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Excloo: Secret Agreement on T-Ridge Revealed

Jan18

platformnewA secret agreement between PXP oil company and a Santa Barbara environmental group sheds new light on aspects of the controversial Tranquillon Ridge offshore oil plan that are central to Governor Schwarzenegger’s latest bid to win approval for the project.

A hard copy (now available in pdf) of the previously undisclosed agreement provided to Calbuzz offers an inside look at the terms of the pact that gained the Houston-based PXP the key political support of the influential Environmental Defense Center, which has been prominent in the decades-long fight against offshore drilling in California.

The group’s endorsement of PXP’s application for a lease to slant drill into state waters, from an  existing platform under federal jurisdiction, more than three miles offshore, has bitterly divided California’s environmental community.

Financially at stake are billions of dollars in new revenue for PXP, plus as much as several billion more for the state treasury from royalties on the lease, which the governor insists are needed to address the state’s budget mess.

Despite Schwarzenegger’s aggressive push for the lease last year, the State Lands Commission rejected PXP’s lease application. After a raucous battle, the Assembly later defeated a bill to overturn that decision. Now, Schwarzenegger is pushing for the lands commission to rehear the lease deal, which is framed by the confidential PXP-EDC agreement.

As a political matter, the environmental issue boils down to this: the EDC and its allies argue that trade-offs made by PXP in the confidential agreement in exchange for environmental support ultimately will end some offshore oil drilling; environmental foes of the deal say it is absurd to attempt to end offshore drilling by allowing more of it, and say the deal inevitably will advance oil industry efforts to expand the practice.

PXP and EDC representatives told Calbuzz they have recently amended their original agreement, reached in April 2008, in order to beat back major arguments used to defeat the deal twice before. A spokesman for PXP and an attorney for EDC both said the revised agreement would be made public if PXP gets a new hearing.

krop_lg

Linda Krop

Our own review of the original agreement, which was obtained from sources who requested anonymity because of concerns about retribution, meanwhile provides the first definitive look at a host of issues that, for nearly two years, have been the focus of political gossip, rumor, speculation, charges and counter-charges.

Today we’re publishing a post of unusual length and detail because we think the PXP matter, along with the AB32 climate change controversy, represent the most important environmental issues facing California.

Our research for this piece includes the previously secret document, a face-to-face about its terms with Linda Krop, chief counsel for the Environmental Defense Center, who negotiated it, and an email exchange with Scott Winters, PXP spokesman and vice president of corporate communications. Here is a look at key issues, with a major Weed Whacker Alert:

I-Secrecy: “Negotiated behind closed doors” secrecy

PXP and EDC have declined to make their agreement public, saying it contains proprietary information that could aid the company’s competitors. Their insistence on confidentiality was a major factor in the twin defeats of the deal last year.

If granted, the requested lease would be the first by the state since Union Oil’s disastrous 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, and opponents of the deal successfully argued that it is outrageous even to consider such a change without a full public airing of its conditions.

“The fate of public lands cannot be decided in contracts negotiated behind closed doors,” Controller John Chiang, a lands commission member, said in explaining his vote against it last year.

Our review of the document showed there is no formal confidentiality clause to legally prevent its release to the public. Linda Krop, lead attorney for EDC, who negotiated the agreement, told us in an interview:

PXP asked if the agreement could be confidential because it explains how they do business with their partners and such, and they didn’t want the rest of the industry to see that. We said, ‘sure, that’s not a problem’…That was just the agreement going in (to negotiations).

PXP and EDC said they recently incorporated amendments to the agreement to address criticisms raised at the initial State Lands Commission hearing by strengthening written assurances that the promised benefits of the agreement will materialize.

PXP spokesman Winters said, “We recognize the concern the confidential nature of the agreement generated” and pledged that the revised agreement will be made public — if and when the lands commission schedules a new T-Ridge hearing.

Krop said she was surprised by the vociferousness of the criticism about the lack of transparency, claiming it is not unusual for environmental groups to keep private the legal agreements or settlements it makes with corporations applying for permits or leases before public agencies. Said Krop:

It caught us off guard. The reason we did not think that was an issue (was) because the project was going to be decided at public hearings before the county, the State Lands Commission and the Coastal Commission…Had we known it was going to be an issue, we would have talked about it up front, but it caught us by surprise…If we get a second chance, it will be a public agreement, and we will never have a private agreement again.

