California is a climate change champion. But Big Oil has a strong, dirty legacy in our state, and they are still alive and well, polluting our air and our politics regularly and effectively. A new investigative piece shows that Big Oil has more of a grip on the Golden State than many may think. Here are some highlights:
- In the past 6 years, Big Oil has spent more than $122 million on campaign contributions and lobbying, weakening regulatory agencies and boosting production. Overall, they’ve played a major role in shaping California’s energy policy.
The oil industry has cultivated a new breed of Democrats: “moderate” lawmakers who are casting a critical eye on the state’s suite of climate-change policies. 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.
California’s oil and gas extraction record is pretty ugly. From DOGGR allowing companies to drill thousands of wells into federally protected aquifers to lax regulations that led to the massive Porter Ranch methane leak, California regulators have failed to stand up to the political and financial power of the oil and gas industry to the extent they need to.
Lobbyists have so much power in the California Legislature that insiders refer to them as the “third house.” Few groups have more influence than the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA).
- With coastal cities fighting hard for strong climate policies, Big Oil targeted districts where energy firms operate, where even though pollution levels are high, voter turnout is low, and representatives are more easily influenced by special interest spending. Since 2012, the energy industry gave more than $12 million to campaigns and groups funding the so called “moderate democrats,” who then vote against climate change initiatives. This ultimately hurts their constituents, who must face the health implications of the pollution choking their communities.