As the Los Angeles Times just reported, the oil industry is not only behind a request from Assemblymember Adam Gray and a dozen other lawmakers to audit the Air Resources Board, at the forefront of state efforts against global warming, but wrote the request for Gray.
Trent Hager, Gray's chief of staff, admitted to the Times, after the newspaper found the evidence in software tracking on Microsoft Word, that the letter was written by the lead lobbyist for the Western States Petroleum Association.
The oil industry has many such hands in the Capitol working to prevent reform, but, as we recently reported, it also has many hands working on its priorities in the Brown Administration. The Hager incident brings up the depth of the oil industry's reach.
In our report Brown’s Dirty Hands we identify Brown appointees whose actions have benefitted oil, gas and utility companies, and the nearly $10 million in donations from these companies to Brown and the Democratic Party that often appear to have followed those actions.
One "hand" we left out - Janelle Beland - now deserves an honorary mention. Beland is reportedly the longtime partner of Trent Hager. Beland is Undersecretary of the Natural Resources Agency that oversees the Department of Conservation and its division regulating the oil and gas industry.
Internal emails show that she was privy to a dispute between the Governor's Office and diligent regulators over allowing oil waste injections into federally-protected aquifers with no prior review of wells.
Back in 2011, oil and gas regulators Derek Chernow and Elena Miller wanted oil companies to first prove their wells wouldn’t contaminate groundwater under federal law before getting waste injection permits. Former Governor Gray Davis, acting for Occidental Petroleum, successfully pressured Brown to fire the pair.
An October 2011 email contained in Chernow's declaration and exhibits attached to a Rico lawsuit against Brown, regulators, and oil companies over the fouling of aquifers, shows Chernow writing Beland and John Laird, Secretary for Natural Resources, for guidance on what he should do about injection permits that would violate federal law if issued without proof of well integrity. “I am willing to follow any direction as required,” he wrote. “If direction is different than what the Department is currently pursuing, I would appreciate as explicit direction as possible.”
Beland certainly knew what direction Brown wanted to go, which was to overlook the pesky requirements of the federal Clean Water Act. Chernow was fired a few weeks after that email. After he left, oil companies like Occidental got fracking permits without environmental review. Beland never spoke out against that.
One can only wonder what the pillow talk between Hager and Beland is like.