Could oil firms be forced to pay for climate change in California?

Porter Ranch gas leakThe Bay Area city of Richmond recently made an unlikely move that got the attention of its largest employer and taxpayer, Chevron.

It followed other municipalities and counties across California that have filed lawsuits against oil companies, alleging that the energy giants knowingly contributed to climate change and should begin paying for it. Literally.

Employing the legal strategy that brought states major payouts from tobacco companies decades ago, the plaintiffs are demanding that oil interests begin writing checks to protect Californians against rising seas, crippling drought and harmful air.

The legal viability of the lawsuits is unclear; the cases are in early stages. But if any succeed, the implications are profound: The state is already spending hundreds of millions of dollars to shore up coastlines, protect infrastructure and retrofit roads and bridges in response to rising seas. And if companies are persuaded to drill and refine less oil, California has a much better chance of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions on the schedule it has set.

Besides Richmond, plaintiffs include the cities of Imperial Beach, Oakland, Santa Cruz and San Francisco and the counties of Marin, San Mateo and Santa Cruz. The Los Angeles City Council is considering its own suit.

 The state has not joined in, something environmental groups say is a failure of leadership.

“Accountability is critical,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Climate Law Institute at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The state of California can and should file a case seeking money damages and also an injunction against ongoing activities.”

The California Department of Justice has sued the Trump administration two dozen times over policies that include several related to the environment. Asked whether the state would join the cities and counties or consider filing its own suit against the oil companies, the Justice Department declined to comment about potential future action.

The city-county suits began six months ago when Imperial Beach, in southern San Diego County, sued a handful of oil companies. Richmond, surrounded on three sides by water and imperiled by rising seas, joined the fight Jan. 22. Its city council voted unanimously to sue 29 oil producers, even if it meant taking on Chevron, whose tax payments—$45 million in 2016—account for 25 percent of the city’s general fund.

“They are a pretty important corporate citizen,” said Richmond Mayor Tom Butt.

However, “we are a waterfront city—Richmond has 32 miles of shoreline on the Bay. Part of our city is vulnerable to sea-level rise: our transportation systems, neighborhoods and commercial areas and thousands of acres of waterfront park.”

Among those vulnerable venues is Chevron’s refinery, which sits at the edge of San Francisco Bay. Completed in 1902, this refinery, the state’s largest, was immediately dubbed “the colossus.” The facility today employs more than 3,400 people.

Leah Casey, the spokeswoman for Chevron’s Richmond refinery, said in a statement that lawsuits like the local ones “will do nothing to address the serious issue of climate change. Reducing greenhouse-gas emissions is a global issue that requires global engagement.”

Butt said the city sued “out of frustration, because I know that these fossil fuel companies are aware of the long-term costs and damage of the widespread consumption of fossil fuel.” He said Richmond was already planning for the sea’s rise but had not yet calculated mitigation costs.

The suits are filed in state court under California’s public-nuisance law, which allows legal actions against activities that are “injurious to health.”

New York City filed a similar claim against five of the world’s largest oil companies in federal court, asking that the cost of mitigating damage done by the companies as a result of their contribution to climate change be charged to them.

The legal challenges also assert that the oil industry has known for decades that burning fossil fuels accelerates climate change. The Richmond complaint states, “The industry has known for decades that business-as-usual combustion of their products could be ‘severe’ or even ‘catastrophic.’

“Companies were so certain of the threat that some even took steps to protect their own assets from rising seas and more extreme storms,” the complaint goes on, “and they developed new technologies to profit from drilling in a soon-to-be-ice-free Arctic. Yet instead of taking steps to reduce the threat to others, the industry actually increased production while spending billions on public relations, lobbying, and campaign contributions to hide the truth.”

The slow unraveling of the decades-long industry cover-up of the medical harm from cigarettes turned the tide in the tobacco cases, according to Ann Carlson, an environmental law professor at the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law.

Carlson, who is advising some of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, said that courts will take into account the oil-industry-funded campaign to discredit climate science.

“That matters in California,” she said. “If you can show evidence that a defendant engaged in a campaign to obfuscate, it’s more than just a nice detail. Evidence helps.”

With much at stake, oil companies are pushing back hard. ExxonMobil has responded with a demand to depose lawyers representing the California cities and counties.

