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Did California’s Oil Lobby Buy Senate Bill 1132?

Originally published in the ECOreport.

Senators that did not Vote - Compiled by Roy L Hales

Senators that did not Vote – Compiled by Roy L Hales

The biggest lobby group in California is the oil sector. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), alone, spent $1.4 million during the first three months of 2014. Senate Bill 1132 called for a seven-month moratorium of fracking while the Natural Resources Agency conducted “an independent scientific study” to ascertain what dangers fracking presents to Californians and the environment. When a bill like this is defeated (tied 16-16, with 8 abstaining), one has to wonder why. Did California’s oil lobby buy Senate Bill 1132?

It is the kind of question that cannot be definitively answered, though certain trends emerge when you compare the votes, party affiliations and past campaign contributions.

There is a list of senators who did not vote at the top of this page. They are all Democrats. SB 1132 was a Democratic bill, framed by senators Mitchell and Leno. If those eight senators had supported SB 1132 it would have passed.

As you can see from the chart below, there were also Democrats who voted against SB 1132. Four to be exact.

Senators who voted against SB 1132 – compiled by Roy L Hales

The third column in both charts shows the votes for Senate Bill 4 last November. This was a weak “fracking” bill which many believe did not provide the level of disclosure needed. Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, praised it and a couple of the Republican senators voted for it.  Note that every Democrat, on all three charts displayed on this page, voted for SB-4.

The last two columns in every chart are compiled of old campaign donation figures. I do not have a record of how the  WSPA spent that $1.4 million. The most recent data I have access to is 2012 contributions listed by “Follow the Money,” which is recorded in the far right. The top 10 contributors contributions listed by Maplight, second to the last column, are even older. Both lists are also limited to major contributors. I do not know how many  senators were receiving money from the oil sector.

At least five of the Democrats who did not vote for SB 1132 are known to have received past contributions from the oil sector. Had they supported the bill, the “yeas” would have been in the majority.

We do not know how many of the other Democrats were given oil money.

Senators who voted for SB 1132 – compiled by Roy L Hales

Senators who voted for SB 1132 – compiled by Roy L Hales

Note, however, that there is not a single oil contribution listed in the last chart. These are the senators who voted for SB 1132. With the exception of Holly Mitchell, who was not in the senate at the time, they are also all Democrats who voted for SB 4.

Dan Bacher writes that the defeat of SB 1132 “was undoubtedly due to the huge amounts of money dumped into lobbying the Legislature by the Western States Petroleum Association.”

I think he’s right. At the very least, this warrants further investigation.

What’s more, a recent poll showed that 3/4 of California’s population  oppose fracking. Their interests are not being represented by their senators.

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Written By

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the Cortes Currents (formerly the ECOreport), a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of British Columbia. He writes for both writes for both Clean Technica and PlanetSave on Important Media. He is a research junkie who has written over 2,000 articles since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.


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