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Jerry Brown

Oil lobbyist/former MLPA chair praises release of fracking EIR

by: Dan Bacher

Tue Jan 20, 2015 at 18:44:25 PM PST

The oil industry praised the release of the California Natural Resources Agency's draft environmental impact report of fracking operations in California, while environmental groups slammed the report for failing to address the many major risks posed by the controversial well stimulation technique.

Catherine Reheis Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called "marine protected areas" in Southern California, praised the Brown administration's release of the regulation in a statement.

"The release of the draft EIR on Well Stimulation Operations marks an important milestone in meeting the deadlines set by Senate Bill 4. WSPA and our members are reviewing the details of the draft EIR and will continue to participate in workshops and public discussion regarding SB 4," said Reheis-Boyd.

"While we are pleased with the state's process on implementing Senate Bill 4, it is important to note the draft EIR contemplates hypothetical development scenarios and provides a high level review. To date, well stimulation in California has never been associated with any known adverse environmental impacts," Reheis-Boyd claimed. (http://www.wspa.org/blog/post/wspa-president-comments-report-detailing-environmental-impact-well-stimulation-operations)

In contrast with Reheis Boyd's claim that the release of the draft regulations mark an "important milestone" in meeting the deadlines set by Senate Bill 4, the Center for Biological for Biological Diversity said the draft environmental review of fracking "fails to adequately analyze many major risks from fracking, including air and water pollution and risks to public health."

The group noted that the review by California's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources was released even though state scientists are still six months away from completing their analysis of the risks and harms of the controversial form of oil and gas extraction.

"The California Council on Science and Technology today released the first volume of a state-commissioned, three-part fracking study," according to the Center. "The other two volumes won't be released until July, and the first volume addresses only the extent of fracking in California and does not assess risks."

"State oil officials' deeply flawed fracking review shows the urgent need for Gov. Brown to institute an immediate moratorium on fracking and other dangerous oil and gas development," said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity. "State regulators are shrugging off the grave threats to our air, water and health from oil and gas wells. Instead of whitewashing the risks, California needs to follow New York's lead and halt these dangerous activities immediately."

The science council reported that fracking is heavily concentrated in communities in the San Joaquin Valley, which already suffers some of the nation's most polluted air.

According to a recent American Lung Association report, the five cities with the most polluted air in the nation are in California - and three out of these five are in the San Joaquin Valley. (http://www.stateoftheair.org/2014/city-rankings/most-polluted-cities.html

These five cities are:
#1: Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
#2: Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, CA
#3: Bakersfield, CA
#4: Fresno-Madera, CA
#5: Sacramento-Roseville, CA

But the council also said that fracking has occurred in at least 96 different oil and gas fields around the state and reiterated concerns about the risk of contaminated oil industry wastewater potentially being used to irrigate crops.

"The draft report from DOGGR focuses almost exclusively on fracking and other well-stimulation techniques, rather than considering the risks and harms associated with all phases of drilling and production, which cannot be separated from well stimulation," said Siegel. "Because of this flawed approach, state regulators can't fully analyze the environmental risks, but even this incomplete review admits fracking causes significant and unavoidable damage to California's air, biological and cultural resources, public safety and climate."

She also said the DOGGR review downplays the risks of water pollution, despite a previous finding from state scientists that fracking in California occurs at shallower depths than elsewhere, increasing the potential threat of contaminating groundwater, and despite the state's failure to protect groundwater from pollution by oil and gas wastewater, as required by federal law.

The Environmental Protection Agency has found "serious deficiencies" in California's effort to protect water supplies from contaminated oil industry wastewater, according to Siegel. Almost 3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater have been illegally dumped into central California aquifers that should have been protected under federal law and are clean enough to supply drinking water and farming irrigation, according to recently released state documents obtained by the Center.

The wastewater entered the aquifers through at least nine injection disposal wells used by the oil industry to dispose of waste contaminated with fracking (hydraulic fracturing) fluids and other pollutants. (http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/california_fracking/pdfs/20140915_State_Board_UIC_well_list_Category_1a.pdf)

Siegel said thousands of wells have already been fracked in 15 counties across California, as well as in the state's coastal waters.

The oil industry has been fracking like crazy off the Southern California coast over the past two decades, including the years that the WSPA President served as the Chair of the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create questionable "marine protected areas" in Southern California.

"In waters off Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach - some of the region's most popular surfing strands and tourist attractions - oil companies have used fracking at least 203 times at six sites in the past two decades, according to interviews and drilling records obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request," stated am Associated Press report published on October 19, 2013 (http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/10/19/calif-finds-more-instances-of-offshore-fracking/3045721/)

New York health officials recently released a fracking analysis that found that fracking posed significant threats to the environment and public health, noted Siegel. On the basis of that report, New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a ban on fracking in that state.

"Gov. Brown must follow New York's lead and protect our health and climate from oil and gas pollution," Siegel concluded.

Background: Big Oil Money and Power in California

While there are many powerful industries based in California, ranging from the computer and high tech industry to corporate agribusiness, no industry has more influence over the state's environmental policies than Big Oil.

The oil industry has spent over $70 million on lobbyists in California since January 2009, including record amounts of money spent during the third quarter of 2014, according to a recent report written by Will Barrett, the Senior Policy Analyst for the American Lung Association in California. (http://www.lung.org/associations/states/california/advocacy/climate-change/oil-industy-lobbying-report.pdf)

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) the most powerful corporate lobbying organization in Sacramento, topped the oil industry spending with a total of $31,179,039 spent on lobbying since January 1, 2009. Chevron was second in lobbying expenses with a total of $15,542,565 spent during the same period.

From July 1 to September 30 alone, the oil industry spent an unprecedented $7.1 million lobbying elected officials in California "with a major focus on getting oil companies out of a major clean air regulation," said Barrett.

And this doesn't include spending on ballot measures or the recent election, including Chevron spending $3 million (unsuccessfully!) to elect "their" candidates to the Richmond City Council. Big Oil also dumped $7.6 million into defeating a measure calling for a fracking ban in Santa Barbara County and nearly $2 million into an unsuccessful campaign to defeat a measure banning fracking and other extreme oil extraction techniques in San Benito County.

Not only does Big Oil spend many millions every year on lobbying and campaign contributions, but its representatives also serve on state and federal regulatory panels and fund "Astroturf" campaigns to eviscerate environmental laws.

In one of the most overt conflicts of interest in California history, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, served as the Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force to create fake "marine protected areas" in Southern California. Not only did she serve on this panel, but she also was a member of the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.

These so-called "marine protected areas" fail to protect the ocean from fracking, offshore oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

Not only did these so-called "Yosemites of the Sea" fail to protect the ocean, but they violate the traditional fishing and gathering rights of the Yurok Tribe and other Indian Nations and are based on terminally flawed and incomplete science. In fact, Ron LeValley, the Co-Chair of the MLPA Initiative Science Advisory Team for the North Coast, is currently in federal prison for conspiracy to embezzle $850,000 from the Yurok Tribe.

People need to understand that the millions Chevron and other oil companies have spent on lobbying, campaign contributions and setting up "Astroturf" groups promoting the oil industry agenda are small change to Big Oil. The five big oil companies - BP, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, Exxon Mobil and Shell - made a combined total of $93 billion in profits last year. Big Oil's estimated profits in 2014 were over $96 billion. (http://www.stopfoolingca.org/)

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30,000 people demand that Big Oil Brown halt offshore fracking

by: Dan Bacher

Mon Nov 17, 2014 at 15:48:31 PM PST

The state and federal governments have been in collusion with Big Oil in California for decades - and people concerned about the future of fish, wildlife and the oceans are fed up with the fact that Southern California's oceans were fracked at least 203 times over the past 20 years.

Citing the threats to coastal communities and marine wildlife posed by fracking pollution, the Center for Biological Diversity on Wednesday, November 12 delivered a petition signed by more than 30,000 people urging Governor Jerry Brown to halt offshore fracking in California's coastal waters.

