A Holiday Gift to Big Oil

Another 30 years of tankers in Santa Monica Bay?

No surprises. Today, the State Lands Commission provided an early Christmas present to Chevron.

As if they needed it.

The Commission voted 2-1 (controller Chiang was the no vote) to approve a 30 year lease for the offshore marine terminal used by oil tankers. No changes and nearly free rent of the Bay for the next 30 years (any renters out there getting longer than an annual lease? Even a 5 year lease?). And worse, no new marine mammal protection measures. Zero. Zed. Zippo. Zilch.

Was it the support from Manhattan Beach, El Segundo, the Sea World Hubbs Research institute, the Tree Musketeers, the Roundhouse, and the long beach sportfishing community? I felt bad that all of the recipients of Chevron’s philanthropy were obligated to speak in support of the lease. But I don’t think it influenced the Commission’s decision. That was greased long ago between Chevron, Maldonado and the Governor.

Environmental community opposition from Heal the Bay, Surfrider, Santa Monica Baykeeper and San Diego Coastkeeper had no influence on the vote.

Commission staff rushed through the lease and then weakened the EIR. When asked about increasing the embarassingly low lease amount (about $1.3 M per year – or a penny a barrel), staff responded that the Supreme Court ruled that lease fees could not be tied to oil volume throughput. When John Chiang’s staffer, Cindy Aronberg, asked SLC staff about using an ecosystems services approach (perhaps augmented by tourism and property value economic impacts caused by ubiquitous tankering in the Bay), staff had never even heard of the concept. Welcome to the 21st century.

What happens now? 30 years of playing russian roulette with the Santa Monica Bay ecosystem and its inhabitants? Not quite yet.

Next up, Chevron has to go to the Coastal Commission for a coastal development permit. It’s unclear if the Commission has any impacts over lease terms, but at least there will be a chance to add some meaningful mitigation measures to protect marine mammals. The Coastal Commission is definitely a lot more environmentally protective than State Lands. Better still, by the next hearing, the SLC will get greener with the addition of Governor Brown and Lieutenant Governor Newsom.

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