II-Money: Who gets what

EDC legally repmoneyresents in the matter two other Santa Barbara non-profits, Citizens Planning Association (CPA) and Get Oil Out! (GOO). Amid the bitter debate within California’s environmental community, one of the charges leveled by T-Ridge foes is the suggestion that the non-profit EDC benefits financially from the agreement, and from its public support of PXP.

On this point, Section 1.6 of the agreement (“Reimbursement of Expenses of Environmental Parties”) states that:

Upon all Parties’ execution of this Agreement, PXP shall pay $50,000, and upon the State Lands Commission’ approval and PXP’s written acceptance of all the leases necessary for the Tranquillon Ridge Project, PXP shall pay an additional $50,000, for a total of $100,000, to the Environmental Defense Center, as reasonable compensation for work performed by EDC on behalf of GOO! and CPA pertaining to the environmental and permitting review for the Tranquillon Ridge Project, and the negotiations leading up to and implementation of this Agreement.

The oil company also made other financial commitments, in addition to the terms about oil drilling, which are discussed below.

These include ceding for conservation nearly 4,000 acres of onshore lands in Santa Barbara County now used for production and processing of oil yielded by offshore operations. These land transactions, per the agreement, are to be managed primarily through the non-profit Trust for Public Land. The agreement does not state the value of the land.

The company further agreed to a pay a maximum of $298,507, at a rate of $20 per ton, to offset any new greenhouse gas commissions from the T-Ridge project, to the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District. PXP also promised to pay the air quality district $1.5 million, over 14 years, to “administer a transit bus technology program” within the county to help reduce greenhouse emissions.

PXP’s potential royalty payments to the state are estimated at several billion dollars, according to Winters, who said the county of Santa Barbara could receive several hundred million in property tax revenue on oil produced from new T-Ridge operations.

In exchange for these commitments, among others, EDC and its clients made promises of public support for PXP’s efforts to obtain the lease and all necessary approvals, saying they would:

…in a timely manner communicate…support for the granting of all approvals required for the Tranquillon Ridge Project pursuant to the agreement. These communications shall be in writing (with copies contemporaneously delivered to PXP), and include oral testimony at public hearings of Santa Barbara County, the State Lands Commission, and California Coastal Commission…

In the event PXP requests the Environmental Parties to communicate their support…to any other governmental agencies with entitlement jurisdiction, EDC shall do so on behalf of (CPA and GOO!), in which event PXP shall pay EDC’s reasonable fees, together with reimbursement for any of EDC’s reasonable and actual out-of-pocket costs incurred.

Krop termed “ridiculous” the notion that this contractual arrangement could support the perception that EDC was due a $50,000 bonus payment once PXP secured approval from the lands commission. Noting that “every settlement has a reimbursement,” she stated that PXP has now paid the full $100,000 to EDC, which she said actually “shortchanged” the many hours she and her staff devoted to the project. Krop:

For environmentalists, it’s never been about the money, it really has been about ending current oil production and stopping future oil production…We did get paid the full $100,000…because we put twice that (amount of time) by the time we were done…The reason we advocated for this is because we want the end dates (for offshore oil drilling). We want the benefits of the agreement.

As for PXP’s profit, Winters claimed “the state stands to gain as much, or more in all price scenarios, than PXP.” He characterized speculative reports that the company stands to gain upwards of $20 billion from the deal “not even remotely realistic” but declined to say how much increased income the project could mean for PXP.

III-An End to Drilling: How, When, Whether

santa-barbara-view-from-riviera-resize

As a policy matter, the most important issue raised by the PXP agreement is whether or not the negotiated “end dates” — when the company promises to stop drilling both at Tranquillon Ridge and from three other platforms located in coastal waters under federal jurisdiction — can be legally enforced.

(A bit of complicated, but unfortunately relevant, waaay in-the-weeds history:

Coastal waters up to three miles from shore are formally known as “California State Tidelands.

Since 1938, oil leases in them have been under the jurisdiction of the State Lands Commission. The three-member body includes the Lieutenant Governor, the state Controller and a representative of the governor’s Department of Finance.

Until the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, which galvanized the start of the global environmental movement, the state had granted 35 leases for tidelands. Since then it has granted none.

In 1994, former state legislator, and current state schools chief, Jack O’Connell of Santa Barbara, successfully passed the California Coastal Sanctuary Act, which allows new state leases only under a few conditions. Two of these include: a) areas where oil in state waters drains into federal waters and b) cases in which the lands commission determines it is “in the best interest of the state” to allow such a lease.