The petition was released the same week that a new report by American Lung Association's Center for Tobacco Policy and Organizing revealed that the oil industry from July through Sept 2014 spent an amazing $7.1 million lobbying legislators in Sacramento.

"California's coast is a natural treasure, upon which millions of people and animals depend. But now oil companies are threatening entire ecosystems by intensifying drilling with toxic fracking techniques," the petition says.

It urges Brown to "act now to halt this dangerous practice and preserve our oceans for future generations."

"Thousands of people are urging Gov. Brown to stop offshore fracking before dangerous chemicals or an oil spill inflict catastrophic damage," said Miyoko Sakashita, the Center's Oceans director. "Fracking offshore and onshore poses a toxic threat to our air, water and wildlife. The governor can end fracking in California and reject oil development plans that would frack federal waters off our coast."

The Center wants Brown to halt offshore fracking in state waters under the Emergency Service Act, which authorizes the governor to impose a broad array of measures to protect the health and safety of state residents. Federal law also gives governors a special say in offshore oil and gas decisions that Brown could use to fight fracking in federal waters in the Santa Barbara Channel, according to Yamashita.

Yamashita said oil companies have fracked hundreds of wells off California's coast and the oil industry has federal permission to annually dump more than 9 billion gallons of wastewater, including chemical-laden fracking fluid, directly into the ocean off California's coast.

This rampant fracking has only become possible because of the cozy relationship between federal and state regulators and the oil industry, the largest and most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento.

"The California Coastal Commission, meeting this week in Half Moon Bay, has struggled to determine the full extent of offshore fracking, which involves blasting water and industrial chemicals into the seafloor at pressures high enough to crack rocks and release oil and gas," according to Sakashita.

Offshore fracking is no surprise

The intensive fracking taking place off the California coast is no surprise to grassroots environmentalists, fishermen and Tribal leaders who challenged the corrupt Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.

In one of the biggest conflicts of interest in recent California history, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and leader of the campaign to expand offshore oil drilling and fracking in California, CHAIRED the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create fake "marine protected areas" on the South Coast. She also served on the task forces to create the alleged "marine protected areas" on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.

This is not just a case of where the regulated have captured the regulators. In the case of the MLPA Initiative, the regulated - a big oil lobbyist and other corporate interests - actually served as the regulators!

The MLPA Initiative, funded by the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, created so-called "marine protected areas" that fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and Tribal gathering. These "marine protected areas" are good for Big Oil, polluters and corporate interests - and bad for sustainable fishermen, tribal gatherers and the public trust.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and media investigations by Associated Press and truthout.org reveal that the ocean has been fracked at least 203 times in the past 20 years, including the period from 2004 to 2012 that Reheis-Boyd served as a "marine guardian." (http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/10/19/calif-finds-more-instances-of-offshore-fracking/3045721/)

The Western States Petroleum Association that Reheis-Boyd heads is the most powerful corporate lobbying group in California. The association spent over $4 million, a new record, for the three month period from July 1 through September 30. (http://truth-out.org/news/item/27373-western-states-petroleum-association-spent-4-million-lobbying-this-summer)

New report documents Big Oil's increase in lobbying expenses!

Will Barrett, the Senior Policy Analyst for the American Lung Association in California, has just published a new report revealing that the oil industry has spent $70 million on lobbyists in California since 2009. (See the in-depth analysis here: http://www.lung.org/associatio...

In the last three months alone, the oil industry has spent an unprecedented $7.1 million lobbying elected officials with a major focus on getting oil companies out of a major clean air regulation.

The oil industry spending total from July through Sept 2014 amounts to an amazing $2.4 million/month, $78,000/day, $3,200/hour, $54/minute and $1/second!

And this doesn't include spending on ballot measures or the recent election, including Chevron spending $3 million (unsuccessfully) to elect "their" candidates to the Richmond City Council. Big Oil also dumped $7.6 million into defeating a measure calling for a fracking ban in Santa Barbara County and nearly $2 million into an unsuccessful campaign to defeat a measure banning fracking and other extreme oil extraction techniques in San Benito County.

The report documented record money spent on lobbying by the oil industry through the first 9 months of 2014. Big Oil has spent $13.6 million lobbying elected officials so far this year:
• This surpassed the prior record ($13.5 million) seen in all of 2013.
• The industry pent $1.5 million per month lobbying in 2014.
• Oil interests represented 17 percent of all lobbying in California last quarter.

The report also revealed huge increases in July-September 2014 compared to previous quarters. Big Oil made significant increases in spending in 2014 as the legislative session came to a close and as the industry intensified its anti-AB 32 campaign:
• The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), whose president oversaw the creation of so-called "marine protected areas" in Southern California, spent $4 million in the last three months alone, more than twice historical levels
• WSPA spent more than $7 million so far in 2014, leading all statewide lobbying by a wide margin
• WSPA paid nearly $2.5 million to KP Public Affairs in 2013-14, the state's highest paid lobbying firm.
• Eight oil interests spent their most ever lobbying in California
• Four broke annual spending records in just 9 months.
• Phillips66 (4), Chevron (6) and Valero (9) are also all among the top ten lobbying spenders from July-Sept 2014.
• Phillips66 spent $880,000, 4 times over its recent average
• Valero spent $542,000 in 3 months - more than the prior 42 months combined.

Data source: Secretary of State's online campaign finance/lobbying disclosure database

For more information, go to: http://www.lung.org/associatio...

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Brown Signs Bag Ban, Martins Beach Access Law, and Ends Gay/Trans Panic Defense

by: Brian Leubitz

Tue Sep 30, 2014 at 17:44:32 PM PDT

SeaOttersdotComCalifornia becomes first state in the nation to ban plastic bags, but it could be headed to the ballot

by Brian Leubitz

Early next year, California will become the first state in the nation to bag plastic bags. Maybe:

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the nation's first statewide ban on the use of plastic bags in grocery stores and other businesses on Tuesday.
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An industry group representing plastic-bag makers, called the American Progressive Bag Alliance, said Tuesday they plan to put a referendum on the ballot in 2016 to repeal the California ban.(WSJ)

If the bag companies are able to referendum the bill, it would mean that the ban wouldn't go into effect until after the 2016 election. Given that the companies seem willing to pile money into a campaign, it seems something of a foregone conclusion that we will see an election on this one.

In other big legislation news, tech mogul Vinod Khosla was dealt a blow in his attempt to close the road to Martins Beach, a surfer favorite. Khosla has been fighting for a couple of years to close the road, in courts and against the legislation that Gov. Brown signed on Tuesday. Basically the law requires negotiation with Khosla for a year, and then authorizes eminent domain of the road if the negotiations are fruitless.

In other news, the LGBT community got a big victory with the Governor signing a bill that bans the use of the "gay panic" and "trans panic" defenses.

Simply put, gay panic is the notion that acts of violence are partly justifiable when a person's all-consuming hatred for LGBT people causes them to go berserk or act with "diminished capacity." It's a heinous defense tactic that banks on a judge or jury's own homophobia, apportioning some blame onto victims in order to get a murder charge downgraded to manslaughter. Leaning on a "heat of passion" line of thinking deliberately turns a trial into something out of a pulp novel. Gay panic benefits from anti-LGBT bias, and adds to it as well, by dredging up ancient stereotypes of gays as sexual predators who can't be trusted not to curb their appetites.
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But it's no longer a justifiable defense in Golden State courtrooms, since Assemblymember Susan Bonilla (an East Bay Democrat) has pushed a bill banning both gay panic and transgender panic as legal defenses through the legislature. Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 2501 into law over the weekend, continuing to put the state at the forefront of LGBT rights. (SF Weekly)

It is easy to overlook this bill, or think this is some historical relic. But this is real, and really offensive every time it is used. It is a big step forward for civil rights in California and across the country.