The company says it is a victim of a conspiracy and cities and counties are being disingenuous: When they issue municipal bonds, they portray risk from climate change as unpredictable, not the fault of oil firms, as the lawsuits claim.

The companies have also filed motions to move the cases to federal courts, where they believe there are precedents more favorable to them.

The number of the legal claims intended to monetize the consequences of a warming planet is growing. Carlson said greater scientific certainty about attributing climate change impacts to specific industries and companies has created a legal opening.

“The courts were uncomfortable that they couldn’t trace the harm,” she said.

California is the epicenter of so-called climate-attribution science, said Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“There’s really a quite robust ability to characterize the extent to which climate change impacts have worsened,” he said.

Further, by collating data taken from oil companies’ annual accounting and national and international energy agencies’ reports, “one can then connect the dots and assign a cost. That tees up the question, ‘Who is responsible and who should pay?’ ” Frumhoff said.

“This is where the science is taking us, with increasing specificity and confidence.”

This article was originally published by CalMatters.org

The Hidden Agenda of Extreme Environmentalism

We live in the most expensive state in America, and it is completely the result of political choices made by the California legislature. Across all sectors – oil, gas, electricity, water and housing – environmentalist arguments prevail. But there is a hidden agenda that most sincere environmentalists still don’t recognize. An agenda that pursues profit and power, instead of practical environmentalism that balances the interests of the planet with the interests of the people.

Even Gov. Brown has refused to support a ban on fracking in California. Moreover, there are reserves of oil and gas in California that don’t require fracking. Using slant drilling, for example (a technology that didn’t exist back in the 1970’s when offshore oil drilling was banned), you can access natural gas reserves in the Santa Barbara Channel from land based rigs. But fossil fuel development is only one issue that ought to be up for debate.

San OnofreWhat about nuclear power? The technology has come a long way in the last fifty years. Even if coastal reactors are considered too dangerous, why not build some in geologically stable areas inland? There’s plenty of land in the Mojave Desert where nuclear power plants could be sited. And what about desalination? It’s only too costly if you consider California prices – artificially inflated – they build desalination plants in Israel for one quarter the price per output. Why can’t we?

What about water storage – what about the proposed Sites and Temperance Flats reservoirs? What about sewage reuse? Californians produce about 3 million acre feet of sewage each year, much of which is cleaned and poured into the ocean, when if we cleaned it a bit more we could reuse it.

What about housing? California’s a supposed sanctuary state, inviting millions of people in. Where are they going to live? Why do you think, even in the inland valleys, homes are priced at $400,000 or more (usually much more)? Do you actually think homes need to cost this much?

All of this is contrived, artificial, politically created scarcity. And it is making a lot of people filthy rich, while it makes life very difficult for 90%+ of California’s residents – old and young, regardless of ethnicity or immigration status.

Environmentalists in California act like they have all the answers. They are arrogant and selective in the facts they use. What about all the embodied energy in wind and solar installations? Do we ever hear about the payback periods for all the energy it took to build that stuff? What about the impact when taking into account the need for natural gas peaking plants that have to spin into action every time the sun goes behind a cloud or the wind dies down? What about the difficulty in storing intermittent energy, or the fact that sourcing rare earth metals for electric car batteries is causing environmental havoc all over the planet?

One might assume that of someone holds these positions they must not care about the environment, but if so they’d be wrong. We need an honest discussion about these issues, without ceding the discussion to environmentalist trial lawyers, phony “green” entrepreneurs, and oligarchs who control the artificially scarce supplies of entitled land, housing, electricity, gas, and water. Because they just want to keep things the way they are so they can continue to make money.

There’s two sides to this story.

California Environmentalists Now Want to Ban Plastic Straws

As reported by the Orange County Register:

Plastic shopping bags are so 2016.

The new trendy target for those who want to reduce the stream of plastic flowing into our oceans, beaches and parks, is something smaller – plastic straws.

And since November, when California voters agreed to ban plastic bags from supermarkets and other retailers, people who want similar restrictions on straws have a realistic goal.

It’s why a growing number of organizations – some in California, some around the world – are working to reduce or eliminate the number of plastic straws in our daily lives. Some businesses, along with people who oppose government rules on things like plastics, are among those offering opposition to the push, but many other groups are taking steps to reduce straws. …

Click here to read the full story

California Legislature to Make Obama-Era Environmental Regs State Law

CA-legislatureThe Democrat-controlled California Legislature is moving to memorialize into state law all of former President Barack Obama’s environmental rules and regulations.

