Quantcast

Posts Tagged ‘PXP’



Maddaus on CD 36: Liberal vs Liberal vs Ultra-Liberal

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

As Secretary of State Debra Bowen jumped into the race for the 36th Congressional District race and L.A. city council member Janice Hahn added Sen. Dianne Feinstein to her long list of establishment endorsers, we heard from political writer Gene Maddaus, who took issue with some key elements of the Calbuzz early line, published last week.

Maddaus, who covers politics for the LA Weekly, is all over the campaign to succeed the departing Rep. Jane Harman day-to-day. Among his other lead-the-pack coverage – here, here and here – he broke the news of Bowen’s entry Tuesday. Here’s his take on our take of the race.

Gene Maddaus
Special to Calbuzz

1. Janice Hahn is no moderate. Along with Jose Huizar and Richard Alarcon, she is one of the three most liberal members of the (quite liberal) LA City Council. She opposed gang injunctions. She backed a $30 million tax to pay for more gang intervention workers. She is among the most likely to defend city jobs as an end in themselves. She would be a moderate in Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, but not here.

2. The race isn’t so much about moderate vs. liberal — because Bowen and Hahn are both very liberal — as it is about a beer-track Democrat (Hahn) versus a wine-track Democrat (Bowen).

Bowen’s base is pro-choice, pro-consumer/trial lawyer, and pro-environment. Hahn’s base is labor labor labor, plus African-Americans. (That’s thanks to residual affection for Kenny Hahn, though, unfortunately for her, there aren’t many black voters in the 36th.)

If either of them is a moderate, it’s Bowen. She was a Republican in her misspent youth, and she had a reputation in the Assembly for bucking the party leadership. (Though that was probably out of necessity, since she represented a 50/50 district and the leadership was Willie Brown.)

3. The L.A. County Fed will back Hahn, and their support can be determinative in a low-turnout primary. UNITE HERE Local 11 (Maria-Elena’s old shop) endorsed Hahn last week, so the Fed can’t be far behind. Their turnout operation is justly feared/admired and union density is high in the Harbor area. Bowen’s hope would be that she can turn out wine-track Dems in the beach cities, where the Fed is less potent (ask Nick Karno in the 53rd AD) and that she can persuade independents and Republicans to back her in order to stop Hahn.

4. If anything, the jungle primary helps Bowen. Without it, Winograd and Bowen split the Westside liberal vote while Hahn has the Harbor/labor vote to herself. In the runoff, Hahn faces a token Republican. Advantage: Hahn. But with the jungle primary, Winograd gets kicked out after Round 1 and the Westside liberal vote consolidates behind Bowen. Advantage: Bowen. (Unless, of course, a Republican makes it through the runoff).

5. Both Hahn and Bowen are to the left of Harman, so now Winograd has to go even further left to maintain her brand. (Winograd’s questions for Bowen include: Will you visit Bradley Manning [the Wikileaks leaker] in solitary confinement?) A lot of that Winograd vote is anti-Harman. Not sure how seriously the electorate will take her this time around.

6. Harman said she’s resigning so the election can be consolidated with the special statewide vote on taxes. There’s a chance that this won’t cost the state any money, if a candidate gets 50% of the vote. If not, the runoff would be in August, when turnout is at its lowest and a good turnout operation is most important.

Harman also said that the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where she’ll be taking over as executive director, approached her after the November election, because they didn’t like their first round of candidates to replace Lee Hamilton, the former Indiana congressman who’s retiring from the think tank.

The oil rig that wouldn’t die: Overlooked in much of the budget coverage that followed Kevin Yamamura’s scoop on the Legislative Analyst’s worst-case scenario report is the sudden resurfacing of the hugely contentious Tranquillon Ridge offshore oil drilling project.

Less than a year after ex-Governor Schwarzmuscle folded his long-sought effort to win approval of the Santa Barbara County coastal project, in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, analyst Mac Taylor tucked it into the new report his office prepared, which offers a detailed look at the kinds of cuts and other moves lawmakers would have to make if Governor Krusty doesn’t get his way on extending $12 billion in temporary tax hikes.

The T-Ridge project called for a new state oil lease – which would be the first since the 1969 Santa Barbara spill – authorizing the PXP oil company to drill into state waters from its existing Platform Irene facilities in federal water, more than three miles offshore from Vandenberg Air Force base.

Among a whole batch of bitter political conflicts, the proposal caused a civil war within the green community in Santa Barbara, where the environmental movement began; some, led by the Environmental Defense Center, backed the lease as part of a negotiated package they said would end future drilling in federal waters from Irene and three other platforms. Others, notably former S.B. Democratic Assemblyman Pedro Nava, said it would set a dangerous precedent that could open California’s coast to more drilling.

For Brown, the project, one of the few  budget moves in Taylor’s report that would generate new revenue, would represent a special quandary. A longtime foe of offshore drilling, Gandalf would be under pressure to back the plan, estimated to bring $100 million a year into the treasury, because of his call for shared sacrifice across the political spectrum.

