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New Secret Offshore Deal, AB32 Rollback Brawl

Feb11

In the latest twist in the Tranquillon Ridge saga, Calbuzz has learned that PXP oil company and its environmental allies have submitted a new proposed agreement to the State Lands Commission aimed at authorizing expanded drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara.

Our efforts to learn how the new proposal differs from an earlier version, which the commission rejected last year, were unsuccessful, however, because neither the parties nor the commission would release a copy, saying the document is a draft, and the deal is still under review. (Our all-you-need-to-know primer on T-Ridge is here).

“We signed a confidentiality agreement,” Paul Thayer, Executive Officer of the Lands Commission, told us. “They want to get our reaction to it. It’s being reviewed at a staff level, and we’ve also asked the (Attorney General’s) office to look at it.”

The previous PXP-EDC agreement, reached in 2008, was kept secret until Calbuzz obtained a copy and published the document. At a time when controversy is still simmering over elements of the first agreement, key opponents of the project are unhappy with the news that an amended version of the proposed deal is, at least for now, being kept confidential.

“I’m disappointed that PXP and EDC are going down the same failed road,” said Democratic Assemblyman Pedro Nava, whose district adjoins the proposed new drilling. “Whatever the new agreement says, apparently both PXP and EDC believe it can’t stand public scrutiny and so they are hiding it.”

“PXP likes to claim some kind of oil company executive privilege,” he added.

As a political matter, the secrecy of the first agreement played a key role, both in its defeat before the commission, and in the widespread opposition to the T-Ridge deal generated among other environmental groups.

When Calbuzz disclosed the text of that agreement, representatives of both PXP and the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center told us they were working on a second version, aimed at addressing various concerns that commissioners expressed in voting against the plan last year. Both organizations said that the amended agreement would be made public.

“No, it is not final yet,” Linda Krop, chief counsel for the EDC, emailed us when we asked for a copy of the new agreement.

“We have nothing to hide,” said Scott Winters, a spokesman for PXP. “Once the agreement is final, we will release to the public.”

“Substantial amendments have been added to clarify the enforceability concerns raised by the State Lands Commission (SLC) staff and members of the environmental community,” Winters added in email responses to our questions.

Thayer said the Commission’s review of the proposal was conditioned on keeping its contents confidential.

Nava said the Commission’s willingness to enter into a confidentiality agreement with an applicant “certainly piques my interest.”

“I’ll be inquiring into the terms and conditions under which (SLC) entered into such an agreement.”

Weed whacker alert: PXP’s Winters said that release of the new agreement depended entirely on when the lands commission scheduled another hearing on the project.

“As of right now, the SLC has not calendared this matter for a re-hearing. PXP’s hope is that the SLC will move expeditiously to hold a re-hearing,” he said. “The sooner the SLC schedules a hearing, the sooner the public will have another chance to consider the benefits offered by the project to discuss whether approval is in fact in the best interest of the state.”

We asked Thayer when PXP might get a new hearing in front of the commission. He said it depended on whether they filed a new application for the project, or requested a rehearing on their previous application. A new application would require staff to review it within 30 days, and commissioners to act in 180 or fewer days, he said. But PXP has asked for a faster method to gain approval, such as a rehearing. “We’ve never done one,” Thayer said, adding that the staff is investigating the possibility of such a procedure.

Jerry Blasted on AB32: The folks behind the movement to suspend AB32, California’s historic climate-change legislation, are furious at Attorney General Jerry Brown for the ballot title he has assigned to what they were hoping to sell as the “California Jobs Initiative.”

Crusty’s title:

Suspends air pollution control laws requiring major polluters to report and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming until unemployment drops below specified level for full year.

(Which is a little like titling the initiative to legalize marijuana as follows: Ushers in an era of human kindness and peace on earth through availability of non-toxic and eco-friendly natural substances).

The anti-AB32 initiative is backed by Assemblyman Dan Logue of Chico and U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock,  Ted Costa and others who argue the legislation is a job killer – as Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner also contend.

Score round one for Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs, who has hired our old pal Steve Maviglio to manage the opposition.

As a political matter, Brown has hardly been neutral about AB32. In fact, when he was on KGO Radio last week he referred to people opposing the measure as “Neanderthals . . . who want to turn the clock backwards.”