Democrats in the California State Assembly and Senate are proposing legislation that, if passed and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, would codify the federal air, water and endangered species standards at the end of President Obama’s administration into state law, according to a report by Politico.

Led by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and other Democrats in his caucus, the bills would require California regulators to maintain air and water pollution standards that are at least as stringent as federal law required when President Obama left office last month.

The legislation would not only require that California mandate protections for the 1,276 species currently on the U.S. Endangered Species Act list, but it would also extend state protections to “threatened” species, Politico explains.

The proposed California state legislation would also seek to interfere with the Trump administration’s plan for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to begin leasing some of the 15.2 million acres of federal lands in California to private developers for oil drilling, logging and other purposes. To further frustrate those leasing efforts, Democratic lawmakers are also expected to propose that the California State Lands Commission shall have the first right of first refusal for any BLM transactions in the state.

De León and California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced in a joint statement on January 4 that the state legislature’s Democrats intended to litigate disputes with the incoming Trump administration by hiring former Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. as an outside legal counsel, according to NPR.

Governor Jerry Brown warned the incoming Republican administration, according to NPR, “We’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the lawyers, and we’re ready to fight. … We’re ready to defend. California is no stranger to this fight.”

This piece was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Gov. Brown signs legislation regulating cow, landfill emissions

As reported by the Orange County Register:

SACRAMENTO – Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Monday that regulates for the first time greenhouse-gas emissions tied to dairy cows and landfills, an escalation of California’s efforts to fight climate change beyond carbon-based gases to include methane and other pollutants.

The move by the Democratic governor targets a category of gases known as short-lived climate pollutants, which have an outsize effect on global warming despite their relatively short life in the atmosphere. Environmentalists hope that tackling short-lived pollutants now would buy time to develop new and more affordable technology to reduce carbon emissions.

The legislation will require steep reductions in a variety of pollutants, including methane; HFC gases used in aerosols and air conditioning refrigerants; and soot, known as black carbon. It’s tied to $90 million in funding for the dairy industry and garbage collectors. …

Click here to read the full story

California Needs Infrastructure, and Unions Should be Helping

Road work“Infrastructure” is a perennial topic that enters and leaves California’s public consciousness in the following manner: A politician says “we must rebuild our crumbling infrastructure,” journalists report it, almost nothing is done, and the infrastructure continues to crumble. The talking point is made. Check the box. Repeat. Decades pass.

If you’ve driven west on Interstate 580 from California’s central valley into the San Francisco Bay Area, “infrastructure” becomes more than a hard-to-pronounce, sort of awkward sounding four syllable word that emanates from the mouths of politicians every election cycle. Because the divots, pot-holes, fissures and bumps on Interstate 580 west are impossible to ignore. The road is literally falling apart.

It isn’t enough to marvel at how Californians tolerate this negligence. Because it harms our quality of life. Today the failure is measured in terms of how many cars and trucks require far more frequent maintenance to repair their battered suspensions because we can’t fix our roads. Today it’s short showers and annoying light switches that turn off automatically because we won’t build new water and power infrastructure. But tomorrow it could be a catastrophe, as entire regions are potentially denied water, power or transportation, because over time, less and less viable infrastructure became critical to supporting more and more people.

Why? Why have California’s policymakers paid lip service to infrastructure for the last 20-30 years, all the while watching it crumble? Here are three reasons:

(1) Environmentalists provide the moral cover for neglect. There isn’t a road, a bridge, a power plant, a port upgrade, new housing, a water treatment plant – not one scratch in the ground that isn’t bitterly contested by the environmentalist lobby. Powerful environmentalist organizations, often receiving government funds, with opportunistic trial lawyers populating their boards of directors, have an incentive to tie every possible infrastructure investment up in knots. While some environmental oversight is necessary, the challenge of complying with every environmentalist objection deters all but the wealthiest corporations, and creates costly delays that last for decades.

(2) Many corporate special interests benefit from neglect. Corporations who own existing sources of supply can charge higher prices and generate higher profits. Utilities are the obvious examples of this – ever since “decoupling” legislation was passed in California, the only way utilities can generate higher profits is to raise unit costs, since unit output and profit percentages are fixed by law. So if water costs $2.00 per CCU instead of $0.25, or if electricity costs $0.50 per KWH instead of $0.05, utility companies make a killing for their shareholders. Similarly, owners of land that has finally been approved for development, or quarries that got operating permits before the regulations made them prohibitive, are able to sell their inventory at fantastic markups.