“Friggin’ cats only have 9 lives,” Nava, who led the opposition to the plan in the Legislature, told Calbuzz. “This feels like at least a dozen.”

ICYMI: There’s a do-gooder move afoot to take down various video posts of the truly bizarre clip of CBS LA correspondent Serene Branson’s live report from the Grammys the other night, amid still unanswered medical questions about whether she had some kind of neurological malfunction on the air. Before it’s gone for ever, you can judge for yourself.

Team eMeg Brags on Poll; John Laird Strikes on Oil

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Meg Whitman’s top campaign strategists convened a conference call with California political writers Tuesday to claim they were on the cusp of victory in the race for the Republican nomination for governor.

Beating their chests over a new internal poll* they said shows eMeg skunking Steve Poizner by 26 points, campaign advisers Mike Murphy and Jeff Randle not only boasted of having “an integrated campaign” machine bristling with more weapons than the Empire’s Death Star but also bragged that their latest TV ads brilliantly succeeded, if they do say so themselves, in effectively vanquishing their GOP rival.

“This is quite a comeback for Meg Whitman,” Murphy said. “There’s no doubt the race is now breaking very strongly in Meg’s favor.”

Mike Murphy

Jeff and I said on the last call we did like this with you all that we would – that voters were confused – by the misleading and in many areas highly inaccurate Poizner/Democratic attack campaign and we would endeavor in the Meg Whitman campaign to unconfuse them.

And so we took a lot of action: Meg is working hard on the stump, some new television ads, some new radio ads. All of which we put into effect about two weeks ago and I’m very happy to say those ads have had an extremely positive effect. Voters are becoming unconfused…

While their triumphalist tone was slightly modulated by some CYA boilerplate – “There is no complacency in the campaign” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) – it seemed pretty clear that Murphy and Randle genuinely believed that what they were saying is true. Which led us to wonder about one nagging question:

Why are they telling us this now?

Think about it: If you’re pitching a no-hitter, ahead by 12 runs with two outs and the bases empty in the bottom of the ninth, do you suddenly step off the rubber and scream – “I’m really, really winning by a lot now! – to the fans in the stands?

We’re just sayin’.

In seeking an explanation, Calbuzz turned to our Staff Psychiatrist, Dr. P.J. Hackenflack, who posited five possible reasons for Team Whitman’s behavior (solution below):

a) Murphy is like that guy who takes a little blue pill, then calls up his friends and starts yelling,  “Dude – it’s been FOUR HOURS, man!”

b) Henry Gomez ordered them to do it after Meg complained that all the horse people at the Woodside Starbucks were saying she hadn’t got her money’s worth for her $68 million.

c) Meg demanded that her handlers go out and explain to those ruffian reporters that the 60-second ad she had personally written had magically turned the whole thing around.

d) Murphy’s jammed up for cash, and is hoping he’ll get his $500K win bonus a little early.

e) The Whitman campaign badly wants to discourage and depress Poizner, so that he doesn’t complicate their lives in the next two weeks by going to the wallet for another $5-10 million.

Calbuzz sez: a) and e).

*McLaughlin & Associates, paid by the Whitman campaign, says the race is 53-27% after surveying 600 likely GOP primary voters May 23-24, margin of error +/- 4%.

Sam Blakeslee

Laird Draws First Blood on Blakeslee in Maldo’s Old District

If you go to Republican Sam Blakeslee’s campaign web page for the special election in what was Abel Maldonado’s SD15 you’ll find out he’s committed to schools, reforming the state budget, strengthening the economy, energy efficiency, public safety and ethics. What you won’t find is that the Assemblyman from San Luis Obispo was the No. 1 water carrier for the Tranquillon Ridge offshore oil drilling proposal.

But his Democratic opponent, John Laird of Santa Cruz, today launches a TV campaign to remind voters in the district that “even as the oil slick harms the Gulf Coast, politicians like former Exxon executive and current State Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee are still saying, ‘Drill baby, drill.’”

John Laird

Which has the effect of raising  two things Blakeslee is apparently not too keen on mentioning: 1) his background as an Exxon executive who fought for PXP’s proposal to  expand offshore oil drilling in Santa Barbara and 2) that he actually is an Assemblyman (his ballot designation will be “independent business owner”).

Blakeslee’s web site does say that after getting his PhD from UC Santa Barbara in geophysics, he “worked as a research scientist at Exxon’s research lab in Texas, where he received a patent for inventing an innovative technique for imaging geological formations. Later, he moved into management and became a strategic planner where he was responsible for creating and managing Exxon budgets.”

It doesn’t mention that he actually joined Exxon’s Production Research in the Borehole Geophysics Group. Maybe that sounds a little too much like an oil driller. (We can just see the tag line, inspired by Dianne Feinstein’s ad against Michael Huffington in 1994: “A San Luis oilman central Californians just can’t trust.”)

