil industry's interests were protected and to ensure that recreational and commercial fishermen and seaweed harvesters, the most vocal opponents of offshore oil drilling and hydrofracking, are removed from many areas on the ocean to clear a path for ocean industrialization.

David Gurney, independent journalist and co-chair of the Ocean Protection Coalition, commented on the opening of new lease-sales for hydrofracking - and Reheis-Boyd's role in pushing for increased fracking in California. (http://noyonews.net/?p=8215)

"Last week, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced new lease-sales for Bureau of Land Management lands in California for 'fracking' development. Offshore areas are showing up on maps: reservoirs of underwater natural gas deposits, that lie under the ocean off Santa Barbara and Southern California," he said.

"It's clear that government and petroleum officials want to 'frack' in the very same areas Reheis-Boyd was appointed to oversee as a 'guardian' of marine habitat protection for the MLPA 'Initiative,'"said Gurney.

"What's becoming obvious is that Reheis-Boyd's expedient presence on the 'Blue Ribbon Task Force' for the MLPAI was a ploy for the oil industry to make sure no restrictions applied against drilling or fracking in or around so-called marine protected areas," Gurney emphasized.

"Objections to the obvious conflict of interest of Reheis-Boyd at the top level of the MLPA 'Initiative' fell upon deaf ears during the MLPAI's run, and were in fact actively discouraged by the Kearns and West energy interest facilitators during the quasi 'public process,' during which fishing and food gathering interests were exclusively thrown off areas of ocean slated to become sacrifice zones for oil industry pollution," concluded Gurney.

Resources Legacy Foundation: The shadowy foundation behind the MLPA Initiative

Third, the Times claims that "Michael Mantell, a Sacramento lawyer who coordinates philanthropy and conservation, organized the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Marisla Foundation and two others to pick up the state's costs, including paying for panels of local leaders to take testimony and make recommendations. So far, the foundations have spent more than $23 million."

However, the reporter doesn't mention that this money was funneled through the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation. This is an inherent conflict of interest, since this foundation also funds many of the corporate "environmental" NGOs who lobbied for the creation of marine reserves with the least possible protection from all other human impacts on the ocean other than fishing.

The Resources Legacy Fund Foundation also funds, along with the Stephen Bechtel Jr. Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) studies advocating the construction of a peripheral canal or tunnel. The canal or tunnel would hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon, steelhead, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish populations. (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/06/05/18714814.php)

Incomplete and terminally flawed science

Fourth, the Times failed to mention that the Northern California Tribal Chairman's Association, including the Chairs of the Elk Valley Rancheria, Hoopa Valley Tribe, Karuk Tribe, Smith River Rancheria, Trinidad Rancheria, and Yurok Tribe, believes the science behind the MLPA Initiative developed by Schwarzenegger's Science Advisory Team is "incomplete and terminally flawed." (http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2012/06/08/yurok-tribe-challenges-mlpa-initiatives-terminally-flawed-science)

The Yurok Tribe said it has attempted on numerous occasions to address the scientific inadequacies with the MLPA science developed under the Schwarzenegger administration by adding "more robust protocols" into the equation, but was denied every time. This denial of consideration of the Tribe's scientific data flies in the face of false claims by MLPA advocates that the privately funded initiative creates "Yosemites of the Sea" and "underwater parks" based on "science."

For example, the MLPA Science Advisory Team in August 2010 turned down a request by the Yurok Tribe to make a presentation to the panel. Among other data, the Tribe was going to present data of test results from other marine reserves regarding mussels.

"The data would have shown that there was not a statistical difference in the diversity of species from the harvested and un-harvested areas," wrote John Corbett, Yurok Tribe Senior Attorney, in a letter to the Science Advisory Team on January 12, 2011. "The presentation would have encompassed the work of Smith, J.R. Gong and RF Ambrose, 2008, The Impacts of Human Visitation on Mussel Bed Communities along the California Coast: Are Regulatory Marine Reserves Effective in Protecting these Communities.'"

It must be noted that Ron LeValley, Co-Chair of the MLPA Science Advisory Team for the North Coast, and two others were arrested earlier this year by the Del Norte County District Attorney for conspiracy to embezzle over $870,000 from the Yurok Tribe. "Raymond, McAllister and LeValley are accused of using an elaborate system of fake invoices, false purchase requests and electronic bank transfers to embezzle more than $870,000 in federal funds from the Yurok Tribe during a three-year period of wildlife preservation studies," according to the Eureka Times Standard on September 28. For more information, go to: http://www.times-standard.com/...

The LA Times article, as many others published about this process, fails to mention the conflicts of interest, failure to comprehensively protect the ocean, shadowy private funding and incomplete and terminally flawed science that have made the MLPA Initiative into one of the most egregious examples of corporate greenwashing in California history.

The LA Times, by failing to do any research into the conflicts of interest and multitude of public policy problems that plagued the MLPA Initiative, performs a great disservice to its readers and effectively greenwashes this privately funded, rigged process.  

Dan Bacher :: LA Times Greenwashes Marine Life Protection Act Initiative
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