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Posts Tagged ‘offshore oil drilling’



Barbour Flirts with CA Press, Ducks Key Questions

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

In a brief fly-by media avail, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour on Saturday ducked two of the more contentious issues facing any Republican seeking the GOP nomination for president in California: oil drilling off the California coast and a path to citizenship for immigrants living and working here illegally.

Before a dinner speech to the California Republican Party meeting in Sacramento, Barbour (who says he’ll decide on running for president by the end of April) took questions for about 10 minutes from reporters, demonstrating his masterful ability to respond without answering.

Asked about his stance on a path to citizenship, Barbour first cut off and argued with the premise of a question from San Francisco Chronicle reporter Carla Marinucci, who began, “You lobbied for the government of Mexico on the issue of amnesty and a path to citizenship . . . ”

“Actually, your facts are incorrect,” he said, saying his firm (but not he) had lobbied for the American Trucking Association in an attempt to ensure that American trucks would not be prohibited from Mexico if truckers had to return home before getting their visas renewed.

Not only is that version harshly at odds with documented reporting, which shows Barbour personally was a lobbyist for the Mexican government and helped push for more lenient treatment of Mexican nationals seeking to remain in the United States (which his critics called “amnesty”), but it also side-stepped the real question – which Calbuzz asked in a follow-up: Where does he stand on the issue of providing a path to citizenship?

“First, we have to close the border,” Barbour replied “Once we have a closed and secure and controlled border, then you can start talking about what should we do and what shouldn’t we do. But I can tell you, there’s not going to be any agreement among Americans until we close the border.”

In other remarks, Barbour has gone further, saying that whatever is decided, it cannot include “amnesty.”

When we tried another approach – “Is it your position that until the borders are closed, you cannot support a path to citizenship?” – Barbour replied:

“I don’t think there should be any attempt at overall immigration reform until the border’s closed. Now, there’s one thing that’s not part of the greater sort of broader immigration reform and that’s H1B visas. We ought to have a whole lot more H1B visas in the United States.

“It is silly for us to take these very, very bright young people from other countries that come here to go to school and they get great educations, PhDs, whatever, and then we make ‘em go home. We ought to make it easy for ‘em to stay here because we’re in a global battle for talent in the United States as well as a global battle for capital. So we need to do everything we can do to be the place where all the best talent in the world wants to come.”

He cut off another follow-up from Calbuzz that began, “What about housekeepers…”

We also asked whether he’d like to see more oil drilling off the coast of California and Barbour again took a duck:

“I’d like to see more drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Thirty percent of the oil produced in the United States  year before last come out of the Gulf of Mexico. Now we have a permatorium on the Gulf of Mexico drilling. The administration, now that gasoline has shot up, is saying ‘oh well we’ve given two permits in the last two weeks.’ Well, if you look at the fine print, the two permits are not for new wells to be drilled, they’re permits to resume drilling on wells that had already been started more than a year ago.”

What about here?

“I don’t know enough about it here. What I do know about is the Gulf because we have been drilling oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico for 50 years – 31,000 oil wells. And the United States depends on that production, a lot of people in my part of the country worry about the loss of jobs.

“Well, I do too. But more than that I worry about how when we reduce the amount of petroleum we produce in the United States it makes us more reliant on foreign oil and every president since 1973 has had a policy to try to make us less dependent on foreign oil . So stopping drilling in the Gulf, taking lands off line in Alaska, fighting the bringing in of tar sands produced oil in Canada – all of these things are contrary to a country that needs more American energy. And that’s what our policy should be – more American energy.”

Debate Watcher’s Guide to Babs and Hurricane Carly

Monday, August 30th, 2010

As the U.S. Senate candidates prepare to debate Wednesday evening, Republican Carly Fiorina and Democrat Barbara Boxer face two, very different challenges:

Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, wants to make the case that Boxer is a left-wing extremist who should be tossed out of Congress and that she would make a solid replacement for her rival.

First elected in 1992, Boxer has to demonstrate that she has been, and can continue to be, effective in the Senate. It’s an added bonus if she can portray Fiorina as a right-wing whack job.

