Big Test for Big Oil

Will the California Assembly act in the public interest or will the massive amounts of money spent by oil and gas producers win the day? 
The oil and gas industry will spend whatever it takes to protect its recent record profits off Californians at the pump and kill legislation that will create a global model for slowing climate change. Several proposals to do exactly that will test their power in Sacramento in the next three weeks. 
SB 350, by Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León, targets a 50 percent reduction in the use of petroleum by 2030, as well as creating more renewable energy and more energy efficient buildings. It is now in the Assembly.  
Oil companies have taken to the airwaves to combat it through a front group, the California Drivers Alliance, a strategy first unveiled in internal oil lobby documentsliberated by Bloomberg News in November. 
They aim to scare Californians away from the proposal with ads that are misleading and deceptive, according to the Sacramento Bee, and give Big Oil allies in the legislature cover. 
The TV ads claim that drivers will see “sharply increasing fees at the pump" – in other words that environmental rules are to blame for California gasoline price spikes.  As Consumer Watchdog’s research, state data, and profit reports have shown, oil refiners themselves are the cause – and a little sunshine can disinfect the industry.
That’s why NextGen Climate founder Tom Steyer and Consumer Watchdog have called on lawmakers to enact transparency legislation before session’s end that will force oil companies to open their books and end the price spikes they create. Will it happen? We’ll see.
While the industry has already begun its "fear mongering," it has also greased the decision-making. 
Since 2007, over $37 million in oil and gas money has been given in California to lawmakers, candidates, associations and political organizations, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. In 2015 alone, according to the California Secretary of State, Chevron, Phillips 66 and Tesoro have given $1.5 million in direct campaign contributions. 
Top ten receipients of direct campaign contributions currently in Legislature: 
Oil and gas companies have also spent nearly $110 million in lobbying in California since 2007. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) leads the pack with more than $44 million. Chevron is the next big spender at an estimated $22.5 million. WSPA has already spent more than $2.5 million in lobbying in 2015 and Chevron has spent $1.5 million so far. 
The Legislature has been bold in trying to combat the effects of climate change with incentives to encourage clean cars, renewable energy, and caps on big polluting industries. But the money and power of the fossil fuel industry has already killed important consumer protections this year: two bills responding to revelations that the state allowed thousands of oil and fracking wells to dump waste water into protected underground aquifers.
AB 356, by Assemblyman Das Williams, would have created a groundwater monitoring and reporting program for underground injection wells used to dispose of waste water from oil and gas operations. SB 454, by Sen. Ben Allen, would have prevented the state’s oil industry regulators from allowing oil drilling waste to be injected into an aquifer without the state agency responsible for protecting water quality ensuring that drinking water quality would not be harmed.
Despite the urgency, the bills failed on a floor vote in their respective houses.
This time around, will the money or the public interest prevail?  The race is on for SB 350, and midnight on Sept. 11 is the finish line.

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