The U.S. government has authority over oil leases in Outer Continental Shelf waters beyond three miles from shore. Starting in 1981, there was a federal moratorium on new leases off the California coast, which expired in 2008.

Under an pre-existing federal lease, PXP now operates Platform Irene, just outside the three-mile limit. That operation sucks oil out of the sea at a point near an underwater geological formation known as Tranquillon Ridge, where oil drains from state into federal waters).

Because PXP’s state lease application apparently meets condition a), the key question for the lands commission, in deciding whether to grant a state lease at T-Ridge, is whether the project meets condition b), by being “in the best interest of the state.”

Schwarzenegger says it does, because the state needs the money; project opponents say it does not, because it would set a dangerous political and environmental precedent. The State Lands Commission backed the latter view last year, when it turned down the project, 2-to-1.

PXP first applied for a state lease in 2004; during the EIR process, EDC opposed that effort. At the suggestion of then-Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, according to attorney Krop, the company came to EDC in 2007 seeking a compromise.

Within a few months, Krop said, they had offered to include in a possible deal three other platform operations now under federal lease, in an area known as the Pt. Arguello Project, south of T-Ridge (if you’re still with us, remember this name). The result of those negotiations was the confidential pact signed in April 2008, under which EDC now supports PXP’s application to the lands commission.

IV- What are “end dates”?

The no-longer confidential agreement calls for PXP, if granted the state lease, to end operations in both federal and state waters near Tranquillon Ridge by the end of 2022. The company also promises to shut down its onshore production facilities connected to those operations, ceding the land for public use. PXP also agrees to remove permanently, not just decommission, the infrastructure known as Platform Irene.

Recall the aforementioned Pt. Arguello Project. PXP operates it through a majority partnership it has with other oil companies.

The EDC pact says PXP will ensure the end of drilling operations from three platforms — known as Harvest, Hermosa and Hidalgo — in that federal project area, within nine years of the company receiving the T-Ridge state lease. The PXP-EDC agreement also calls for turnover for public use of onshore lands where Pt. Arguello-related production facilities now operate.

Caveat: the agreement states that unnamed “third parties are responsible for the abandonment of the three Pt. Arguello platforms.” While PXP promises not to oppose any effort to remove the actual platforms, it does not promise or guarantee they would be removed.

Will it ever end?

The so-called “end dates” for drilling are described in the agreement, variously, as “irrevocable and non-modifiable,” and “pre-determined and absolute.”

As a legal and political matter, however, the key question in the T-Ridge debate is whether these dates would be enforceable. Both the lands commission staff and the attorney general’s office reported to commissioners last year that they were not, a crucial factor in the defeat of the lease application.

Opponents of the deal say there are simply too many future unknowns and unknowables -– market conditions, the price and availability of oil and who controls the state and federal governments, for example — to assure that the promised end dates would be honored.

One key factor here is that federal leases -– including those for platforms Harvest, Hermosa and Hidalgo — are under authority of the Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS), which ensures that federal leases generate income for the U.S. government.

In explaining his opposition to a state lease for PXP, Controller Chiang wrote this in a post for the California Progress Report:

My concerns also include the enforceability of ending the Tranquillon Ridge oil drilling operations in 2022 and the Point Arguello operations in 2017. The support of environmentalists for this project would not exist without dates certain on which drilling would stop, but neither the proposed State Lands Commission lease nor the PXP agreement can provide certainty about these end dates.

The federal Minerals Management Service receives royalties from the oil production in federal waters and is compelled by law to encourage drilling until it is no longer economically viable.

The state cannot interfere with the contracts between PXP and MMS. Because the MMS will not agree to the proposed end dates, and because we are continuing to experience severe volatility in the energy market, there is likelihood that market forces in 2022 would dictate whether or not the federal government would continue seeking revenue from this project.

V. The ultimate leverage

leverageBut Krop told Calbuzz the Controller is “not correct” in his statements about the position of the federal government.

She said she met in Washington last fall with federal officials. At that time, MMS officials told her, she said, “we want to make this happen” She added that if and when state lands commissioners rehear PXP’s application, she will present evidence the federal issue should be “off the table.”

“When we met with MMS folks back in D.C. in September, they said, ‘that’s a viable option,’” Krop told us.