(3) Public sector unions also benefit from infrastructure neglect. Taxpayer funds that ought to be paying to construct and upgrade roads and bridges end up being allocated instead to pay government workers higher salaries and fund generous pensions. These unions also benefit from the legislated and entirely artificial scarcity that drives up prices for land and homes, because it increases property tax revenue. And of course, every additional environmentalist inspired regulation and code means more unionized government inspectors and enforcement officers can be hired. Government over-management and mismanagement always benefits public sector unions.

So where is California’s private sector labor movement when it comes to infrastructure? Here is a quote from the California Labor Federation’s website, under “Advocacy / Key Issues.” Revealingly, this is number ten of ten on their “issues” page:

“Invest in California’s Infrastructure: We must have a comprehensive strategy for making investments in infrastructure and a sustainable, equitable way to finance them. We need to restore our public transportation systems, modernize our rail system and rebuild our roads and waterways. We must double our efforts to build high speed rail in California.”

Apart from “high speed rail,” a project that fails to justify itself under any rational cost/benefit analysis, this all sounds good. But where’s the follow up?

When scoping meetings are held to approve infrastructure projects, whether it is widening a highway, approving a new subdivision, repairing a bridge, or building the Temperance Flat or Sites reservoirs, where are the unions? Why aren’t hundreds of them showing up two hours early to these meetings, elbowing the environmentalist trial lawyers and their zealous puppets out of the room? Why aren’t they packing the out-of-control California Air Resources Board meetings to show solidarity with the workers in dairies, agriculture, manufacturing, mining and timber, trucking, and countless other industries who employ hundreds of thousands of Californians?

Instead California’s labor unions typically resort to “greenmail,” a tactic that goes as follows: Pick a project that the environmentalist lobby doesn’t actually object to, then sue the developer on environmentalist grounds until they concede to enact a project labor agreement, than drop the lawsuit.

Is this the best they can do?

California’s private sector labor movement should consider how environmentalism, married with the special interests of monopolistic corporations, allied with government labor whose agenda is utterly different than their own, have destroyed literally millions of good jobs in this state. They should consider how close California is to becoming an authoritarian wasteland, where land, water, energy, housing and transportation are cynically rationed by this alliance of oligarchs and elitists. They need to wake up and fight for their core principles – the welfare of workers and their families.

An essential point that union leaders and their members ought to understand is the cost of building infrastructure in California is prohibitive for reasons that go far beyond paying a prevailing wage, or even the cost of hiring a few extra employees on a project to comply with union work rules. The costs are prohibitive because oligarchs and elitists have colluded to make every element of a project more expensive – the land, power, materials, transportation, staging, permits, and time-delays. The compounding effect of these pernicious barriers have enriched oligarchs, government workers, and the trial lawyers representing the environmentalists. They’ve made the rest of us poorer, and they’re the real reason we don’t have more good jobs.

To take one dramatic example, consider the Carlsbad desalination plant, which – not even including distribution pipes to move the water into the municipal supply – was built at at a capital cost of $12,733 per acre foot of annual capacity. Compare that to the Sorek desalination plant, completed in Israel in 2013 at a capital cost of $4,111 per acre foot of annual capacity, less than one-third as much! This was accomplished in a nation where labor is not cheap, nor is the government a paragon of free market deregulation. This is not an isolated case.

It is a crime against all Californians that other developed nations can build infrastructure for less than one-third what it costs here, and that other states in the U.S. can build infrastructure for less than half what it costs in California. Labor costs occupy a dwindling percentage of what infrastructure projects cost, which means that unions should start lobbying aggressively for infrastructure investment, instead of playing petty greenmail games. They may not win every project labor agreement battle. But they will win the war to create millions of good new jobs, and change California from a land of authoritarian scarcity back into a land of opportunity and abundance.

Ed Ring is the president of the California Policy Center.

Environmentalists suffer defeat on coastal commission bills

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Efforts by Democratic lawmakers to overhaul two state environmental boards they viewed as too tight with developers and the oil industry foundered badly on the final day of the legislative session.