Here’s the dilemma for business interests who’d like to chip in to kill AB32:

1) this is likely the only legacy achievement Gov. Schwarzmuscle has going for him and he’s not going to be happy with people who try to kill it and 2) with a ballot summary like that, who’s going to vote to give a break to “major polluters”?

You never know. Maybe eMeg or the Commish will toss in a few million to the effort and campaign for it. Of course, we think it will backfire in a general election, but hey, stranger things have happened in California politics.

GOP ratfuck update: As close readers will recall, an online firefight broke out last December between Chip Hanlon, proprietor of the Red County web sites, and Aaron Park (formerly known as Sgt. York),  who was one of his bloggers. When Hanlon fired Park/York for secretly being on Steve Poizner’s payroll, we gave Hanlon a hat tip for “canning Sgt. York and disclosing the matter to his readers.”

Given what we knew then, it made sense to note that, “At a time when ethical blogging is too often an oxymoron, it’s nice to see somebody step up to defend his credibility.”

Since then, we’ve learned more, which colors our HT just a bit: It seems that buried deep in eMeg’s campaign finance report is a $20,000 disbursement to Green Faucet LLC, which is an investment firm owned by Chip Hanlon and also the parent company of his Red County web sites. The payment was made about a week after Hanlon fired Park, the erstwhile, paid Poizner sock puppet.

Hanlon tells us this was a straight-up business exchange: eMeg bought advertising on his web sites. And sure enough, her ads are there. But we spoke with another advertiser on Red County who’s paying about $300 a month – closer to the going rate for small political sites – for equivalent exposure on Red County sites. Which suggests the $20K from eMeg could be a big, fat subsidy to Hanlon – not much different than the $2,500 a month Park was getting from Poizner (and which, he says, eMeg’s people tried to match).

All of which raises questions about the use of web site commentary by MSM media, like when the Mercury News recently called on Matt Cunningham, a featured Red County blogger, to comment on Poizner’s charge that eMeg’s consultant had tried to bribe him out of the governor’s race. If you really want to get into the internecine Orange County GOP rat-fucking, you can catch up to the action here and here and here.

(Memo to eMeg Marketing Dept: Our New York-based, commission-paid advertising staff would be well pleased to get $20K for ads on Calbuzz. Hell, they’d even take $300 a month like Poizner is paying for his ad on the page. Plenty of free parking.)


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There are 12 comments for this post

  1. avatar pedronava says:

    It is indeed tragic that EDC and PXP learned nothing from their last attempt to keep the details of their sweetheart deal a secret. We now know that EDC was paid $50K for negotiating the deal and promised another $50K when the deal was approved. Beyond that, EDC agreed to lobby for PXP before various boards and commissions (and was to be compensated for their efforts-which explains why EDC was calling the Speakers Office promoting the deal at the same time I was battling the Governor’s budget play on the Assembly floor) and PXP is the only party entitled to terminate the agreement if EDC doesn’t perform up to PXP’s expectations.
    The public is again kept in the dark as to a “new” agreement and EDC and PXP will continue to manipulate and leak selected information just like the last time. I for one am tired of EDC and a Texas based oil company making state coastal policy for the 37 million people of California and expecting us to like it.

    • avatar kernsmart says:

      Mr. Nava – If you are so concerned about secret deals, where is your bill to end the secret the Big 5 negotiations? Why aren’t you advocating for the general public to attend your caucus meetings?

      This is not “state coastal policy”. This is a contractual agreement between the SLC as leasor and PXP as leesee. Contratual agreements are not legally held to the same public disclosure standards as legislation. If you don’t know this what the heck are you doing running for Attorney General?