Winters said the the scenarios about difficulty enforcing end dates are not realistic, because the onshore facilities to support future drilling at the sites would be removed. He also said the new agreement would make California’ attorney general a party to the pact, to give specific authority over the deal to the state. He also told Calbuzz that in the amended agreement:

…a new provision has been added that requires PXP to forfeit 100% of any profits the project generates if it operates beyond 14 years for any reason.  In addition, the agreement includes a clause that requires PXP to waive its rights to apply for any extension at the end of the life of the project.

As for the other enforceability issues, Krop strenuously argued that the original agreement she negotiated was ironclad:

Under our agreement, those (onshore) facilities cannot be used for production of oil and gas after the end dates…

By everybody’s prediction there’s going to be hardly any oil and gas left in these fields. If (MMS) were to lease them, all the new platforms, pipelines, processing facilities would have to be built. It’s just not going to happen…

You’ve got a .0000001 percent chance, (of offshore drilling taking place on the sites after the end dates). Right now you have a 100 percent chance they’re going to keep producing. That’s what’s frustrating to me, is that people in Sacramento don’t get that…We’re not supporting a new project, we’re supporting a project that is going to shut down production.

In this exchange during the interview, however, Krop acknowledged that if unforeseen circumstances led to leasing arrangements and drilling past the end dates, enforcement of the EDC-PXP essentially would be left to her group, by filing a lawsuit:

Calbuzz: So what you’re saying is, the enforceability is ultimately the legal leverage that you would have as one of the parties to this agreement.
Krop: Right.
Calbuzz: In other words, if they violated this agreement, you would have to go to court to sue to enforce it.
Krop: Right. We would go to court, (Trust for Public Lands) would go to court…

As for the political argument by opponents that granting PXP a state lease would send a powerful political message that California’s long-held consensus opposing offshore drilling is crumbling, the EDC attorney claimed that any such perception “is based on people telling untruths.”

The politics is the truth. If everyone would stick to the facts, I’m saying, if everyone would quit twisting the truth, the perception would be the truth. The truth is, the drilling’s happening and we’re shutting it down.

VI. And Now, a Word from Your Sponsors

wagging-finger

We’ve done our best to present the facts of this as fairly as possible, but figuring out who’s right among environmentalists on this one requires an ability to foresee and forecast the future — about the oil market and shifts in government leadership, among other things — which we admit we lack.

Amid the passion and strained relationships within the environmental community,  it seems to us that some people on both sides of this complicated issue share the same policy goal — to protect California’s precious coastal environment. It’s sad to watch them attack each other’s motives.

That said, as innovative, perhaps visionary, as the EDC proposal may be as an environmental policy matter, the group’s appreciation for hardball politics in Sacramento and Washington seems to us at times naive. Moreover, four decades of principled opposition to new offshore oil drilling is precedent we’d be loathe to see California forfeit on a risky bet that oil companies would willingly stop drilling for oil.


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There are 20 comments for this post

  1. avatar Coastwatcher says:

    So when do we get to see the actual agreements? So far they are both still secret, which is NOT what environmental groups do, contrary to claims by Krop.

    As for the $50,000 bonus, again we have to take Krop’s word for it that they have already been paid and we don’t know how much they have been or will be paid additionally.

    Additionally, if the original contract was “ironclad” how come they needed to amend it?

  2. avatar tonyseton says:

    You’ve done yeomen’s work. Thank you. Of course, the problem is that even if they extract the oil safely, it’s still gonna be burned.

  3. avatar 4oceans says:

    Thank you CalBuzz for sticking with this story. The stunning revelation here, for me, is the fact that PXP has gotten EDC to do its bidding for YEARS now for a measly 100k. That is shameful. PXP stands to makes billions and EDC is working 24/7 for chump change … for what? To initiate new offshore oil drilling!

    By extension you can say that EDC is responsible for injuring infant health and now eliminating funding for our California State Parks system since it was revealed in the LA Times this weekend that Gov. Arnie and his hatchet woman Susan Kennedy destroyed infant health programs last year when Assembly Speaker Karen Bass refused to support PXP and now the Governor proposes to eliminate State Parks if PXP isn’t allowed to drill. Great…. California is the only state in the union to offer up our State Park system in exchange for natural resource destruction.

    Thanks EDC. What will you save…. next??

    • avatar Coastwatcher says:

      Thanks 4Oceans. You might add that Krop’s response to the Governor’s recent extortion attempt was to praise him. Not one word objecting to the threat to do this legislatively if his new stool at the SLC doesn’t approve this and not one word of criticism for stripping the Parks of funding

  4. avatar fdrouillard says:

    If this deal goes forward, the EDC/PXP deal will become an albatross hung around the necks of all environmentalists.