Three bills to increase transparency at the California Coastal Commission and increase state appointments to a Southern California air pollution regulator fell far short of passage in the Senate and Assembly after business and labor groups stepped up pressure on legislators.

The loss was particularly stinging for members who have led a vocal campaign this year against perceived problems at the coastal commission. Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, said she would take up the fight again next session.

“Our coast is not the property of well-connected special interests. It is not a bargaining chip for backroom deal-making,” she said in a statement. “It is for all of us, and we must continue fight to protect it for our state and future generations.”

Environmentalists were enraged in …

17-Cent Gas Tax Hike on the Horizon

gas prices 2The Democratic member who has led the push in the Assembly for a gas tax hike to pay for transportation improvements is teaming with the Democratic senator who has played the same role in his chamber. And the pair want to be far bolder that Gov. Jerry Brown was in his 2015 proposal.

Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, and Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, propose a 17 cent per gallon tax increase to fund a $7.4 billion transportation program, with likely additional annual hikes after adoption because the rate is indexed to inflation. They also want to increase the tax on diesel fuels by 30 cents a gallon, with the same indexing provision, and to make it easier to get approvals for transportation infrastructure improvements.

Brown’s proposal — which went nowhere in a special session — was built on a 6 cent per gallon tax increase and other provisions that would have funded a $3.6 billion transportation plan.

Bitterness over 2010 gas tax swap hangs over debate

The huge problem facing any proposal to raise taxes of this sort is the need for two-thirds approval, which means Republican votes in both the Assembly and Senate are necessary. And Democrats lobbying for GOP support don’t just have to overcome traditional Republican opposition to higher taxes. There continues to be deep bitterness over the gas tax swap that GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic lawmakers pulled off in 2010 to plug a $1.8 billion hole in the 2010-11 budget. Republicans aware of this history would struggle to believe that the tax hikes that Frazier and Beall seek for road repairs might not at some future date be used to pay for state salaries, pensions or other needs unrelated to potholes and aging bridges.

The background: Irate over previous diversions of gasoline sales taxes from road repairs to other uses, California voters twice this century passed ballot measures — Proposition 42 in 2002 and Proposition 1A in 2006 — that banned such use of gas sales tax revenue.

But gasoline excise taxes can be spent on general fund obligations. So in 2010, gas excise taxes were sharply raised and gas sales taxes sharply reduced. Because the move was revenue-neutral, Schwarzenegger and Democrats successfully argued that the maneuver only needed to pass on a simple majority vote — not the two-thirds vote needed for tax hikes.

As a result, each year, the state Board of Equalization announces whether it is raising or cutting state excise taxes on gasoline to honor the deal’s requirement that the 2010 gas tax swap be roughly revenue-neutral.

Recent coverage of the Frazier-Beall initiative has not detailed whether the 17 cent per gallon tax hike would be entirely in the gas sales tax or entirely in the gas excise tax or a combination of increases in each.  If it were in the gas sales tax, that would nominally mean the money could only be spent on road repairs and infrastructure improvement because of Propositions 42 and 1A. But another gas tax swap could enable the money to be diverted to the general fund by a simple majority of the Legislature in the future, at least if the governor was amenable.

Republican lawmakers are also likely to be wary of another part of the Democratic lawmakers’ proposal: a $165 yearly fee for owners of zero-emission vehicles to help pay for road improvements. While that’s higher than what most states with such fees charge, it’s only half of what the average U.S. car owner pays in gas taxes a year, according to data from 2013.

The argument that zero-emission vehicles should pay more toward road maintenance is dismissed by greens who cite the environmental benefits of the vehicles. But as such vehicles become more common — and as states push gas taxes higher — owners of regular vehicles and free-market advocates are likely to cry foul.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

The Good, Bad and Ugly – Impending Bills Impact Small Business

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image21552155As the Legislature reconvenes this week for its final month of business for the 2015-2016 legislative session, NFIB California reflected on victories and challenges ahead per the “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” bill list. Bills included in this list represent those which will have the greatest impact, either negative or positive, to our 22,000 small businesses across California.

As we enter these final four weeks of the legislative session, NFIB is prepared to hit the ground running to ensure the voice and interests of our 22,000 small business members, and their hundreds of thousands of employees, are heard regarding our remaining priority issues.