Look for Fiorina to move aggressively to steer the conversation to jobs, portray the economic stimulus bill as a prime example of excessive government spending and mock Boxer’s record of achievement (or lack thereof) in the Senate.

Watch for Boxer to argue that the stimulus saved many thousands of jobs in California, and to try to focus on a woman’s right to choose, climate change, offshore oil drilling and Fiorina’s record of achievement (or lack thereof) at Hewlett-Packard.

Throw down a shot every time Fiorina mentions Boxer’s 28 years in office and another when Boxer mentions HP and “You’ll be pretty toasted at the end of that game,” says Julie Soderlund, Fiorina’s spokeswoman.

Boxer is a big supporter of President Barack Obama and the stimulus. So Fiorina will home in on the sense that the president’s policies have failed to restore economic security. But every time Fiorina mentions the economy, she will open herself up to attacks about laying off thousands of HP employees, shipping jobs abroad and mismanaging the company, from which she was fired.

Both will have much to say about extending the Bush tax cuts: Fiorina likes them and Boxer argues they benefit only the rich. Both have strong views on immigration: Fiorina accuses Boxer of favoring amnesty and being soft on illegals; Boxer can’t understand why Fiorina is opposed to a path to citizenship for undocumented workers.

Listen for how many times either candidate refers to “green jobs,” policy proposals that posit California can combine economic growth with environmental protection by building up wind, solar and battery industries to cushion the shock of tough regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Note how many times the two reference agriculture and – heaven help us – “family farming.” Is one of them for getting water to the Central Valley and the other opposed? Would one of them drain the Delta in order to flood parched farmland?

The issue of abortion rights is perhaps the brightest line difference between the two.

Boxer knows that Fiorina’s anti-abortion stance differs from mainstream views of most California voters, including the independents who tilt the balance in statewide elections. She also knows, however, that Fiorina has a personal narrative to explain her position – she and her husband, Frank, were unable to have children, while his mother recalls that she was urged to abort him for health reasons – so Boxer must handle it carefully.

While voters may hope the candidates will keep the debate focused on issues, some personal, snarky moments are all but guaranteed – the targets are just too tempting.

Will Fiorina refer to Boxer as “ma’am,” to remind viewers of her notorious confrontation over titles with a top general at a committee hearing? Will Boxer, as one of her advisers suggested, mention Fiorina’s yacht trips with her grandchildren? Will either offer a reminder of Fiorina’s dis of Boxer’s way-yesterday hairdo early in the campaign?

How about term limits, Barbara? Carly’s for them and has even pledged to serve only 12 years in the Senate. Is this just a cheap rhetorical trick or are you planning to lead a nationwide drive to get approval for a constitutional amendment, Carly?

Carly, are you for tax breaks for companies shipping jobs overseas, like you did at HP? Barbara, do you want to raise business taxes to make it even harder for companies to hire workers when California’s unemployment rate is pushing 13 percent?

As they prepare for the debate, both sides are talking up how skilled the other is at public speaking and argument, part of the raise-expectations game.

But there are some expectations that viewers can rightfully bring to the debate-watching experience. Boxer, who often stands on a box to look taller, has to maintain the dignity and decorum of a United States senator, even if she takes shots at her challenger. Fiorina has to look and sound like a United States senator and not Suze Orman on steroids.

Viewers might want to put a couple of columns on a piece of paper: Junk Yard Dog and Dignified Public Servant. Every time either candidate sounds like one of these, mark her name in the appropriate column. Total them up at the end.

The results will have absolutely nothing to do with who actually wins the election.

This article, without clever Calbuzz art, appeared originally in the Sacramento Bee on Sunday, 8/29/10.

eMeg’s Pander on the Right Hurts Her Against Brown

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

By lurching to the right to defeat Steve Poizner for the Republican nomination for governor, Meg Whitman has eroded her standing among  independents and moderates, women and Latinos – all key constituencies in a general election against Democrat Jerry Brown.

In March, before she pulled out all the stops to outflank Poizner among conservatives over illegal immigration, abortion and taxes, to name a few issues, Whitman’s favorable-to-unfavorable ratings were 25-21% among independents, 29-25% among moderates, 30-21% among women and 25-12% among Latinos, according to the USC/LA Times poll.