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Gov. Brown's Pen is Busy

by: Brian Leubitz

Mon Sep 29, 2014 at 10:24:12 AM PDT

California State Capitol 2Governor is tearing through the stack of legislation on his desk

by Brian Leubitz

The Horseshoe is busy. Very busy. And it isn't just the governor and his legislative staff. Those folks who post his press releases on the website must be pulling all-nighters.

If you check the Governor's official press release page, you will see a slew of signed and vetoed legislation. And that is just a fraction of what the bills that they are actually going through. The press releases from legislators, interest groups, and the governor are generally flying fast and furious.

Perhaps to emphasize his middle of the road politics these days, the Governor has taken exactly that approach to new labor legislation. He signed legislation that will hold businesses liable for subcontractor's labor violations, but he also vetoed a bill that would have made it harder for BigAg to stall new contracts with farm laborers. Despite the latter bill being dubbed one of the CalChamber's top "JobKillers", the bill made it through the Legislature. That's usually quite the feat, but with Sen. Steinberg pushing it, shouldn't be too much of a surprise. In his veto message, Gov. Brown says he wants to view the whole process rather than nibbling at one side or the other.

In another major piece of legislation, the governor vetoed a drone surveillance measure by Republican Asm. Jeff Gorell

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday vetoed a bill that would have required law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants to use drones for surveillance.
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The bill, AB 1327, would have required the government to secure a warrant from a judge before using surveillance drones except in cases of environmental emergencies such as oil or chemical spills. Three other states have placed a moratorium on drone use by state and local agencies. (LA Times)

Given that the bill carried substantial support from both parties in the Legislature, one would expect to see a similar bill in the next session. Although, from the Governor's veto message, it may need to be defined on the basis of the federal and state constitutions without adding too much in the way of new privacy rights. It might be something of a threading the needle task for whomever takes up the task.

Of course, that is just the start, to get a full record keeping, you can check out the Governor's Legislative Updates on his official press release page.


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Big Oil Brown speaks at U.N. Climate Summit

by: Dan Bacher

Tue Sep 23, 2014 at 15:47:36 PM PDT

Jerry Brown, one of the worst governors for fish, water and the environment in California history, spoke today at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York today in a cynical attempt to greenwash his deplorable environmental record.

During his U.N. address, Governor Brown touted California's controversial carbon trading policies as an example of "innovative climate strategies."

"The California story is a very hopeful one," Brown claimed. "It's a story of Republican and Democratic governors pioneering innovative climate strategies. It's not been easy, it's not without contest, but we're making real progress."

In a video message ahead of the Summit, Brown claimed, ""We are carrying on because we know in California that carbon pollution kills, it undermines our environment, and, long-term, it's an economic loser. We face an existential challenge with the changes in our climate. The time to act is now. The place to look is California."

Yes, California, now under attack by the anti-environmental policies and carbon trading greenwashing campaign by Governor Brown, is definitely "the place to look" for one example after another of environmental destruction.

Once known as "Governor Moonbeam" for his quirkiness and eccentricities during his first two administrations from 1975 to 1983, has in his third administration transformed himself into "Big Oil Brown."

According to Jessie McKinley in the New York Times, The "Governor Moonbeam" nickname "was coined by Mike Royko, the famed Chicago columnist, who in 1976 said that Mr. Brown appeared to be attracting 'the moonbeam vote; which in Chicago political parlance meant young, idealistic and nontraditional." (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/07/weekinreview/07mckinley.html)

Thirty-eight years later, Oil Change International, a research, communication, and advocacy organization focused on "exposing the true costs of fossil fuels and facilitating the coming transition towards clean energy" has given Brown a new nickname, "Big Oil Brown," for the large contributions he has received from oil companies and his support of fracking. The web page dedicated to "Big Oil Brown" features Jerry attired in a suit and cowboy hat like a Texas oil baron right next to an oil rig (http://www.bigoilbrown.org/)

"California's Governor Jerry Brown has a problem: he wants to be seen as a climate champion who understands the science and takes this crisis seriously. At the same time, he just proposed new fracking rules in California that would amount to a gift to Big Oil. He can't have it both ways," according to the web page.

The group has also created a spoof ad about "Jerry Brown's Frackwater Cologne."

Leaders of environmental organizations, Indian Tribes and fishing groups are upset that Brown signed Senator Fran Pavley's Senate Bill 4, the green light for fracking bill that clears the path for expanded fracking in California, in September 2013. The last minute amendments to the bill by the oil industry were so odious that they spurred the League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense Fund to withdraw their support at the last minute for the already weak legislation.

The bill made California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review of fracking permits optional and prevents imposing a moratorium on fracking for 15 months.

Big Oil strongly supported the amended version of Senate Bill 4 that Brown signed. Just ask Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association and former chair of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, who praised the governor's signing of Senate Bill 4 for creating the "environmental" platform to expand fracking in California. (http://www.wspa.org/blog/post/statement-wspa-president-catherine-reheis-boyd-signing-sb-4)

"With the signing of Senate Bill 4, California has the toughest regulations of hydraulic fracturing and other energy production technologies in the country," said Reheis-Boyd. "While SB 4's requirements went significantly farther than the petroleum industry felt was necessary, we now have an environmental platform on which California can look toward the opportunity to responsibly develop the enormous potential energy resource contained in the Monterey Shale formation

Brown has received over $2 million from Big Oil

Brown signed the bill after receiving at least $2,014,570.22 from fossil fuel interests since his race for Attorney General in 2006. (http://www.bigoilbrown.org/frackwater/)

In the 2014 election cycle, four oil companies have contributed a total of $161,000 to the Brown campaign to date, according to Oil Change International. Occidental Petroleum has given $27,200, the maximum legally allowed. Edison and Chevron have both contributed $27,200 twice, once for the primary election and another for the general election. Phillips 66 has nearly maxed out with a $25,000 contribution. Fossil fuel industry contributions in 2010 Governor's race were $198,451.22.

Proposition 30, one of the Governor's signature policy initiatives in 2012, was also heavily funded by Big Oil. The oil and gas companies contributed over $1,118,418 to the campaign, including $500,000 from Occidental Petroleum.

It gets worse. Opponents of Proposition 1, the controversial State Water Bond, on September 20 criticized Governor Jerry Brown and the backers of Prop. 1 for taking over $2.8 million raised to enact a tax increase for public education through Proposition 30 and diverting it to their campaign to pass "the biggest dam-building program in California history!"

Carolee Krieger, No on Prop. 1 leader and California Water Impact Network (CWIN) Executive Director, said, "The governor is using a legal loophole to divert donations for public education to back his deadbeat dams, pork programs and subsidies for huge agribusiness. None of the donors of this $2.8 million left over from Prop. 30 could have had any idea their money would be spent on this water bond." (http://cal-access.sos.ca.gov/Campaign/Committees/Detail.aspx?)

In addition, fossil fuel industry interests have donated $355,000 to Brown's two Oakland charter schools since 2006. In 2013 alone, Occidental Petroleum gave The Oakland Military Institute $150,000 at Brown's behest.

Brown backs carbon trading, Delta death tunnels

But the Governor's signing of the green light to fracking bill is just one of the many attacks on the environment that Brown has engaged in.

Governor Brown is an avid supporter of the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation+) that allows Northern Hemisphere polluters to buy forest carbon offset credits from the global South. Brown is trying to link an agreement among Chiapas, Mexico; Acre, Brazil; and California, to AB32, which commits to a 25% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions for 2020, and an 80% reduction for 2050).

Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, exposed the impact of Brown's REDD policies on the environment and Indigenous Peoples when he spoke at a protest against Brown's failed environmental policies in San Francisco on October 17, 2013 when Brown was slated to receive environmental leadership award by the Blue Green Alliance. Brown didn't show up, probably because of those, including Goldtooth and Michael Preston of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, who gathered outside to protest the event. (http://www.ienearth.org/press-statement-tom-goldtooth-behind-the-backs-of-the-people-of-california/:

"Despite being awarded, as I speak, for his supposed environmentalism, Governor Brown is moving ahead with a policy that grabs land, clear-cuts forests, destroys biodiversity, abuses Mother Earth, pimps Father Sky and threatens the cultural survival of Indigenous Peoples

This policy privatizes the air we breathe. Commodifies the clouds. Buy and sells the atmosphere. Corrupts the Sacred.