    • The effort to suggest that there is a secret deal being created is simply wrong. EDC has made a commitment to release the document publicly when it is indeed an agreement, rather than just a concept. We have sought input from the State Lands Commission and the AG to assure that their concerns are considered and addressed and have reached out to our partners in the environmental movement to understand their concerns. The document will address all of these things and will be released when it is final.
      Mr. Nava doesn’t release the first drafts of legislation, or letters to constituents being considered in his office. Drafts are, by their nature, not usually public. HOWEVER, recognizing that inquiring minds want to know what is in our draft, we have posted a summary on our website at:

      http://www.edcnet.org/learn/current_cases/offshore_oil/tranquillon_ridge/Factsheet_New_agreement.pdf

      There is also a lot of other useful information about the PXP Agreement on our site at:
      http://www.edcnet.org/tranquillonridge

      EDC is a law firm, working to meet our clients’ goal of ending oil drilling in the Santa Barbara channel. Our work product is confidential until our clients authorize it to be released. We are more anxious than anyone to get to that point, but cannot respond to political, press or rhetorical pressure to advance the appropriate time for its release.

    • avatar kernsmart says:

      Good point… This isn’t really a deal yet because there is yet to be an agreement. Right now it’s still a negotiation. Still doesn’t excuse Mr. Nava from his hypocracy.

  2. avatar Shankopotamus says:

    I guess the real question is if the draft document – that according to the parties in the article is still undergoing revisions – was released to the public at this point would everyone who has already made up their mind to oppose chip in and be constructive about crafting “fixes”? The company and the environmental group who put together this package are saying that they are making changes to respond to the criticisms that were raised in the past and they’ll make those changes public once everything is finished. Trying to be fair in looking at this issue and I’m having a tough time seeing what’s unreasonable about that position.

    Fascinating issue to watch play out. Makes you wish you had a crystal ball to see what the environmental community will say 20 years from now if this deal falls through and the platforms are still running. We need more people in our society to spend time looking at how to fix problems rather than just sitting on the side lines and spending all day telling people that are doing things what they’re doing wrong.

    • avatar jarvis Johnson says:

      The only reason that these rigs would be running in 20 years is if they are given access to oil fields in state waters. Irene is predicted to be out of economically recoverable before 2020. Hidalgo, Harvest, and Hermosa (which aren’t even operated by PXP) will be out before 2024. All this deal does is give Platform Irene more access to oil in state waters and potentially extend the life of the rigs, which would otherwise be out of oil before the end dates anyway.

  3. avatar Coastwatcher says:

    So much for honesty and being willing to wor with people When will they release this – at the hearing? We all need to see the draft to give input so this time, the “iron-clad” agreement won’t turn out to be full of holes like last time

  4. avatar pedronava says:

    Once again it is necessary to point out misrepresentations made by the pro-PXP cheerleaders.

    Please read the now public agreement, PXP does not control all the platforms people keep talking about. They remain in federal waters under the authority of the federal Minerals Management Service (MMS), MMS has already said they will not accept end dates for their leases. There will be as much as 100 million barrels of crude left in the T-Ridge field on the supposed, unenforceable end date. No way will MMS and the federal govt leave that much behind. There will be continued drilling, no matter what-if not by PXP, they by someone else.

    Please read the Santa Barbara County enviromental documents. The EDC/PXP plan substantially increases the risk and size of oil spills because of increased volume.

    PXP does not own all the land that is supposed to be donated.

    And there will never be a satisfactory answer to the forseeable consequence of the national precedent approval of the EDC/PXP will set.

    The President during his SOTU address specifically mentioned new offshore oil drilling. Anyone who thinks the EDC/PXP deal won’t be used to demonstrate the California coastline is open for drilling just isn’t paying attention to the national mood and the influence of the oil companies.

  5. avatar pedronava says:

    Please take a look at how opposition to the ill-advised PXP oil drilling deal has grown.

    http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov/members/a35/enewsletters/AD35Enews201001-02.pdf

  6. I don’t get EDC’s strategy here. Revising the deal to address concerns is the right move from their perspective, even though I don’t see how the deal can ever be made acceptable. Still, it doesn’t help to keep it hidden. Bad optics.

  7. avatar TheHerdMentality says:

    Leases are controlled by their owners. Nava’s assertion that the MMS controls them is false. Platform Irene, Hidalgo, Harvest, and Hermosa can drill for another 100 years. Drilling technology isn’t what it was in the 1970′s and 80′s.

  8. avatar pedronava says:

    Instead of opening up the CA coast to new offshore oil drilling in state waters-a la EDC/PXP-we should be doing what Oregon did-enact a new ban

    Read about it here:
    http://olcv.org/resources/moratorium-offshore-drilling-passes-oregon-senate

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