But in the May survey, eMeg’s favorable-unfavorable standings were 25-39% among independents, 29-42% among moderates, 28-37% among women and 22-31% among Latinos. (Get a pdf of the crosstabs here.)

Likewise, in March Whitman was running ahead of Brown 44-41% in a simulated general election match-up, including 40-39% among independents and 44-38% among women. But she now trails Brown 44-38% overall, 48-30% among independents and 46-34% among women.

“It’s not irretrievable,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC’s College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “But it puts her in a hole going forward.”

By comparison, Democrat Jerry Brown, who has been able to avoid the crossfire between Whitman and Poizner, has maintained positive favorability ratings among these key groups – 33-26% among independents, 38-29% among moderates, 38-29% among women and 33-16% among Latinos.

In a conference call with reporters last week, Whitman’s chief strategist, Mike Murphy, addressed the issue of his candidate’s loss of support among Latinos, arguing that the former eBay CEO would not suffer permanently because Latinos are not single-issue voters.

But Whitman’s embrace of the Neanderthal Wing of the GOP has only barely been driven home to key constituencies, and only from the right – not yet from the left. Except for the populist attacks on her by Poizner and the California Democratic Party over her connections to Goldman Sachs, most of the TV ads aimed at her have tried to make her out to be a squishy liberal.

While Poizner has apparently bet his entire end-game strategy on the belief that one’s stand on the Arizona anti-immigration law – he’s for it, Whitman’s against it — has become the dividing line in the Republican primary, that idea seems wrong-headed.

According to the survey, 50% of registered voters support the Arizona law, including 77% of Republicans. But Whitman is beating Poizner among those who favor the law by 54-29%. He actually does better – 46-29% — among those who oppose the law.

But the sharp divide on the Arizona law helps to illuminate how Whitman’s efforts to look tough on immigration have hurt her in the general election. Among those who support the law, she beats Brown 55-30%. But among those who oppose the law, Brown leads by a huge margin of 61-19%.

The USC/LA Times survey suggests some areas where Brown has yet to make a mark. While he led Whitman among Latinos 52-29% in March, his standing slipped to 40-31% in May. And while upwards of 85% of voters 45 and older have an opinion about Brown (4-5 points favorable), only 34% of those 18-19 years old know enough about Brown even to express an opinion.

As we’ve noted before, however, Krusty the General has yet to remind Latinos that he put Cruz Reynoso on the California Supreme Court, Mario Obledo in his cabinet, marched with Caesar Cesar Chavez, created the Agricultural Relations Board and dated Linda Ronstadt. Nor has he yet told younger voters about Whitman’s flip-flops on offshore oil drilling or her stance against California’s pioneering law to address climate change.

And we’re still not sure how Brown, who opposes the legalize-and-tax marijuana initiative on the November ballot, will play the dope card. Being attorney general and all (and having been a pretty straight-laced Jesuit school boy as a youth) it’s hard to figure how he will make use of this factoid from the USC/LA Times poll:

Among those who opposed the legalization of marijuana (41% of voters), Whitman leads Brown 45-35%. But among those who favor legalization (49%), Brown leads 53-33%. And among those who used marijuana in the past year, Brown smokes Whitman 60-34%. Hey campers, want some Fritos with that precinct list?

Kaboom! And a Happy Earth Day to You, Too!

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

It may be a tad early to assess the political impacts of the explosion and sinking of an BP oil rig off the coast of Louisiana, but it seems safe to say that the horrific images of the disaster won’t speed up the cause of the controversial Tranquillon Ridge project in California.

The strange bedfellow alliance among and between Governor Arnold, several Santa Barbara environmental groups and the Houston-based oil company PXP recently re-launched their effort to resurrect the project, after it was turned down by the State Lands Commission and the Legislature last year.

Now, the metastasizing oil spill*** in the Gulf of Mexico, and the apparent loss of the lives of at least 11 oil workers that followed a blow-out on a rig on Tuesday night – Earth Day – provide a sudden and grim reminder of the high stakes of offshore drilling.