This policy is called carbon trading and REDD. REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation. But REDD really means Reaping profits from Evictions, land grabs, Deforestation and Destruction of biodiversity. REDD does nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at source. And REDD may result in the biggest land grab of the last 500 years."

Brown has also rushed the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels, a $67 billion boondoggle that will hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt and numerous other fish species, as well as imperiling salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath Rivers. The plan would take large tracts of fertile Delta farmland out of production in order to irrigate drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, all under the guise of "habitat restoration."

Every scientific panel, ranging from the Independent Delta Science Board to the National Academy of Sciences, has criticized the flawed "science" behind the twin tunnel plan.

More recently, the state and federal governments decided to delay the proposed project following the 43-page comment letter by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) slamming the Bay Delta Conservation Plan's draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS).

The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) said the controversial plan to construct two 35-mile long tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to divert Sacramento River water to "agricultural plantations" in the deserts of southern California "was placed on life support" when the California Department of Water Resources announced that a revised EIR/EIS would be delayed until sometime in 2015.

"BDCP's friends and family anxiously expressed hope that an infusion of additional millions of dollars and months of treatment would enable the project to recover," quipped Bill Jennings, CSPA Executive Director. "However, the EPA comments coming on top of some 4,500 pages of searing reviews by municipalities, counties and water agencies that would be adversely impacted by the project, almost 2,000 pages of highly critical comments by environmental and fishing organizations, hundreds of pages of harsh analyses by government agencies and stinging comments from many thousands of California citizens reveal that BDCP is suffering from a congenital terminal illness. (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/08/29/18760890.php)

Brown administration exported record amounts of Delta water

The Brown administration also authorized the export of record water amounts of water from the Delta in 2011 - 6,520,000 acre-feet, 217,000 acre feet more than the previous record of 6,303,000 acre feet set in 2005 under Schwarzenegger. Most of this water went to corporate agribusiness, including mega-farmers irrigating unsustainable, selenium-laced land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

The record water exports spurred massive fish kills at the state and federal Delta pumps. The Brown administration "salvaged" a record of nearly 9 million Sacramento splittail and over 2 million salmon, steelhead, striped bass, largemouth bass, threadfin shad, white catfish and sturgeon in the Delta export pumping facilities in 2011. Since the actual number of fish killed in the pumps is at least 5 to 10 times those reported, the actual number of fish killed is probably 55 million to 110 million.

More recently, Governor and the Obama administration oversaw the systematic emptying of Folsom and other northern California reservoirs last year during a record drought, imperiling struggling salmon and steelhead populations and local water supplies. (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/02/07/1275862/-The-Emptying-of-Northern-California-Reservoirs)

And if that wasn't bad enough, the Brown and Obama administration's anti-fish and pro-agribusiness policies have resulted in pushing Delta fish populations closer to extinction. A Delta fish survey released by the California Department of Wildlife in January 2014 confirms the continuing collapse of the ecosystem of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas.

The 2013 indices (a relative number of abundance) for Delta smelt, a federal and state endangered species, and American shad were the second lowest in the 46 years of the survey. The striped bass index was tied for third lowest, while the longfin smelt and threadfin shad indices were the eighth and fifth lowest, respectively, according to Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. (http://truth-out.org/speakout/item/21219-delta-fish-survey-reveals-an-ecosystem-in-collapse

Oil lobbyist-overseen marine "protection"

Brown has also forged ahead with one of the worst environmental programs of the Schwarzenegger regime, the privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative. In one of the most egregious conflicts of interests in modern California history, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), chaired the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, as well as serving on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast. (http://intercontinentalcry.org/the-five-inconvenient-truths-about-the-mlpa-initiative/)

It is no surprise that the alleged "marine protected areas" fast-tracked under the Schwarzenegger and Brown administrations fail to protect the ocean from pollution, fracking, offshore oil drilling, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering.

In fact, a Freedom of Information Act and Associated Press investigation last year revealed that Southern California marine waters were fracked at least 203 times in the past 20 years. (http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/10/19/calif-finds-more-instances-of-offshore-fracking/3045721/)

Much of the fracking took place while the Western States Petroleum Association president was overseeing the creation of the oil industry-friendly "marine protected areas." Does anybody think there might have been a conflict of interest here?

Brown's relentless march to environmental destruction

Other abysmal environmental policies of the "Green Energy Governor" include the following:

• Department of Conservation Shake-Up: Brown fired Acting Director Derk Chernow and Oil and Gas Supervisor Elena Miller and appointed oil industry-friendly Mark Nechodom in 2011, amidst claims by the oil industry and their political allies that the two officials weren't granting permits quickly and easily enough. As a result, risky injection oil drilling permits increased by 18 percent. (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/12/30/18703640.php)

• California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA): Brown is trying to weaken or even eliminate CEQA, one of California's greatest environmental laws, to fast-track big developments for giant corporations like Walmart, Berkshire Hathaway, General Electric, Valero and Chevron.

• Clear cutting in the Sierra Nevada: Brown is doing nothing to stop Sierra Pacific Industries from clear cutting forests, destroying wildlife habitat, and contributing to climate change.

• "Theme Park" Wetlands: The Department of Fish and Wildlife under the Jerry Brown administration is working with the Annenberg Foundation to bulldoze a section of the Ballona Wetlands to build an interpretive center and help with the "restoration" of the land around the center.

As I have documented in article after article, Brown, rather than a being an "environmental leader" or "climate leader" as some proclaim, appears to be on a relentless march to the destruction of fish, water and the environment. He has definitely earned the nickname of "Big Oil Brown."

For more information about Brown's abysmal environmental policies, go to: http://www.counterpunch.org/20... or http://www.alternet.org/enviro...  

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Governor's Debate Gets Fiesty

by: Brian Leubitz

Fri Sep 05, 2014 at 08:18:10 AM PDT

Governor and challenger spar in sole debate

by Brian Leubitz

Neel Kashkari had his big moment in the spotlight last night at the governor's debate. Jerry Brown remains the prohibitive favorite with a 19.5 point lead in the RCP polling average. At this point, it would take something of a disaster on multiple fronts for Kashkari to surge past Brown.

But Brown is taking nothing for granted. His big war chest remains at the ready in case anything changes, and he is directly taking on his challenger. It began with a strong barb at Governor Brown from Kashkari:

His 40 years in government has left them out of touch with the struggles of working families. He has declared a governor -- a california comeback. It is not only go we have the had the best schools in california. Today's schools are ranked 46th out of 50 states. We used to have a vibrant job market. Today it is 44th out of 50 states. (CSPAN transcript)

And it just got more testy as it went along, closing with a nice summary by the Governor:

Four years ago when i came to Sacramento the place was in a shambles. A majority of people in California now feel we are on the right track. Five years ago only 13% felt we were on the right track. We are taking care of water and workers compensation and created a rainy day fund. {Before I arrived...}We lost 1.4 million jobs. Since i have been elected almost 1.3 million have come back and that isn't by accident.

And today's Field Poll confirms that topline number:

Californians are taking a more positive view of the direction of the state than then did four years ago when near record proportions (80%) felt the state was seriously off on the wrong track. Currently, slightly more voters believe the state is moving in the right direction (43%) as feel it is off on the wrong track (41%).

That is a big change. Yes, there is still work to do, but today California functions in a way it never did under Gov. Schwarzenegger. There are a lot of factors for that, but certainly Brown can claim a big chunk of that credit. He has made a difference in Sacramento, bringing competence and a steady firm hand on the tiller.

