Governor Jerry Brown Slams Trump Administration For Putting Interests Of Big Oil Ahead of Clean Air, Even As He Does The Same Thing In California

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Santa Monica, CA— California Governor Jerry Brown has put the interests of Big Oil first in California though he criticized Trump’s EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for the same thing as he made his way to Washington this week, Consumer Watchdog said today. In a letter, Brown wrote to Pruitt, “Once again, you’ve put the interests of Big Oil ahead of clean air and politics ahead of science.”

“Governor Brown’s critique of the Trump administration for pandering to Big Oil rings hollow, given the governor’s own record of favors and favoritism for the oil industry and other fossil fuel-producers in California,” said consumer advocate Liza Tucker. “While he has set tough standards for renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions, Brown has stymied his own goals by expanding oil drilling onshore and off, and letting major investor-owned utilities build a glut of billion-dollar natural gas plants that contribute to global warming while costing ratepayers unnecessary billions.”

Consumer Watchdog has issued two reports, one backed by a dozen environmental groups, that find Brown’s environmental record “murky” or “dirty” rather than “clean” in six out of seven categories, including oil drilling, fracking, and the production of electricity from fossil fuels. See: How Green Is Jerry Brown? here:
The other report traced $9.8 million in donations by 26 energy companies, including Occidental Petroleum and Chevron, to Brown’s campaigns, ballot initiatives, favorite causes, and to the State Democratic Party from his election to 2014. It uncovered a pattern of Big Oil and energy company donations in close proximity to legislative and administrative actions benefiting those industries. The report prompted an investigation into possible State Democratic Party money laundering of big oil donations to Brown’s re-election campaign above the legal limit by the state’s political ethics watchdog.
See: Brown’s Dirty Hands here:

The report documented examples such as Occidental Petroleum’s donations totaling $500,000 to a Brown-sponsored ballot measure in the wake of the 2011 firing of two oil and gas regulators trying to make oil drilling safer.

“Brown’s trusted energy advisor, Cliff Rechtschaffen, fired the regulators on behalf of Big Oil, turning back the clock to the days when oil companies drilled however they please,” said Tucker.

Ultimately, oil companies were allowed to drill more than 2,400 oil waste injection wells into aquifers protected by state and federal law.

Brown recently appointed Rechtschaffen to the powerful Public Utilities Commission. The PUC has allowed major investor-owned utilities—who donated nearly $6 million to Brown of the $9.8 million Consumer Watchdog traced—to build a glut of greenhouse-gas emitting natural gas power plants in recent years. Construction of these unnecessary power plants raised the cost to ratepayers nearly 50 percent above what the rest of the country pays for power, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Among the reports’ findings:

Big Oil Favors: Chevron donated $135,000 to the California Democratic Party the same day lawmakers exempted a common method of well stimulation from legislation meant to regulate fracking. After the bill passed with an amendment dropping a moratorium on fracking permits, Occidental gave $100,000 to one of Brown’s favorite causes, the Oakland Military Institute. Brown signed the weakened bill. On December 23, 2013, Chevron donated $350,000 to the Democratic Party. On December 30, the Democratic Party donated $300,000 to Brown for Governor 2014, while Chevron donated the maximum to Brown’s campaign, $54,400, on the same day. Less than two months later, Brown came out publicly to oppose a proposed oil severance tax.

Oil Drilling: Since 2012, California regulators have permitted 238 offshore wells. Despite a state ban on new leases, and Brown asking then-President Obama to ban new drilling in federal waters off California, 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.

Fossil Fuel Generated Electricity: 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. Fifteen natural gas power plants have been approved or built since Brown’s election. The Brown administration is also fighting to reopen Sempra’s 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.

Building The “Western Grid”: 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.


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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