Proposition 23, The Really Big Lies of Really Big Oil Companies

by on October 10, 2010 · 5 comments

in Economy, Election, Energy, Environment

OB Rag Fall 2010 Elections – Part 6

prop23Proposition 23, which would suspend AB 32, the Global Warming Act of 2006, is the big bucks ballot box initiative this year. Proposition 19 (legalizing marijuana) may be getting the interest (at least that’s what our web stats show) and the initiative (Prop 25—coverage coming next week) changing the constitutional requirement to a simply majority for passing a budget may have the biggest long term impact, but the real slugfest is all about Proposition 23.  Slick tv ads? Check.  Mega-corporate war chests vs grass roots environmentalists? Check. Vote either way and the economy will shed a gazillion jobs? Check.

For those of you unfamiliar with the law that Proposition 23 is addressing, AB 32 requires that greenhouse gas emission levels in the California be cut to 1990 levels by 2020. The process of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the state is slated under AB 32 to begin in 2012. The law passed the legislature in 2006 and was widely hailed at the time as a trendsetting and visionary measure.  Governor Arnold even landed on the cover of Time Magazine for his support of the law, mostly because the media were amazed that a Republican would lend his support to a pro-environmental law.  So it’s not like this is a sudden shock to the three oil companies that are fighting Prop. 23. They’ve had five years to prepare, but have elected to stand and fight rather than make the investments that this law will eventually require.

Dirty-Oil2In their campaigns for and against the measure, supporters and opponents have each adopted nicknames, since the initiative is legally titled  “Suspends Implementation of Air Pollution Control Law (AB 32) Requiring Major Sources of Emissions to Report and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions that Cause Global Warming Until Unemployment Drops to 5.5 Percent or Less for Full Year Initiative Statute”. Catchy, huh? Supporters call Proposition 23 the “California Jobs Initiative”; opponents call it the “Dirty Energy Proposition”. We just call it stoopid. With two O’s.

The “premise” for Proposition 23 is that the current recession has created a situation wherein following the mandates specified in the law would cost California jobs and retard economic recovery. The advertising for 23 makes it seems as though its sponsors are so concerned about our State’s economic welfare, that they’re willing to sacrifice cleaner air for a couple of years until things get better. Yeah, right. And if you believe that, I’ve got several emails that I’ll share from concerned Nigerian bankers that need your help and are willing to give you big bucks in return for your bank account number.

Valero Refinery ClosingOf course these ads don’t tell you that there are mechanisms built into AB32 that allow the governor of California to suspend or delay phasing in parts of the act based on economic conditions, and that both major candidates for that office have said they’ll use those mechanisms to do what they think is best for or State.  Prop 23 delays the environmental controls until the unemployment rate sinks to 5.5% and stays there, something that is highly unlikely to happen over the next generation.  Which means, in reality, Prop 23 is really about abolishing environmental controls—not, as the ads would have us believe, delaying implementation of AB32.

When you take a look at the money behind Proposition 23, it becomes easy to understand why somebody would want a measure on the ballot that equals more air pollution, asthma and environmental degradation.

One name that should be familiar to Californians is Valero Oil, based in Texas,  which sells retails gasoline branded as Valero, Shamrock, Diamond Shamrock, Ultramar, Beacon, and Total.  Its 18 refineries in the US, Canada and the Caribbean with a combined throughput capacity of approximately 3.3 million barrels per day, make it the largest refiner in North America. The Political Economy Research Institute ranks Valero 28th among corporations emitting airborne pollutants in the United States. And it’s given a mere $4 million to the yes on 23 campaign.

tesororefineryAnother name that you might have seen in the news lately is Texas based Tesoro, which made the papers last week after being fined $2.29 million and cited for 44 workplace violations, ranging from willful disregard of safety regulations to failing to inspect and maintain decaying 40-year-old equipment, at its refinery north of Seattle, Washington.  Seven workers died in an explosion there last spring when a 40-year-old steel heat exchanger ruptured. It hadn’t been inspected by Tesoro since 1998. You can tell that this is an outfit that cares about nothing beyond its profits by reading the news accounts of that tragedy. The Tesoro Companies have donated more that $1.5 million to the yes on 23 campaign.