Kashkari attempted to talk about his "middle class plan" at every opportunity, but fundamentally it is just more Arnold-esque hooey. Lower taxes, and the jobs will flow. Meanwhile back in the real world, Brown can point to what he has already done with Prop 30 in bringing financial stability to the state for the past few years.

The whole debate is just under an hour, and worth a viewing (or two). You can watch it here or use the handy iframe to the right.

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Brown Signs Up for Debate with Kashkari

by: Brian Leubitz

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 17:34:59 PM PDT

Candidates for Governor will face off on Sep 4 in LA

by Brian Leubitz

Neel Kashkari has been lobbying for a debate with Governor Brown for a while. It's the typical challenger stuff, claiming he was dodging, or chicken, yada, yada. But for a position as large as Governor of California, a debate is a worthwhile use of everybody's time. Once you strip away all the BS, hopefully we can have a productive conversation. And that conversation will happen on September 4 in Los Angeles.

Kashkari had challenged Brown to 10 debates, but until now, Brown had brushed off that proposition. Most polls show Brown leading Kashkari by about 20 points, and last month the governor told reporters he "hadn't made up (his) mind" as to whether or not he'd debate the former U.S. Treasury Department official.

But both Brown and Kashkari campaigns have now agreed to the September debate, which will be produced by KQED, the Los Angeles Times, the California Channel and Telemundo California. KQED's senior California politics and government editor, John Myers, will moderate the one-hour forum. Journalists from the Los Angeles Times and Telemundo will ask the candidates questions as well. (KQED / Scott Detrow)

Yes, Brown is leading, and it would take some sort of monumental change for Kashkari to get close to the Governor in the vote total. But this should be an interesting chance to hear two perspectives on the state. Brown has a strong record these last four years, but maybe Kashkari can at least try to drag his party into something approaching respectability over these last two and a half months.

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Brown Outlines New Water Bond Proposal

by: Brian Leubitz

Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 09:15:44 AM PDT

Bond is about half as large as current package on November ballot, doesn't include peripheral canals

by Brian Leubitz

Sen. Lois Wolk has been working for a long time on getting a revised water bond package on the ballot to replace the current $11.75bn bond slated for this November. The legislators and the governor are worried, justifiably, that voters will be scared off by that number when considering authorizing additional debt. However, given the current drought, a strong consensus has emerged that we must do something.

But, of course, there are always stumbling blocks. Like, say, the concept of peripheral tunnels to bring water around the Bay Delta. Sen. Wolk outlines how she sees the three pillars of a deal:

"It has to be a reasonable bond. It has to have the support of the governor. It must be tunnel neutral, and he is very clear about that, and I support that strongly," said Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis), who represents the Delta. (Capital Public Radio / Ben Adler)

As you can hear in Ben Adler's clip above, the governor is a lot bit gunshy of adding additional debt. In something of a reversal of roles, the Republican caucus is pushing for a higher funding level, arguing that $2B of storage funds are insufficient, favoring a $3B minimum.

But, if the Governor can gather the votes that he needs before next week's deadline, his plan is likely to be the basis of the bond. While there may be a few changes here and there, one has to suspect that the time pressure will push Republicans toward accepting any deal that can get through the hurdles.

In a letter on his website, the Governor outlined his priorities for the package:

My $6 billion plan provides for water use efficiency and recycling, effective groundwater management and added storage. It invests in safe drinking water, particularly in disadvantaged communities and for watershed restoration and increased flows in some of our most important rivers and streams.

This water bond is tied to our comprehensive Water Action Plan that charts the way for California to become more resilient in the face of droughts and floods. It goes a long way to ensure clean drinking water, protect habitat and free up funding for local water projects.

See the flip for an outline of the spending priorities in the Governor's bond package as well as his open letter on the subject..

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George Will Thinks Kashkari is Goldwater 2.0. Goldwater 1.0 Rolls Over.

by: Brian Leubitz

Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 14:47:01 PM PDT

by Brian Leubitz

Neel Kashkari seems to be a bright man doing his best Don Quixote for the California GOP. He knows he isn't going to win without some sort of major Jerry Brown catastrophe. But, the party apparatus is thrilled that he defeated right wing nativist Tim Donnelly. Apparently so much so that GOP scribe George Will took to the pages of the Washington Post to declare that he is Goldwater 2.0:

Today, in this state where one in eight Americans lives, and where Democratic presidential candidates can reap 55 electoral votes without spending a dime or a day campaigning, the Republicans' gubernatorial candidate has an agenda and spirit similar to Goldwater's. Neel Kashkari is not, as some careless commentary suggests, an anti-Goldwater, diluting the state party's conservatism. He is Goldwater 2.0, defining conservatism a ­half-century on.

As Calitics has been down to a DDOS attack on the SoapBlox network, I've not been able to respond to this mularkey until now. And in the interim, the CalBuzz folks have taken Will's argument apart pretty completely.

This is, we report more in sadness than in anger, bullshit.
Maybe George had too many martinis wherever he was staying in Menlo Park when he wrote about Goldwater's nomination at the "unfortunately named Cow Palace" "fifty Julys ago, up the road near San Francisco." Or maybe he just had to come up with something to write off his trip out to the hustings. But he has no point, at least not one he shared with his readers.
Because: The widely known political imp Tyrion of Kashkari has not for one minute shown an interest in re-branding his party. He's desperately trying to make a case against a governor who balanced the budget and calmed the hyperpartisan dysfunction in Sacramento (with the help of voters who passed his tax measure, gave the Legislature the power to pass a budget with a majority of votes and approved measures to boost centrism).

To be honest, at many points it seems like Kashkari is running to get famous more than anything else. Not that I begrudge a campaign on a low budget, but after the fourth time guest hosting KFI's John and Ken Show, shouldn't somebody say something? I'm not sure Kashkari has the it in him to become a flamethrowing media personality, but you could see him landing a gig somewhere on TV or radio after all this is over. He hasn't really made any effort to change the hearts and minds of the still very much right-wing GOP base. He just was a slightly better option, and was able to squeak past Tim Donnelly by gathering 19.4% of the vote in the primary. There are a lot of people who voted for Donnelly, and they aren't going anywhere.

In the end, Kashkari is basically running around trying to do whatever he can to get noticed. The latest polls have him down 52-32, and he will never have the money to compete with the governor on the air waves. So, he goes where he can find a bit of free media and tries to maximize whatever he can get. That's about all you can do in a race like what he's facing. It is a daunting and thankless task, but he signed up for it.

Hey, Charlie Brown knew Lucy was going to move that football, but he still went for it, right?

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Brown Picks Mariano-Florentino Cuellar for Supreme Court

by: Brian Leubitz

Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 17:04:59 PM PDT

Stanford Law Professor is first of two picks that Brown will make

by Brian Leubitz

Gov. Brown will replace Justices Baxter and Kennard this year, and today he announced his first pick, Stanford law professor Mariano-Florentino Cuellar .

Cuellar, 41, was born in Matamoros, Mexico, and for years crossed the border by foot to attend school in Texas. He moved with his family to the Imperial Valley when he was 14 and obtained his bachelor's degree from Harvard College, his law degree from Yale Law School and a doctorate in political science from Stanford.

In selecting Cuellar, Gov. Jerry Brown said: "Tino Cuellar is a renowned scholar who has ... made significant contributions to both political science and the law. His vast knowledge and even temperament will - without question - add further luster to our highest court." (LA Times)

Baxter was widely considered one of the more conservative of the seven member court, so the replacement will likely shift the court leftward. While we can only speculate how a Justice Cuellar will rule, the fact is that Brown will have 3 of the 7 justices by next year. With another Brown administration very likely comes the very real possibility of a Brown majority on the court. And with his current appointment pattern, perhaps a very intellectual California Supreme Court as well.

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Federal judge denies motion to block water transfers

by: Dan Bacher

Sat Jul 12, 2014 at 12:08:08 PM PDT

A federal judge on July 11 denied a motion by an environmental group and fishing organization for a preliminary injunction against water transfers from northern California to San Joaquin Valley irrigators.

Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill of the U.S. District Court in Fresno rejected the motion for the preliminary injunction to stop the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation from transferring water through the south Delta export pumps to the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority, which includes the Westlands Water District.

The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) and AquAlliance filed the motion, claiming that the environmental assessment was "seriously flawed" and that the transfers posed "an eminent threat to threatened Delta smelt," according to a statement from Bill Jennings, CSPA Executive Director.

CSPA and AquAlliance had pointed out that extremely low Delta outflows this year had brought Delta smelt habitat (the low salinity zone) and Delta smelt into the Delta where they were threatened with lethal water temperatures.

The judge's decision was predicated on "agency deference" and the fact that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Bureau claimed that Delta smelt were not in danger because they're not in the Delta in summer, noted Jennings.

Jennings said, "We're deeply disappointed in the decision and will now decide our next steps. Contrary to the decision, Delta smelt are at severe risk. The U.S. Geological Survey's state-of-the-art flow gages of Delta outflow, confirmed by increasing salinity levels, reveal a net inflow to the Delta from the ocean."

Jennnings said the 23-26 June Delta smelt survey by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reveals that there are no Delta smelt in Suisun Bay and that 92.95% are in the Delta and exposed to high temperatures. A remnant group (7%) of Delta smelt is trapped in the Sacramento Ship Channel, but won't likely survive August temperatures.

State fishery biologists counted only 22 smelt, once the most numerous species in the entire Delta, from June 23 to June 26. The survey included 120 trawls at 40 different locations.

"The USFWS and Bureau have escorted Delta smelt to the scaffold and the judge signed the warrant. We did all we could do to prevent disaster," emphasized Jennings.

Jennings said the state and federal governments have mismanaged northern California water so poorly that there was actually a minus 45 cubic feet per second (cfs) net outflow to the Bay this May while the Department of Water Resources and US Bureau of Reclamation were reporting a plus 3805 cfs.

"Last year, excessive water exports and low outflow drew delta smelt from Suisun Bay into the central Delta where they were butchered by lethal water temperatures," Jennings revealed. "This year, with population levels hovering at historic lows: excessive transfers and exports, relaxed flow standards, high temperatures and negligible outflows may catapult the species into the abyss of extinction. On top of these threats, we were astonished to discover that the estimates of Delta outflow that state and federal agencies have reported and regulators have relied upon for years are wrong and significantly overestimate outflow in low flow conditions."

The Net Delta Outflow Index (NDOI) used to assess compliance with required flow standards is based upon a formula of both actual and estimated data. Examination of tidally filtered outflow data from the U.S. Geological Survey's state-of-the-art UVM flow meters on the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and Three-mile and Dutch Sloughs reveals that actual Net Delta Outflow (NDO) in low flow conditions are considerably lower, according to Jennings.

The Delta smelt, Hypomesus transpacificus, is an endangered fish from 2.0 to 2.8 inches long that is found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. It mainly inhabits the freshwater-saltwater mixing zone of the estuary, except during its spawning season when it migrates upstream to freshwater following winter "first flush" flow events, approximately from March to May.

The fish is an "indicator species" that demonstrates the health of the Bay-Delta Estuary, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas. Because of its one-year life cycle and relatively low fecundity, it is very susceptible to changes in the environmental conditions of its native habitat. Massive water exports out of Delta to corporate agribusiness interests have played a key role in the precipitous decline of the fish in recent years.  

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Activists in hazmat suits protest offshore fracking

by: Dan Bacher

Sat Jul 12, 2014 at 12:07:53 PM PDT

As the California Coastal Commission met in Ventura on Wednesday, July 9, a dozen hazmat-suit-wearing protesters with the Center for Biological Diversity and Food and Water Watch urged the commissioners to consider a biologist's warning that chemicals used in offshore fracking pose a toxic threat to sea mammals and coastal fish populations.

"We had really good turn out at the rally and it shows that a lot of people, especially those along the coast, are concerned about offshore fracking and its impacts," said Hillary Aidun of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The protest took place at 11 a.m. outside Ventura City Hall in Ventura. The Coastal Commission will also provide an update on the issue of offshore fracking during the second day of the meeting today.

"We now know that fracking chemicals pumped into California's offshore oil wells pose a scientifically documented danger to marine life," said Center biologist Shaye Wolf, who wrote the letter to the Commission. "The Coastal Commission needs to protect our waters by halting fracking off California's coast."

Oil companies have fracked at least 203 wells in waters off Huntington Beach, Long Beach and Seal Beach, as well as in federal waters in the Santa Barbara Channel, over the past 20 years, according to an Associated Press and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) investigation last year. (http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/10/19/calif-finds-more-instances-of-offshore-fracking/3045721/)

The Center analyzed the chemicals used during 19 fracking events at 19 different wells in California state waters reported during 2011 to 2013 on FracFocus. All 19 fracking events occurred in Long Beach Harbor within two miles from shore, Wolf wrote in her letter.

The letter explains that oil companies fracking in California waters have admitted to using at least 10 chemicals that can harm aquatic life. Nonylphenol ethoxylate, for example, is extremely toxic and has a long-lasting effect on aquatic environments, according to scientific research.

This chemical, which has been employed in at least 16 frack jobs in California state waters, can also bioaccumulate, that is, become dangerously concentrated in the bodies of creatures higher in the food chain, including sea otters.

"We found scientific studies indicating that at least 10 fracking fluid chemicals used offshore in California could kill or harm a broad variety of marine organisms, including sea otters, fish, and invertebrates, if released into the environment. Six of these 10 chemicals were used in all 19 frack jobs," the letter stated.

Fracking involves blasting massive amounts of water and industrial chemicals into the earth at pressures high enough to crack geologic formations and release oil and gas. Scientific studies have revealed that fracking poses consider harm not only to fish and other aquatic life, but to human health as well.

Fracking operations can also spur earthquakes. A substantial number of earthquakes in one region of Oklahoma over the past several years can be linked to the process of fracking, according to a new study from Science magazine.

"About half the oil platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel discharge wastewater into the sea," according to the Center. "The oil industry has federal permission to dump more than 9 billion gallons of wastewater, including fracking fluid, directly into the ocean off California's coast every year. Fracking chemicals can cause cancer and pose an ecological hazard in these wildlife-rich waters."

For more about offshore fracking, please go to http://www.StopOceanFracking.org.

Ironically, the same oil industry lobbyist who is leading the charge to expand fracking in California also served as chair of the state panel that created a series of so-called "marine protected areas" in Southern California. In an extreme conflict of interest, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast. (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/brtf_bios_sc.asp)

The Western States Petroleum Association President also "served" on the task forces to craft alleged "marine protected areas" on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast from 2004 to 2012. Much of the fracking exposed in the AP investigation occurred during the time the Reheis-Boyd served on these panels.

The so-called -marine protected created under the Initiative, privately funded by the Resources Legacy Foundation, fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

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Field: Big Lead for Brown, Legislature's Approval Slips Back

by: Brian Leubitz

Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 07:32:44 AM PDT

Field Poll shows Legislature took hit after recent controversy

by Brian Leubitz

Field is in the midst of their most recent data dump, and you can't help but feel that Gov. Brown is all smiles. First, there's the fact that he has a 20 point lead over Neel Kashkari

The results of the latest Field Poll show incumbent Democratic Governor Jerry Brown leading Republican challenger Neel Kashkari by twenty points, 52% to 32%, among likely voters in this year's gubernatorial election.  ... Brown is regarded favorably by 54% of likely voters, while 31% have an unfavorable opinion. Following his second place showing in the June primary, Kashkari is viewed favorably by 28%, while 16% of voters hold an unfavorable opinion of him.