    If Californians want to reconsider the state’s off-shore drilling policy, it should be down within the Legislature in the full light of day. A special agreement with rogue environmental groups is no substitute for the rigorous debate that this significant change in state policy requires.

  5. avatar JackEidt says:

    EDC has done an excellent job extending offshore drilling in California, not only in our State Coastal Sanctuary, but creating a business-policial model for opening the federal Outer Continental Shelf. Those off the coast of Santa Maria, Point Arena, and the Oceanside-Capistrano Basin, which are being evaluated for new federal leases, have EDC’s great efforts to thank.

    Assemblyman DeVore has used their “first shot off the drilling rig in 40 years” as a way to cast aside the State Lands Commission and open the seabeds within three miles of sunbathers, luxury hotels, sensitive tidal ecosystems and wetlands, and already-stressed fisheries to the risk of oil spills, blowouts, toxic drilling muds, pipelines, air pollution, and ruined sunset views.

    The question of whether decommissioning Irene and the three wells they don’t control does not seem iron clad from EDC’s comments or the federal MMS statute. It seems that beyond 2022 those wells might be tapped out anyway, with new leases coming on line up and down the coast keeping the flow going. And this new flurry of allowed leases, following EXC-PXP’s leader, will create a need for new processing plants. So even if Gaviota and Lompoc plants were taken down, new ones would follow in short order.

    We must hold fast to protecting our coasts from risky drilling that creates a polluting product responsible for fouling our beaches, our skies, our climate. Political and financial capital must be invested NOW in renewable sources of energy as well as rethinking our conservation, transportation, and lifestyle.

    If Governor Schwarzenegger wants to finance the budget with oil revenues, how about levying fair share extraction fees in and Oil severance Tax like the one proposed by Assemblyman Nava? Seems to work well in all the other oil producing states except here.

    And we must defeat a cynical pairing of parks for offshore drilling that masks the governing incompetence of the Schwarzenegger Administration. As part of over 100 environmental groups opposing this wrong-headed gambit, NO TO PARKS-FOR OIL!

    Jack Eidt
    Wild Heritage Planners

  6. avatar Shankopotamus says:

    EDC took action to secure a contract that achieves their core goals – reduce the number of platforms actively operating along the coast. The modest amount of compensation they received seems proof positive that they were acting in conviction of their beliefs and not for some other nefarious reason as has been alleged in this forum in the past. A lot of angry words aimed at EDC have been posted on this topic over the last several months – but the reality is that none of those words come close to achieving the same level of accomplishment that EDC would if their contract takes effect.

    After reading the outline of the agreement – it seems the only real question to debate is how likely is it that the federal government is going to use eminent domain authority to take over all the oil property to get it running? Seems like a pretty far fetched concept.

  7. avatar getreal says:

    You wonder why things never get done in politics? Here a strident environmental group has struck a deal wih an oil company that is the best thing for the state. They won the shutdown of 3 platforms, garnered the state hundreds of millions in the shortrun and billions over the long term, and got the county 4,000 acres of public land. This is historic, yet critisism abounds from politicians who are more concerned about making sure they have the purest “green credentials” to bank for thier next election.

    Let’s make this clear, EDC won concessions in federal jurisdiction. No way you are getting platforms to shut down in federal waters unless you employ a small core of Navy Seals. Yet they did it. And, they negotiated funds that could dappen the pain for mothers whose susidiess for childcare are going to end, or the elderly who are going to lose the vital help of “in-home services” for which they rely on to subsist.

    This is a joke. Drilling happens every day. This project will just allow PXP to extend their drilling in the same oil but across a political boundry. This country used to get things done. Now we can’t even move forward on a great deal that has been thrown in our lap.

  8. avatar pedronava says:

    Wait-Wait-Let’s keep something in mind-we still haven’t seen the actual confidential EDC/PXP contract/document. It looks like it was obtained by an investigative reporter and we have been given portions of the deal. Why does EDC continue to hold the agreement locked away and secret? Even though there was nothing in the agreement that required confidentiality.

    There most be more that remains unavailable to the rest of us. And now we learn there are “amendments” that supposedly cure prior defects. How long will EDC keep those “amendments” a secret. Why won’t EDC/PXP release the so-called confidential agreement and the “amendments” NOW-so they can be reviewed by disinterested (not paid by PXP) attorneys and the community?

