By Michael J. Mishak | February 13, 2017

The Center for Public Integrity

Excerpt: Perhaps more than any other special interest, the oil industry has helped reshape California’s political landscape, in part by cultivating a relationship with Brown and nourishing a new breed of Democrats: moderate lawmakers who are casting a critical eye on the state’s suite of climate-change policies, including its signature cap-and-trade program, which aims to curb greenhouse gases by penalizing companies that pollute. As a result, the industry saw a spike in production for the first time in nearly two decades, turned back legislative efforts to halve the state’s petroleum usage and overcame calls for a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. In perhaps the biggest sign of oil’s clout, Brown, a liberal icon who made a name for himself as an environmentalist in the 1970s, eased restrictions to clear the path for more drilling. “I don’t think it’s responsible to let Third World countries do the oil production so that Californians can drive around, even in their hybrids,” Brown told Politico in 2015, as he prepared to attend the United Nations climate summit in Paris. “We have to shoulder our part of the responsibility.”

That business-friendly approach has come at a price. Two and a half years ago, California’s oil regulator acknowledged that it had allowed companies to drill thousands of wells into aquifers — underground reservoirs — that were supposed to be protected as potential sources of drinking water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stepped in to oversee the cleanup. A year later, after a gas leak in the San Fernando Valley forced the evacuation of thousands of residents, state lawmakers blamed lax regulation. It was the largest discharge of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, in American history. The state’s overall carbon emissions have decreased in recent years, but only modestly; industrial pollution from oil and gas development has risen.

All of this, some environmentalists and lawmakers say, calls into question California’s ability to live up to its reputation as a climate leader.

Read more about Big Oil’s Grip on California.

Learn more:

Read Consumer Watchdog’s report: “How Green Is Brown?”, fact-checking the perception of Jerry Brown as an environmentalist against his actions since taking office as Governor in 2011.

See the data showing correlation between higher average gift values and oil-friendly voting by democrats.


Big Oil’s grip on California