12 Public Interest Groups Find Governor Jerry Brown Is Not So Green; Lays Blame for Excess CA Electricity At His Door

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Santa Monica—As Governor Jerry Brown’s regulators race to reopen Aliso Canyon without knowing what caused the biggest methane leak in U.S. history, a dozen advocacy and public interest law groups concur that Brown is falling short on environmental regulation in six out of seven key categories.

The comprehensive review of Governor Jerry Brown’s environmental record published by Consumer Watchdog concludes that, despite Brown’s national profile for fighting climate change, and even as he serves as a foil to Trump’s anti-environmental policies, Brown is not as green as he could be. His record is “Murky” at best on a scale of “Clean” to “Dirty.” 

The following public interest groups concur in the report’s analysis, assessments, and recommendations: Food & Water Watch, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, Restore The Delta, Rootskeeper, Powers Engineering, Basin and Range Watch, Aguirre & Severson LLP, Public Watchdogs, Southern California Watershed Alliance, The Desal Response Group, Committee to Bridge the Gap, and Consumer Watchdog.

Read the report “How Green Is Jerry Brown?” at

In the wake of a major Los Angeles Times investigation Sunday finding California spends billions extra on electricity it doesn’t need, much of it fossil fuel generated, the report lays blame at Brown’s door. It explains his role approving plants and appeasing the state’s utilities to which he has close political and family ties.

“Far from the environmentalist that Brown claims to be, Brown has expanded the burning of heat-trapping natural gas and nurtured oil drilling and hydraulic fracturing while stifling efforts to protect the public from harm,” the report says. “The Public Utilities Commission has approved a slew of unnecessary new fossil-fuel power plants when the state's three major investor-owned utilities have overbuilt their generating capacity by nearly triple the minimum extra capacity that the state requires. Under Brown, the number of active onshore oil and gas wells jumped by 23 percent since the year before he was elected Governor in a bid to produce more oil.”

Watch the press conference where the report was released here:

Watch the slide presentation from  here: 

Other high-profile examples of Brown’s murky environmental record cited include his push for fracking, which was banned by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo via executive order, and his continuation of offshore drilling in state waters even as he solicited a federal waters ban in California from President Obama.

“Brown has run into the arms of polluting industries, hurting the environment and vulnerable communities,” said Tucker. “Despite continuing the climate change work begun by his predecessors, on a wide array of environmental issues Brown has allowed or encouraged regulators to fail.”

Among the report’s main conclusions: 


•Under Brown, major investor-owned utilities have nearly tripled the amount of extra generating capacity that the state requires to meet unexpected demand or emergencies. On Brown’s watch, the state’s share of electricity generated from carbon-emitting natural gas has risen to 60 percent from 53 percent in 2010. Fifteen natural gas power plants have been approved or built since Brown’s election. The Brown administration is also fighting to reopen the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility that suffered a well blowout and the biggest methane leak in US history when evidence shows it is not needed for power reliability. 


The report recommends: Reject new natural gas power plants, reverse approvals for those in development, and permanently shutter Aliso Canyon.


•Brown is backing a plan to merge California’s electric power system into a sprawling Western regional grid that would initially include PacifiCorp. A Warren Buffett affiliate, PacifiCorp operates plants in six Western states and owns more coal-fired plants than any other electric company. Brown’s position risks putting California in the crosshairs of hostile federal regulators and courts that could force the state to buy dirty coal power from companies like PacifiCorp, and derail its renewable energy requirements.


The report recommends: Scrap integration of California into a regional Western grid.


Brown asked President Obama to ban new oil leases in federal waters—while expanding drilling in existing leases in state waters. Since 2012, regulators permitted 238 offshore wells. Companies fracked offshore wells at least 19 times between 2011 and 2013, and in 2015 regulators greenlighted fracking 13 wells off of Long Beach. Kathon, an industrial biocide lethal to marine life, would have been used but the permits expired before the Coastal Commission could act. Despite a state ban on new leases, regulators are considering oil company Venoco’s application to tap new offshore acres in the California Coastal Sanctuary. Active onshore oil and gas wells now total more than 66,000, up from nearly 54,000 in 2009, with 20 percent of the state’s oil produced via fracking. Brown has ignored a commissioned report on fracking recommending that unknown and very hazardous chemicals be banned.


The report recommends: Use executive authority to ban fracking as New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo did, reject any drilling in protected coastal sanctuaries, and phase out oil drilling. 


•Under Brown, the Coastal Commission tried to weaken protections for environmentally sensitive habitats such as those located on one of the last private parcels of land left on the Southern California coast near Newport Beach where developers proposed to build a 400-acre complex of homes and businesses. The commission also gave Southern California Edison a permit to build a nuclear waste dump for spent fuel from the shuttered San Onofre nuclear generating plant right on a San Diego Beach, threatening millions of residents.


The report recommends: Uphold Coastal Act protections for both endangered habitat and for people. Support legislation to store spent nuclear fuel from San Onofre at a licensed facility.


For more on Jerry Brown and his energy and environmental policies, see:

Liza Tucker
Liza Tucker
Liza Tucker is a consumer advocate for Consumer Watchdog, following everything from oil and gas to the regulation of toxic substances in the state of California. She comes to us from Marketplace, the largest U.S. broadcast show on business and economics heard by ten million listeners each week on 400 radio stations. Liza worked at this public radio show for a decade, first as Commentary Editor and then as Senior Editor for both Washington and Sustainability News.

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