    This reminds me of the Tiger Woods debacle-drip, drip, drip-instead of disclosing all the information and owning up to it-he relinquished it little by little and just amplified the pain. It’s long past the time that all the info should have been made public.

  9. avatar pedronava says:

    PXP spokesman Winters said, “We recognize the concern the confidential nature of the agreement generated” and pledged that the revised agreement will be made public — if and when the lands commission schedules a new T-Ridge hearing.

    Wait-Wait-there is a REVISED agreement? And a “pledge”. Why don’t I feel all warm and fuzzy when an oil company says, “Trust Us.”? Can you say “shell mounds”? The oil companies promised to clean up their mess when they received their permit years ago to drill off the Santa Barbara coast-but yet today we have football sized shell mounds under their platforms, years after they took what they wanted from our coast. My, my- What a surprise.

    We were told the prior PXP agreement was bullet proof-So what could possibly need to be changed-and why do we have to wait to see what went under the knife? Is this an episode of “Nip & Tuck” or more like “The Biggest Loser”?

    I served 8 years on the California Coastal Commission, earning the highest coastal protection voting record of any commissioner during my tenure-and any developer who played this kind of game was condemned by environmental groups across the board. Most environmental groups operate on a shoestring budget-they are grassroots activists and volunteers, they are your neighbors who have day jobs and try to protect the environment in their spare time. They make sacrifices, take time away from their families and organize around kitchen tables. No oil company subsidies them.

    They are at a distinct disadvantage (usually the goal of project proponents) when documents and material are withheld until the last minute and they have to fight paid agents who promote a project.

    What we are seeing here with PXP is a replay of the contemptuous behavior used to vex and interfere with the legitimate exercise of public analysis and participation. Instead of cloaking PXP’s ambitions with “green” cover, environmentalists should hold PXP to the same standards every other despoiler of our coast has had to endure. There is a reason why it’s tough to put our coast at risk. It’s the only way to make sure something is left to future generations.

  10. avatar Shankopotamus says:

    It seems at this point – based on the firm commitments the proponents gave Calbuzz to release the document — is to have the Lands Commission hold another hearing so every point in the agreement is hashed out in the public. If the commitment has been made to put it on the table – what’s the harm in holding the hearing?

    From the Calbuzz review of the existing agreement there don’t seem to be any hidden boogey men. Just “what if” concerns about the future. I can’t help but notice that under the worse case scenario the opponents are worrying about – the federal government forces the extraction operations to continue – the only thing that happens is the status quo is preserved. The platforms operate no differently than they do today but the state earns a lot of revenue it desperately needs. The risk of oil spill is no different if the state drilling occurs than it is if the company continues to drill like it does every day for the federal government.

    The “what if” scenarios seem really far fetched. The optimist in me believes that everyone must be able agree with that point if they put on their reality hats for a moment and held off on the posturing.

    Sounds like the Commission should be given another chance to separate the fact from the hypothetical. The type of money being talked about in this project can help prevent a lot of budget cuts, employee layoffs – name your favorite state funded cause.

  11. avatar pedronava says:

    “The type of money being talked about in this project can help prevent a lot of budget cuts, employee layoffs – name your favorite state funded cause.”

    This is from the Shankopotamus post, and is an example of misdirection and distraction that has characterized the EDC/PXP program from the beginning. The EDC/PXP money is tied to State Parks, not the General Fund-So either Shank is stupid, naive, a PXP sympathizer, hopes no one is watching or is a part of the campaign to mislead people from the ugly reality that is the 1st new offshore oil drilling proposal in 40 years. The most recent victims of the EDC/PXP desire to open up the coast to oil exploration was a program to help sick black children-nothing noble in killing that hope-but demonstrative of the lengths some are willing to pursue to obtain what has been estimated to be $25 billion dollars in black gold over the life of Trank Ridge. Nice profits, if you can get it-all it takes is the destruction of coastal policy and the compromise of environmental principles that have served all Californians well.

    • avatar Shankopotamus says:

      I hadn’t intended to spend any more time on this post but the last comment warrants a response.

      “The EDC/PXP money is tied to State Parks, not the General Fund-So either Shank is stupid, naive, a PXP sympathizer….” I think previous articles on this site made it pretty clear the Governor is proposing to earmark any money this project brings in to the State Park system. As a general budget rule however, I was under the impression that any money earmarked for one state program would free up other monies in the General Fund to be earmarked for other purposes. The old adage “a rising tide lift alls boats” seems somhow appropriate bue I didn’t realize this was a “stupid or naive” observation. If state parks get $100 million from this project – doesn’t that mean that another $100 million gets freed up to fund mammograms, law enforcement, forest fire protection, state employee layoffs, etc. etc. etc?