Both Tesoro and Valero process petroleum in California and have repeatedly been caught illegally releasing hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide by state inspectors in recent years. The refineries that the two companies run in southern California and the Bay Area also illegally pump out large quantities of particulate matter, otherwise known as soot.  In addition to spewing hazardous pollutants into the air and water of California, state records show Tesoro and Valero routinely fail to monitor their refineries, conduct the proper tests, and fail to report defective equipment and other problems.

KochBrothersAnd just to keep the money really dirty here, there’s the matter of the $1 million kicked in by Flint Hills Resources, operators of oil refineries in six states, a company owned by the infamous Koch Industries, ranked 10th on the top hundred list of US corporate air polluters in 2010.  The brothers behind this company are also the secret money behind the Tea Party movement.

I could on here about the $500,000 donation from a mysterious Missouri Foundation that never received more than $100,000 from any donor in the past, or donations kicked in by Occidental Petroleum and similar companies, but why bother. It’s dirty oil money, plain and simple.

On the other side, the donors to the NO on 23 campaign read like a who’s who of environmental organizations, clean energy firms, and sustainability-oriented individuals. (Check it out here.)  There are actually ten different groups campaigning against Prop 23, supported by diverse organizations ranging from the American Lung Association to the Teamsters.

I, for one, am very sure to be Voting No on 23.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Old Hermit Dave October 10, 2010 at 8:55 pm

I will join you in voting NO, but have little hope of ever beating big oil. I am waiting for the bums in congress to tell us they just have to give BP a nice big corporate welfare check to thank them for their hard work in cleaning up the last oil spill. Shame so few don’t understand how our system works. It is so simple, the big guys just have lobbyists and if that don’t work they call the bums in congress directly. Goes like this, “HI Senator Foghorn, this Fred from Multi-Corp, about that pending bill that could cost us a bundle”, Senator,” don’t worry Fred, we will talk about it, I will be on a fact finding trip to DUBAI next week, we can have a drink at the penthouse bar”.


doug porter October 11, 2010 at 7:40 am

Hard to believe that the Daily Fishwrap came out against Prop 23 today. Not for the right reasons, but still against.


Andy Cohen October 11, 2010 at 9:52 am

Even more surprising is that a Republican politician currently running for office has ardently come out against the proposition. Steve Gronke, the candidate to replace Bill Horn on the County Board of Supervisors, views it as a threat, and that should tell you something…….although it shouldn’t come as all that big a surprise, given his moderate, reasonable stance on just about everything.

The entities pushing Prop 23 are the entities that are trying to kill the Green Energy Revolution in order to protect their own selfish interests. Instead of investing to join the party and move our country forward, they’re trying to drag us back to the days of the Industrial Revolution. That may be good for their bottom line, but it’s not good for our long term economic outlook as a country, and it’s not good for our long term health–environmentally and our actual, physical well being as people.

These are people that would have us completely dependent on Middle East oil indefinitely into the future. Someone please explain to me how that’s a good thing?


Marisag October 20, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Naw…the GOP are starting to embrace global warming as an issue. The Christian Right are starting to believe in climate change and some smart pastors have pushed the idea that we are stewards of the earth and must take care of it…. I’m an atheist, but good for them, and may be a changing tide in the GOP….I certainly hope so anyway.


NewportMac October 13, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Very few voters have taken the time to read AB 32.

AB 32 was enacted before the facts were known. It simply needs to strip out the Cap and Trade and reliance on GHG assumptions and its potentially a piece of leadership legislation for other states. Sustainability, Clean Energy, and Stewardship are great goals but not at the expense of Common Sense.

AB 32 needs to be suspended and or immediately amended to eliminate the Cap and Trade provisions 70% of America Opposes, eliminate the unnecessary oversight Fees, eliminate the reliance on flawed Global Warming assumptions, correct the vague language that will introduce Environmental Red Tape that will do more damage than good, ensure AB 32 doesn’t undermine The Rule of Law, and make non-governmental agencies like CARB accountable to the taxpayer for their mistakes.

Voting YES on Prop 23 makes the most sense until AB 32 is fixed and we can afford it.

This is about a poorly crafted piece of legislation that will do more harm than good and about protecting jobs until AB 32 is fixed and we can afford it.

Note: Since 1987, we have had 21 instances of unemployment at or below 5.5% for 4 consecutive quarters and are likely to again within the next 5 years.


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