As Governor Brown wrestles with the Democrat-run state legislature on how to spend the state’s supposed $3 billion surplus, he is being challenged by California’s powerful environmentalist lobby.
Despite his national leadership con climate change legislation and sustainable energy mandates, Brown pushed through and signed pro-fracking Senate Bill 4 in late 2013. Taunted 38 years ago as the idealistic “Governor Moonbeam,” many on the Left are now attacking the Governor as “Big Oil Brown.”
Brown went into a “presidential tirade” in late March on NBC News’ Meet the Press in response to a letter sent by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to all 50 governors urging them to block or ignore the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon pollution regulations. Brown made his attack personal when he thundered, “to have the leader of the Senate, Mr. McConnell representing his coal constituents, are putting it at risk, the health and well-being of America, is a disgrace.”
(When Chuck Todd asked whether he would run for the Presidency if he were 10 years younger, the 76-year-old Brown said that he might “jump in.”)
But despite Brown’s anti-fossil fuel rhetoric, he has quietly accepted $1.72 million in political donations over the past several years from oil and natural gas interests for his statewide political campaigns for attorney general and governor, along with his Proposition 30 ballot-measure campaign in 2012.
In response to his unflinching support for hydraulic fracking, Oil Change International, a research and advocacy organization that focuses on “exposing the true costs of fossil fuels and facilitating the coming transition towards clean energy,” has created a web page under the banner “Big Oil Brown” that features the governor attired like a Texas oil baron in a country-western suit and cowboy hat standing next to an oil rig.
At the 2013 California Democratic Party Convention, delegates passed a resolution on a unanimous voice vote calling for a moratorium on fracking. Coupled with overwhelming support from environmental groups and polls that showed 58% of voters supported the move, three moratorium bills were introduced in the legislature. With over 250,000 petition signatures, 50,000 phone calls, and sent 30,000 emails and letters, the left was confident it would get its way on fracking.
But Brown sided with the Western States Petroleum Association, Occidental Petroleum and Chevron to amend and pass SB 4 as a bill that allows fracking to continue unabated in California while state agencies are mired in endlessly drafting regulations and investigating environmental impacts.
According to the Daily Kos, “SB4 could be viewed as a pro-fracking bill dressed up as an anti-fracking piece of legislation.” While SB 4 “sounds as if it is regulating fracking, it is actually putting fracking on a fast track.”
Catherine Reheis-Boyd of the Western States Petroleum Association, commented on the signing of the bill. “We now have an environmental platform on which California can look toward the opportunity to responsibly develop the enormous potential energy resource contained in the Monterey Shale formation.”
It had been known for decades that Northern California’s Monterey Shale formation contained up to 64 percent of the America’s deep-rock oil and natural gas deposits. Although fracking involving pumping chemicals such as hydrofluoric acid into wells to melt rocks and other impediments to free oil and natural gas flow has been around for about 65 years, the Monterey Shale was difficult to develop because earthquake activity had torn up the shale layers. But recent advances in combining fracking with horizontal drilling have made fracking in California highly profitable.
When SB 4 was passed in 2013, the California Department of Conservation director Mark Nechodom estimated that tje state “might see around 650 hydraulic fracturing jobs a year.” But a report released by the highly credible Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory California Council on Science and Technology in January 2015 states that nearly half of all “new oil wells in the state of California employed the use of fracking.”
The California Legislature is unwilling to take on “Big Oil Brown” and has twice defeated bills that sought a fracking moratorium, according to Dan Jacobson, legislative director for Environment California. Jacobson observes, critically: “I think this issue really comes down to the governor and his leadership and his vision.”