In addition, the Poll finds 54% of voters approving of the job Brown is doing as governor, while 29% disapprove. (Field PDF)

The Governor's approval rating during this term has been as low as 43%, before reaching a high of 59% in April of this year. While it did slip, when combined with his mound of campaign funds, the contest between Brown and Kashkari doesn't really seem a fair fight. Barring some major shift of the political landscape, you have to feel that Brown should defeat Kashkari handily.

Now, on the other side, the Legislature was so close to actually having a net favorable rating. The institution's ratings were trending up from a low of 19% in May 2012 before Prop 30. In December 2013, it hit 40% for the first time since 2002. In other words, a really long time. And then in the late March poll, approval was trending even higher, with a 46-40 split in the first few days of polling. Then the Leland Yee story broke, and the numbers fell back to earth.

Slightly more voters believe California is generally on the wrong track (46%) than say it is moving in the right direction (41%). In addition, more voters disapprove (47%) than approve (35%) of the job performance of the state legislature.

Opinions about both matters are directly related to the party registration of voters. Democrats offer a much more optimistic assessment of the direction of the state and hold more positive views of the job the state legislature is doing than Republicans. (Field PDF)

Still, this says a lot about the harmony of the post Prop 30 days. There are still budget fights, but they aren't nearly as toxic as they once were. The majority vote budget means that the fights are basically all within the party. The scandal can't help, but beyond a bad apple or two, this is a legislature that works for California.

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Budget Goes to Governor's Desk: Republicans Freak Out About HSR

by: Brian Leubitz

Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 08:59:57 AM PDT

Budget Based on Compromises Leaves Questions

by Brian Leubitz

First, let's get this out of the way: the budget ($156bn for those counting at home) has now been passed and just awaits a few formalities. It is a budget of compromises, but a solid foundation for California's priorities.  And there are no big public fights, no big accusations, and no sleepovers in Sacramento. This is all good, and says a lot about the improved process under the majority vote budget system. (And Prop 30, which gives the revenue breathing room that we need.)

All that being said, the Governor wanted to maintain a hard line on spending. It's nice and prudent and all that, but there are a lot of gaping holes in the budget that should have been addressed. George Skelton's review of the completed product outlines some of those holes:

But the governor refused to reverse a 10% cut in pay rates for doctors who treat patients in the Medi-Cal program that is greatly expanding under Obamacare. Because of the measly rates - lowest in the nation - more and more doctors are refusing to accept Medi-Cal patients.

And, shamefully, no one even tried to restore previously cut funding for the most vulnerable: the aged, blind and disabled poor living entirely off federal and state subsistence programs (SSI/SSP) - $880 (sic, it is actually $877.40 - BL) monthly for singles and $1,480 for couples. There are roughly 1.5 million Californians receiving SSI/SSP, which was reduced to the federal minimum during the recession. The state is still stiffing them. They're not unionized and can't make campaign contributions. Meanwhile, legislators keep raising the minimum wage, bumping up inflation and squeezing these impoverished folks even more.

So the governor and Democrats shouldn't be patting themselves on the backs all that much for their budget compromise. ([George Skelton / LATimes)

There have been a few good editorials about the Medi-Cal question, including this one in the SF Chronicle. Boiling it down, our reimbursement rates are among the lowest in the nation. And while there is a sharp need to control medical costs. As you can see from the graph in this tweet, our costs are still out of control. But the problem here is that if the tightest controls are isolated to Medi-Cal, doctors simply won't take Medi-Cal patients. And that is exactly what is happening. As you can see from the ad up top, this was a big deal for the state. But under the current budget, reimbursement rates are still far too low.

In addition to the heartbreaking failure to restore SSI/SSP funding for some of the state's most vulnerable, the state's contributions to CalSTRS are taking a big chunk out of the restoration of funding to K12 education. And even with the $250+ million for both early child education and vocational education, there are still big funding problems at all levels of California education.

The other big issue: yeah, that would be Republican Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy's non-stop tirade over the high speed rail project. (Seen here looking hilarious in flick user donkeyhotey's cartoon.) The budget allocates $250m from cap and trade revenue, but long-term funding issues are still out there. At this point, HSR leaders can point to several billion of funding that is out there for the project, but are still a ways off from the full price tag. And if McCarthy becomes Majority Leader as expected, comments like these could mean it becomes a lot more challenging to get federal assistance for the project:

"Governor Brown's persistence shows he is more interested in protecting his legacy than communities that will be uprooted by its intrusion," he added. "As long as I am in Congress, I will do whatever I can to ensure that not one dollar of federal funds is directed to this project." (Melanie Mason / LAT)

But those decisions are for another day. Today, we have a budget that will keep the lights on throughout the state, and that's good thing.

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Budget Negotiations Continue

by: Brian Leubitz

Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 10:17:24 AM PDT

Process looks set for this weekend

by Brian Leubitz

The budget deadline is this weekend, and without the need to pull a few Republican votes, harmony seems to reign. Well, not so much real harmony, but something that passes for harmony in Sacramento when you look at the past budget fights before the majority vote budget and Prop 30 votes.

With closed-door negotiations bearing fruit, the joint budget committee is expected to meet Wednesday afternoon to nail down more details on state spending.

"We'll get through most of it," Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), who is chairing the committee, said in an interview.(LA Times)

Everybody seems to be all happy-go-lucky on getting a deal done. But to be clear, there are a lot of tough choices to be made. K-12 funding is still too low. Court funding is getting a boost, but is probably still too low. Skinner and Steinberg are still fighting Brown's intention to end overtime pay for homecare workers.

The bigger issue overhanging much of this is whether to include an additional $2.5 billion in projected capital gains revenue, with some sort of compromise likely.

Yes, the negotiations are more civil than in the past, but the issues are very real. Gov. Brown seems to be a bit hesitant to restore funding levels anytime soon, but there is a lot of gap to fill between how much the state needs in services and how much we are providing. The higher end of our economy has clearly recovered, but that is far from universally true across the income spectrum.

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Primary Election a Boon for Workers, Bust for Big Corporations

by: California Labor Federation

Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 12:48:33 PM PDT

By Steve Smith

The results are in. While workers are celebrating some huge victories this morning, the corporate crowd is wondering what went wrong in some key races. Last night's California primary election presented some very clear choices to voters that are critical to the direction of our state.

The corporate political machine went all in, spending big in an effort to defeat labor champions in a number of races, and for the most part, came up empty. Union workers, who pounded the pavement in the final weeks to talk to voters face-to-face about the importance of the election, likely made the difference in a number of races.

Five reasons last night was a boon for workers (and mostly a bust for big corporations):

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Delta Independent Science Board Says Tunnel Plan Falls Short

by: Dan Bacher

Wed May 21, 2014 at 15:27:45 PM PDT

The state officials who are fast-tracking the construction of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta constantly claim that the controversial plan is based on "science."

For example, California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird in March 2013 claimed, "At the beginning of the Brown administration, we made a long-term commitment to let science drive the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. Science has and will continue to drive a holistic resolution securing our water supply and substantially restoring the Delta's lost habitat."

However, the hollowness of Laird's claim that the BDCP is founded on "science" was exposed on Monday, May 19 when the Delta Independent Science Board (Delta ISB) criticized the science in its review of the draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement.

This report follows numerous scathing criticisms of the plan's science from an array of federal and independent scientists and scientific panels over the past few years, who have said the construction of the tunnels may hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelta, green sturgeon and other fish species.

The transmittal letter, addressed to Delta Stewardship Council Chair Randy Fiorini and Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Chuck Bonham, commends the preparers for assembling the documents while criticizing the science for falling short of what the document requires:

"We commend the preparers of the Draft BDCP documents for assembling and analyzing mountains of scientific information, and for exploring environmental impacts of many proposed BDCP actions. The preparers faced a bewildering array of regulatory requirements and economic, social, and political pressures.

We find, however, that the science in this BDCP effort falls short of what the project requires. We highlight our concerns in the attached report. The report, in turn, draws on our detailed responses to charge questions from the Delta Stewardship Council (Appendix A) and on our reviews of individual chapters in the DEIR/DEIS (Appendix B). Our concerns raise issues that, if not addressed, may undermine the contributions of BDCP to meeting the co-equal goals for the Delta."