      As a general rule, if the budget is short dollars, the Legislature is forced to make cuts or raise new revenue. When the Legislature didn’t enact the program last year a number of additional cuts were made – including an important program for infant health apparently. I’m not clear how the program cuts were somehow the fault of the project that proposed bringing $100 million to the state fund.

      Fascinating to watch how quickly the personal attacks have tended to emerge on this topic when anyone posts a comment that questions whether this concept has any merit.

    • avatar pjhackenflack says:

      Clarification from the refs: The connection drawn by other commenters between T-Ridge and the Black Infants Health Program is not a random one: it was made quite explicit in Michael Rothfeld’s Sunday LAT profile of Schwarzmuscle chief of staff Susan Kennedy, whom he reported punished Karen Bass with removal of the health program in retribution for the Speaker’s failure to get a T-Ridge bill approved in the Assembly. The whole piece is at http://tinyurl.com/yzz977z.

  12. avatar Paul Rogers says:

    Nice scoop guys.

    One nit. While important, the debate over whether to allow PXP to perform slant-drilling from a single platform that has been there off the Santa Barbara Coast for nearly 25 years, already pumping oil all the while, is not, along with AB 32, ‘the most important environmental issue facing California.’

    The future of the state’s water supply, including the $11 billion bond on the November ballot; and how we will address the dilemma of the collapsing delta, and whether we will build a peripheral canal; are far more central to the state’s economy and environment.

    Other issues, like whether state and local politicians will give approval to any of the massive new wind and solar farms being proposed by private industry and funded by Obama’s stimulus plan; whether California will build a $50 billion high-speed rail system; and how the state will address sprawl as we add another 10 million people in the next 25 years, are also more important.

    Passionate squabbles between environmental groups can be entertaining. And newsworthy. And this one is certainly noteworthy. But let’s not get carried away.

    A fan and reader,
    Paul Rogers

    San Jose Mercury News
    Environment Writer

  13. avatar Ave7 says:

    I joked in an earlier post that Ms. Krop’s earrings sure looked expensive. I knew then that money was being passed under the table.

    What greenwashers like Krop never understand is that before they say anything, before they utter a single word, they must say “My organization was just paid $100,000 by the applicant to advocate for this project.”

    It is laughable to think that such a payment would remain a secret for long. And the nature of Ms. Krop’s advocacy of the project made clear to all concerned that there was money being funneled behind the curtain.

    She is far more naive than the she thinks we are.

  14. avatar Coastwatcher says:

    So now that we have the actual contract public, here’s my comments on them:
    Please take a look at pages 10-16 which have the important parts.

    1- Go to page 10- Reimbursement of Expenses- there is a 50,000 dollar payout if approval happens. There is nothing here about being paid the full 100,000 dollars prior to then. All we again have is Krop’s word that she has now been paid in full. Why should we believe her?
    2- Bottom of Page 10- last sentance In the event PXP requests…. finishing on page 11-
    This says that they will receive additional monies, unspecified in amount, but specifically for their support on behalf of PXP. How does this differ from a lobbying fee?

    3-On page 13- final paragraph-
    Phase two shall, if feasible, consist of the conveyance of the Gaviota Processing Plant….
    This simply says PXP shall make their best effor to have this accomplished, which requires that the processing plant be closed, but admits that they must seek the approval of the Pt Arguello parnerships and basically states that such approval may not be obtained. Therefore how can they have been making assurances that the facilites will be closed and turned over to TPL for conservation? PXP promises to vote consistent with the agreement but since we have no idea what those partnership agreements say and we have no way of knowing if this can be accomplished

    4- Page 16 under Abandonment
    PXP specifically states under 3.5.1 that the facilities they are to abandond “do not include the 3 Pt. Arguello platforms, the subsea and onshore pipelines, or other associated facilities, the abandomnet responsibility for which rests with third parties”. Linda has been assuring us that all platforms will be abandoned but this says otherwise

    Reading this agreement makes it clear that everyone has been lied to. Krop through EDC is being paid as a lobbyist and their absolute guarantee that the processing facilities will be closed and all 4 platforms abandoned is a flat out lie.