NFIB was proud to help stop a handful of ugly bills such as SB 878 (Leyva), the Predictive Scheduling Mandate, and SB 1161 (Allen), the ‘California Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act’ so far this year. However, several bad bills remain alive and we are prepared to put forth every effort to protect small business in these final weeks.

Environmental mandates, transportation taxes, protected family leave, and agricultural workers’ mandates are some of our top policy concerns as the legislature wraps up this two-year session. Given the current lack of transparency in the legislature, it is impossible to know every issue that will be brought up since bills can, and will, be gutted-and-amended without notice to the public.

AB 2757 (Gonzalez), which mandates overtime pay for agricultural employees, is a perfect example: this bill died on the Assembly Floor months ago, but has resurfaced in the form of AB 1066 without full committee scrutiny.

In the first half of the legislative session, we witnessed how swiftly the Legislature can ram through devastating public policy with the enactment of Senate Bill 3 (Leno), which increased the state minimum wage to $15 per hour. Therefore, our 22,000 members will be highly engaged and informed on these policy issues with a regularly updated ‘The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly’ bill list.

Currently, the list includes 39 bills total (23 active): 14 good (5 active); 7 bad (6 active); and 18 ugly (12 active). This list reflects proposals from the 2015-2016 legislative session, and as new bills are introduced or morphed into substantively new bills, this list will be updated. You can always find the current version at http://www.nfib.com/ca/gbu.

CA Executive Director, National Federation of Independent Business.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Are Environmentalists Losing Influence in Legislature?

kevin de leon 2California environmentalists have long been one of the most powerful forces in the Legislature. But in 2015, the centerpiece of the green agenda — a provision in a broader measure that would have mandated a 50 percent reduction in gasoline use in the state by 2030 — stalled in the Legislature despite heavy prodding from Gov. Jerry Brown and appeals from then-Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Senate President Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles. The development was such a break from the norm that it won heavy coverage from The New York Times, which called it “a major setback for environmental advocates in California.”

Now there’s a fresh sign that environmentalists’ clout may be on the wane. De Leon has stunned green groups by endorsing a moderate incumbent — Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino — who opposed the push for a sharp cut in gasoline use over another prominent Inland Empire Democrat, attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes. As Calwatchdog reported earlier this year, Brown was indirectly blasted by one of de Leon’s leadership team, Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, who said she was backing Brown’s opponent because “she was a principled human being.”

In a strange twist, the document making the rounds in media circles showing de Leon’s endorsement of Brown contends that Leyva and all his fellow Senate Democratic leaders agree with him.

“I support Eloise Reyes. Period. Somehow the pro tem must have misunderstood my position, although I thought I was quite clear,” Leyva told The Los Angeles Times.

Whatever the logistical problems with de Leon’s endorsement, it amounts to a striking rejection of environmentalists’ argument that they know Brown’s district better than she does. This view was voiced again this week by one of Reyes’ consultants, Leo Briones, who told the Times, “Cheryl Brown can have every special interest and every Sacramento politician … but she still is a legislator that does not represent progressive values or her district when it comes to issues of working families, of consumers, of guns and public safety and the environment.”

Green official: Brown a ‘nice person,’ bad lawmaker

This argument was offered by a high-profile environmentalist in a January Sacramento Bee story that rubbed some minority lawmakers the wrong way:

“There’s no doubt Ms. Brown, who’s a very nice person, has not been representing her constituents when it comes to environmental issues, particularly clean-air issues,” Sierra Club California director Kathryn Phillips told the Bee. “She’s collected too much money from the oil industry and let that guide too many of her votes.”

As Calwatchdog reported then …

Phillips, who works out of Sacramento, is a white UC Berkeley graduate who used to work for the Environmental Defense Fund. Brown, who turns 72 next week, has been a fixture in the Inland Empire African-American political establishment for more than three decades. She co-founded a weekly publication that focuses on black issues in 1980 and has worked on a wide variety of African-American causes in western San Bernardino County.

Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, D-Los Angeles, told the Bee he didn’t care for how environmentalists were treating his fellow African-American lawmaker. “I think it’s a tone-deaf approach. … The environmental community, and the broader environmental coalition, needs to figure out whether or not it’s going to be a collaborator and … work with black California on policy, and shared political goals, or if it will be an adversary.”

Ridley-Thomas is a vocal supporter of de Leon’s efforts to have a Superfund-type cleanup of the Exide battery plant in Vernon.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com