In a remark made about the water supply section of the plan, the board provides this precious quote: "It is a bit like an orchestra playing a symphony without a conductor and with the sheets of music sometimes shuffled. The notes are all there and mostly well-played individually, but the experience is less than satisfying." (Thanks to Alex Breitler of the Stockton Record for pointing out this quote).

The report addresses eight major points about how the DEIR/DEIS fails the "good enough" scientific standard, ranging from "overly optimistic expectations" regarding the "conservation actions" to the analyses' neglect of the project's downstream impacts on San Francisco Bay. Below is the summary from the report:

"We find that the DEIR/DEIS currently falls short of meeting this 'good enough' scientific standard. In particular:

1. Many of the impact assessments hinge on overly optimistic expectations about the feasibility, effectiveness, or timing of the proposed conservation actions, especially habitat restoration.

2. The project is encumbered by uncertainties that are considered inconsistently and incompletely; modeling has not been used effectively to bracket a range of uncertainties or to explore how uncertainties may propagate.

3. The potential effects of climate change and sea-level rise on the implementation and outcomes of BDCP actions are not adequately evaluated.

4. Insufficient attention is given to linkages and interactions among species, landscapes, and the proposed actions themselves.

5. The analyses largely neglect the influences of downstream effects on San Francisco Bay, levee failures, and environmental effects of increased water availability for agriculture and its environmental impacts in the San Joaquin Valley and downstream.

6. Details of how adaptive management will be implemented are left to a future management team without explicit prior consideration of (a) situations where adaptive management may be inappropriate or impossible to use, (b) contingency plans in case things do not work as planned, or (c) specific thresholds for action.

7. Available tools of risk assessment and decision support have not been used to assess the individual and combined risks associated with BDCP actions.

8. The presentation, despite clear writing and an abundance of information and analyses, makes it difficult to compare alternatives and evaluate the critical underlying assumptions."

Wow, that is quite a smackdown on the alleged "science" of the plan by a panel of respected scientists. Again, John Laird's claim that the Brown administration has "made a long-term commitment to let science drive the Bay Delta Conservation Plan" appears to have little or no basis in fact.

To read the review, go to: http://deltacouncil.ca.gov/sit...

The board's criticisms of the "science" the BDCP documents are based upon are very similar to those that 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 - made regarding the preliminary BDCP documents last July.

They then provided the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the environmental consultants with 44 pages of comments highly critical of the Consultant Second Administrative Draft EIR/EISDraft), released on May 10. The agencies found, among other things, that the draft environmental documents were "biased," "insufficient," "confusing," and "very subjective." (http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/Libraries/Dynamic_Document_Library/Federal_Agency_Comments_on_Consultant_Administrative_Draft_EIR-EIS_7-18-13.sflb.ashx)

Yes, there is no doubt that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build Jerry Brown's twin tunnels is based on "science" - but it's political science, not natural science, that drives the project.

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Rainy Day Deal: 1.5% of General Fund

by: Brian Leubitz

Fri May 09, 2014 at 12:22:01 PM PDT

May help resolve long-term credit rating issues

by Brian Leubitz

S&P has never had much faith in the California legislature. Even after the majority vote budget amendment passed, and after Prop 30's additional revenues, S&P never really had faith.

Earlier this week, in a memorandum supportive of a budget reserve, the Wall Street credit-rating agency Standard & Poor's said that "when it comes to reaching a legislative supermajority on fiscal matters, California has a weak track record," raising concerns about the possibility that Brown and lawmakers might fail to reach an accord.

S&P called the negotiation "a test of sorts for the state," adding that "if the Legislature succeeds in assembling the consensus necessary to move the measure forward, it could mark another step in California's ongoing journey toward a more sustainable fiscal structure."(SacBee / David Siders)

Now, despite voters continually supporting revenue and large Democratic majorities, the late 2000s budget fights never really went away. Sure, the players are completely different, but that kind of madness leaves a mark. Yes, we've made wholesale reforms to the system, we've never actually missed any debt payments, and we have a constitutional requirement to pay debt before anything (save Prop 98 requirements). But, the credit bureaus like to see reforms that make them and their Wall St. friends happy.

That brings us back to the rainy day fund. California has always struggled with boom-bust cycles, and the idea was to stash away some of that boom money to spend during the busts. In general a good concept, but the very ominous devil is in the details. And with the recent indictments and subsequent suspensions, the Senate Republicans are relevant again. But, Brown's framework brought a little bit of something for everyone to build off, and today we get this:

But on Thursday, following several weeks of private negotiations, Brown and the legislative leaders of both parties announced an agreement on a proposal to set aside 1.5 percent of total general fund revenue every year, plus revenue from capital-gains taxes when the economy is especially robust. (SacBee / David Siders)

Republicans get their rainy day fund and something to list as an accomplishment. (Giving them an extensive list of...1 accomplishment). Steinberg and the Senate Democrats got a commitment to use half of the 1.5% to pay down debt, rather than having to argue that issue later in the budget fight. That could have been a huge problem down the road, and the inclusion here is a big victory for Steinberg and could be enough to get a much broader base of support.

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Gov. Brown looks to fix Rainy Day Fund measure

by: Brian Leubitz

Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 16:52:35 PM PDT

Looks to fix 2010's ACA 4 that will appear on November ballot

by Brian Leubitz

Gov. Brown has always been fond of the concept of a rainy day fund. He's included the concept on many occasions, speeches, budgets, etc. Add "special session" to that list:

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday called a special session of the Legislature to replace the "Rainy Day Fund" measure on November's ballot with a dedicated reserve to let the state to pay down its debts and unfunded liabilities.

"We simply must prevent the massive deficits of the last decade and we can only do that by paying down our debts and creating a solid Rainy Day Fund," Brown said in a news release, which accompanied a proclamation convening the special section next Thursday, April 24. (Josh Richman / Political Blotter)

It seems that pretty much everybody in Sacramento, across the political spectrum, supports the move, with Richman pulling supportive quotes from the Speaker, Senate minority leader, and the Chamber of Commerce. But, of course, they all have different ideas of what this means. Brown wants to account for the wild swings in revenue we get due to stock options and the like, while Huff and the Chamber focus first on spending one-time revenue on ongoing expenses.

What exactly this means for the November ballot is unclear. Any changes could push the ballot measure to 2016, but there is some flexibility with a lot of time still remaining.

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Field Poll: Governor Up, Legislature Down

by: Brian Leubitz

Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 08:01:53 AM PDT

Yee arrest shifts legislative numbers

by Brian Leubitz

It turns out having one of your members arrested for involvement in a gun running scandal hurts your approval numbers. Who'd have thunk it?

Following Yee's arrest, voter sentiment of the legislature has turned negative. The proportion of voters expressing disapproval jumped six points from 40% to 46%, and now is greater than the proportion approving (43%), which declined three points. Thus, voter opinions of the legislature swung a net nine points in the negative direction in the days following news of Yee's arrest.(Field poll PDF)

Now, that being said, 40% is still relatively strong compared to the dark days of the budget fights a few years ago. In September 2010, approval of the legislature hit a rather abysmal 10%. The majority vote budget and the wiggle room afforded by Prop 30 should probably get most of the credit for that rebound. But the Yee arrest, following the other Senate legal issues, drags that down. Perhaps some of that will be resolved when those members are officially gone from the chamber, but with the Yee story likely to linger in the news, don't expect an immediate bounce at the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Gov. Brown is riding high. Field has him at an all-time high of 59%, with just 32% disapproving. Those are numbers that will be hard for any competitor to overcome in June or November. But the field of candidates that are actually in the race? The odds grow even longer. Right wing extremist Tim Donnelly leads the pack at 17% with no other candidate exceeding 3%. Neel Kashkari hopes to spend his way to relevance, but time is running quite short.

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