  15. avatar LeeH says:

    It’s pretty shocking and appalling to see someone like Linda Krop accused of greenwashiing, or wearing expensive earrings as if somehow she was taking money from PXP to push through a pro-oil agenda. Do you people live in Santa Barbara? Do you know us, our history of activism, what we’ve done to fight to get oil out?
    I took environmental law with Linda in law school and served two law clerkships under her at the EDC, moved by the commitment of the dedicated, underpaid attorneys who fight the good fight to protect our environment. When I was invited to join the Board of GOO! I was honored, because of GOO!’s history of unalloyed grassroots opposition to oil development off our shores.
    Whether or not you have read the agreement with PXP — and I have — the basics of this proposal are sound: hold PXP to hard and fast end dates to all drilling, make them dismantle the infrastructure for drilling, and make them hand over lands, facilities, resources and money to the benefit of the community and the preservation of the environment. In this way, you GET OIL OUT sooner, and with certainty. WIthout deals like this, PXP and other petrocorporations can keep drilling as long as they want — with the added risk, as each year passes, of spills or other environmental impacts.
    I am also sick and tired of hearing that this deal violates the California Coastal Sanctuary Act. If you pay attention to the details of this proposal, you know that in fact it does not, in spirit or in letter.
    None of the environmental parties to this agreement approves of the end-runs that the Gubinator has been proposing — and we have made that abundantly clear. We cannot control the actions of politicians with their own agendas. We insist that the legitimate processes of environmental review and approval be respected, and have divorced ourselves from any other approach. All we can do is make a carefully researched proposal that will help to get oil production out of our area sooner, and with greater certainty, than would otherwise be the case.

  16. avatar TheHerdMentality says:

    The Democrats Big Lie
    Submitted by The Herd Mentality

    Wow. I guess the democrats are as good as the republicans when it comes to propaganda.

    I didn’t realize that really ending offshore oil drilling in California would twist so many arms, but at least we know who owns the State democrats. Surprise, BIG OIL.

    The State Lands Commission members showed us the State Democratic party doesn’t want to end active drilling leases. State Controller John Chiang and Congressman Garamendi were under tremendous pressure to maintain current, long-term tax revenues for the State. They’re the professional politicians who made the decision to let BIG OIL survive in California. Actually ending offshore oil drilling in California has been the work of EDC-GOO. They have done all the heavy lifting and they know the issues better than political opportunists.

    State politicians don’t want “new drilling” but they also don’t want an end to current drilling. They want to have their cake and eat it too. They like to claim they’re against offshore drilling but they also make sure current drilling continues indefinely. End dates for drilling disrupt this two-sided position. Development and Production Plans, once approved, have no termination date.

    Politicians invested in the democratic party will try to convince you that the ideology and the political reality that controls the democractic party are the same. They’re not.

    Why has the democratic controlled legislature kept active oil drilling leases alive and well since 1969?

    Why did the democratically controlled California Air Resources Board kill the electric car?

    Why does the democratically controlled U.S. Congress allow the health insurance companies to write a majority of the new health care legislation?

    I’m not saying this to promote the dysfunctional republican party either. The truth is more important than progressive propaganda.

    Wake up environmentalists!!! Do your OWN homework. The democrats want power, and they’re willing to compromise to get it. End Offshore Oil Drilling Now!!!

    http://www.independent.com/news/2010/jan/21/oil-secrecy/

  17. avatar sbcalnative says:

    Lee H– in answer to your “do you know us” question- let me say oh yes i’ve lived here all my life and was part of the “fighting oil” part when you were—I don’t know, somewhere else?—in any event that’s immaterial. The folks who signed this agreement two years ago HAVE to be entrenched- you identify yourself as a GOO board member- GOO signed the agreement, and must advocate for this new slant drilling project- we get that. But you are mistaken to say none of the enviro parties support the governor’s end runs- if that were true why then did Linda Krop not even wait 24 hrs before sending out a gushing press release supporting the governor’s proposal- even though his budget makes clear he’s holding the parks budget hostage to pxp—how is that a “sound” review. Sometimes real courage comes in the form of surrender. Someone saying you know this was a grand illusion but sounded good two years ago. Now, its clear we’re just all being shills for the oil companies. We were wrong we tried our motives were good now let’s stop being oil co cheerleaders. Or does your agreement to advocate have no bounds? I’ll have to read the agreement again to find out. Saddest part- how this agreement has fragmented and shattered alliances among environmentalists and progressives not just locally but nationally. sad. sad. sad.

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