The T-Ridge plan calls for the lands commission to award PXP a lease to drill in state waters, the first since the 1969 Santa Barbara spill, from an existing platform in federal waters. Environmentalists on both sides of the internecine warfare over the issue insist that their position represents the  best way to prevent more spills like that now engulfing the Gulf.

In the move that split old alliances and fractured California’s environmental community, local groups in Santa Barbara have pushed the T-Ridge plan as a way to trade more drilling in the short run for less in the long run, exchanging their political support for a PXP lease to slant drill into state waters for the oil company’s legal promise – which they insist is ironclad – to cease all drilling from four federal platforms in the area within 14 years.

Amid all the political, legal and financial wrangling over the issue for the past two years, it’s hard to imagine a more powerful argument against  drilling than that presented by pictures of firefighters vainly battling the deadly and violent blaze that sunk the oil rig. It’s worth noting that the T-Ridge platform is located just over three miles from shore, far closer to land than the  Deepwater Horizon rig that sank about 50  miles off the coast of Louisiana.

Many backers of the governor’s proposal have argued that oil drilling operations have undergone huge technological advancements in the past 40 years, making unlikely a massive spill like that poisoned the Santa Barbara Channel in 1969.

Among those who have embraced the technology-makes-it-safe argument are Republican wannabe governor Steve Poizner and his front-running rival, Meg Whitman.

“When I started this process, I was against offshore oil drilling,” Whitman told reporters in Santa Barbara last year, “and then I began to understand deeply the new technology that is available to extract oil from existing wells.”

For the record, Jerry Brown does not support the T-Ridge proposal. As Attorney General, and the lawyer for the State Lands Commission, Brown’s staff recommended that the commission reject PXP’s project last year. As a candidate, Brown “does not believe off-shore drilling is the answer to our problems,” said campaign flack Sterling Clifford.

*Update: Early fears of huge spill may be unfounded.

**Update II (4/24): Now they’ve found an underwater leak a senior Coast Guard official describes as “a game changer.”

***Update III (4/27): Spill now 40 miles X 50 miles - so much for “unfounded” fears.

****Update IV (4/29): Send in the Marines.

FYI: The Associated Press reports “Since 2001, there have been 69 offshore deaths, 1,349 injuries and 858 fires and explosions in the gulf, according to the Minerals Management Service. ”

Weed whacker alert: In order to jump start the T-Ridge proposal, PXP needs to file a new application for a hearing before the lands commission and, so far, has not done so, SLC executive officer Paul Thayer told Calbuzz.

Thayer said that the commission staff, analyzed a revised version of the agreement between PXP and the Environmental Defense Center several months ago. The commission rejected the original proposal last year and still has problems with it, despite some improvements, he said.

The “beneficial aspect” of the new agreement it reviewed is that it strengthens the state’s ability to intervene legally if PXP does not honor its terms, he said. But the final authority over end dates for drilling from facilities in federal waters still rests with the Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service, not the state: “Ultimately, MMS controls what’s going on out there.”

Thayer also cited the “precedental value” of the existing 41-year old prohibition against any new drilling leases in state waters, which has been in force since the 1969 Santa Barbara spill.

“California’s congressional delegation has made use of that,” in fighting against expansion of drilling in federal waters off the coast of California, he said.

P.S. Kudos to KQED’s John Myers for getting Abel Maldonado on the record about his stance on T-Ridge this week, in advance of his confirmation vote for lieutenant governor, a post from which he gets a deciding vote on the project on the lands commission.

Live from the California Nurses Association: Queen Meg!

The latest in guerrilla theater from the CNA, Queen Meg, escorts, a horse-drawn carriage and a proclamation that reads:
“In honor of her $150 million campaign treasury, the people of California do hereby crown Meg Whitman as Queen Meg of California.  Her husband Griffith Harsh IV is crowned Prince Griffith of Palo Alto, and the Whitman-Harsh royal motto shall be ‘Healthcare for the nobility, Education for the few, Prisons for all.’”

New Secret Offshore Deal, AB32 Rollback Brawl

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

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.)