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.

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A December to Remember

Packages

Who's naughty or nice? This holiday season holds the promise of great gifts for the regional environment

December brings connotations of the holiday season.  Office parties, vacations, holiday shopping, football bowl games, family gatherings, overeating, lighting the menorah, and Christmas lights and trees.  For Heal the Bay, this December is anything but a time to ease into the new year.  As always, there is our push for year-end giving.  Tis the season for charitable write offs.  Also, once again, Heal the Bay is spearheading the Day Without a Bag event.  Over 25,000 bags will be given away at over 150 locations throughout L.A. County on Dec. 16 as a reminder to bring reusable bags whenever you go shopping.  Once again, partners include L.A. County, Los Angeles, other cities, retailers, grocers and other environmental groups.  This year, the event has spread across much of the state with counties from San Diego to San Francisco participating.

However, this December is as busy as any previous December I can remember.  Continue reading

Split Vote for the Environment

California voters sent mixed messages on environment.

Election races outside of California yesterday either ignored environmental issues or focused on the scary specter of regulating greenhouse gases. In California, the oil industry’s efforts to overturn AB 32 failed in a landslide as voters embraced the potential of a green economy and bristled at the thought of Big Oil reversing environmental law.

Unfortunately, the environment suffered two big losses yesterday in the state: passage of Prop. 26 and the defeat of Prop 21. California voters made it clear that they don’t want any new taxes or fees.

Although voters smartly eliminated the state budget gridlock by moving to a simple majority approval, they made raising fees a lot harder with Prop 26. In essence, the Prop. 218 super-majority approach will be needed to raise nearly all fees.

Do oil companies dump millions on a campaign to prevent fees for environmental services like trash pickup and recycling, toxics pickup and recycling fees, and oil extraction regulation?  People do!

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Oil in Aspen

The Aspen Institute and the National Geographic Society kicked off the 2010 Aspen Environment Forum Sunday night with a lively discussion of the Gulf disaster. The timing of the forum, which always focuses on climate and renewable energy issues, has definitely cast an air of pessimism here. After all, the announcement from the U.S. Senate and the Obama administration that a climate bill will have to wait for another year at a minimum was extremely disappointing news for the environment and the green energy sector. The tragic loss of Stanford climate change icon Steven Schneider also put a damper on the evening. National Geogrpahic editor in chief Chris Johns correctly credited Schneider as the most persuasive and credible climate change scientist in the country.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, actor and New Orleans activist Wendell Pierce, journalist Joel Bourne, and Shell Oil exec vp deep water drilling John Hollowell comprised the Gulf panel. Tulane president Scott Cowen moderated deftly.

Jackson offered her unique observations from the Gulf and Washington, D.C. As a native New Orleanian, she emphasized the resiliency of her fellow Gulf residents and their incredible optimism in the face of yet another national disaster. She spoke about EPA’s efforts to monitor air, water and sediment and to work with the community on oil spill impact issues and responses. She also took pride in the Administration’s efforts to get $20 billion from BP and she was pretty candid about  her disappointment in BP’s handling and frequent mischaracterization of the crisis.

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Emergency Urgency

EPA chief Lisa Jackson should be leading the cleanup effort.

The Gulf oil crisis continues to grow with no end in sight. The numbers are staggering:  more than 1,000 dead birds, another 300 or so dead sea turtles, more than 85,000 square miles of Gulf closed to fishing, 150 miles of coast and wetland soiled with oil, 40 million to 80 million gallons of oil wreaking havoc on the Gulf ecosystem and well over $5 billion in liability for BP and the gang. Inexplicably, blame for the ongoing blowout has stuck to President Obama like crude on a pelican’s wings. It isn’t fair, but the consequence is still potentially devastating.

A few words of advice for the administration from a member of the environmental peanut gallery:

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Paradise Lost

Enough Inhofe: Senators need to start thinking less about the welfare of the petroleum industry.

Today marks the one-month anniversary of the Gulf oil spill.  What are you doing to celebrate? On Tuesday, U.S. Sen James Inhofe, the infamous climate change denier, decided to give BP a $9.925 billion dollar gift by opposing the effort to raise the oil spill liability cap to $10 billion. That sure beats a Starbucks gift card. 

Inhofe’s bogus argument (similar to Alaska Sen. Murkowski’s excuse last week) is that increased liability cap would penalize small, mom-and-pop oil companies. (Are there any?)

Wake up Congress!! There shouldn’t be a liability cap at all!!  If the oil spill causes damages, then the companies responsible must be forced to pay the entire cost of cleanup. This seems fair and equitable. Our representatives need to start thinking about natural resources and economic damages rather than the welfare of the petroleum industry.

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A Slick Ad

The Washington Post published an eye-opening ad today that implores the public to stop the Obama administration from allowing oil exploration in the Beaufort and Chuchki Seas.  Environmental groups including the Sierra Club, NRDC, NWF, Oceana, WWF and Pew paid for the ad.

I’m proud to say that my brother Josh, a long time ad man, wrote the copy. As a lifetime surfer, he had to include a surf report. And he added the typical Gold touch of sarcasm, important for any story, from food to polluted beaches.

The ad got it right. If the oil industry and the nation are practically helpless dealing with an oil spill in a heavily populated region of the country, how could they possibly manage a spill in the Arctic?  The seas are too rough.  The temperatures are too cold.  There’s no daylight for half the year.  And there just aren’t any people, let alone Coast Guard resources or infrastructure, to undertake a massive cleanup. Deployment of oil absorbent material will be limited to seal fur and seabird feathers.

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