If you are one of those Calbuzzers who follows legislative intrigue, you may recall that we noted in September 2009 that “fingers were pointed at Blakeslee last month when Capitol Weekly disclosed that the Assembly vote on the PXP measure had been expunged from the record.” He denied it, but everyone in Sacramento was pretty sure he was the guy – as minority leader — who had the slate wiped.

Laird’s ad buy – about $350,000 in Salinas, Santa Barbara and on cable in San Jose – is likely enough to inject offshore oil drilling into the contest. Armed with a new FM3 survey showing the race a dead heat – each candidate with about a third of the vote – Laird is banking on a finding that 56% of likely special election voters are opposed to allowing more offshore oil drilling.

Blakeslee has his own ad up – a nice positive in which he pledges to “fight to stop the waste and turn California around.” Not one mean word about what a liberal, special-interest, job-killing tree-hugger Laird is. So there’s no question: Laird is firing the first shot here.

It’s his sad good fortune that offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has raised to an extraordinary level an issue on which he actually has fought most of his political career. As he says in his ad:

Enough is enough. I’m John Laird. Protecting California’s coastline is crucial to our economy and our way of life. That’s why I’ve always stood up to the oil companies and worked to prevent more drilling off our coasts. Because the risks to California’s future are just too great.

That’s powerful stuff.

Measuring Goldman Taint; More on Arnold Flip Flop

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Alert readers might have noted that Calbuzz has, in recent weeks, paid a lot of attention to billionaire Meg Whitman’s links to Goldman Sachs.  They may also have gleaned that we kinda, sorta think that the stock spinning made possible by Goldman when eMeg was CEO of eBay, was, well, pretty darn unethical.

So when Steve Poizner pounced on eMeg’s Goldman taint, we gave The Commish a pretty good ride. But let’s be honest: Poizner’s not some poor schmo with a tin cup begging for nickels so he can run for governor. A zillionaire himself, he is certainly no Goldman Virgin.

In fact, back in 2004 when he was running for the Assembly, (as a Republican, btw when eMeg wasn’t even a registered voter, let alone a Republican – but we digress)* Poizner got himself a $500,000 loan on VERY favorable, preferential, best-customer terms (the federal funds rate + 60 basis points ) from Goldman Sachs. He repaid the loan about six months later, but he got use of the money at practically no cost – terms he was afforded because the loan was backed by his personal assets in a Goldman brokerage account (as noted in his 12/03 FPPC Form 700).

The whole loan and other complex Poizner/Goldman details are spelled out over at Whitman’s favorite conservative blog (at least she pays them huge amounts for her ads over there) Red County. The loan has also been noted here, here, here and here. Point being, the Whitman folks have shopped this one around, trying to suggest, “Hey, Poizner’s got just as much of a problem with Goldman Sachs as Meg does.”

But an exclusive Calbuzz analysis of the Goldman Sachs Taint of Scandal accruing to each of the candidates for governor – let’s not forget Attorney General Jerry Brown’s sister works there and the city where he was mayor had a credit deal with Goldman – demonstrates that the GSTS Factor for Whitman is 80%, compared to 15% for Poizner and 5% for Brown. (See chart above)

Bottom line: This is how smart, New Media Age guys and news gatherers avoid falling prey to the dreaded False Equivalence Syndrome – by scientifically analyzing the metrics and measurables of any given scandal – taking into account, of course, a margin or error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

Terminator terminates T-Ridge: Gov. Schwarzmuscle’s stunning, 180-degree flip flop on offshore drilling near Santa Barbara astonished us for many reasons – not least of which was the utter lack of political grace he displayed towards his erstwhile environmental allies, whom he totally hung out to dry.

“Arnold loves to do that – it’s part of his control issues,” said former Assembly member and T-Ridge environmental  booster Hannah Beth Jackson. “Consistency and rationality have never bothered him in the least.”

In delivering a sudden and unexpected coup de grace to the fiercely debated Tranquillon Ridge project on Monday, Arnold totally blindsided the embattled coalition of Santa Barbara environmental activists who had put reputations, credibility and personal friendships on the line in fighting for the plan for the last two years.

Having appropriated for his own purposes a complex legal agreement over leasing arrangements that Santa Barbara’s Environmental Defense Center had reached with the Houston-based PXP oil company, Schwarzenegger couldn’t be bothered giving the enviros a heads-up before airily dismissing the painstakingly negotiated deal as if he were dispatching a fly, during the course of a press conference he’d called on an entirely different issue.

“We had absolutely no idea this was coming,” said Linda Krop, general counsel for the EDC, who spent nearly three years working on the PXP agreement, and who’d been enlisted by Schwarzenegger’s Department of Finance in his own, budget driven efforts to gain approval for it. “We were completely surprised.”

Krop only learned that Schwarzenegger had switched his position more than an hour after his press conference, when reporters started to call. The architect of the EDC-PXP deal,  she has long argued that giving the company  a short-term lease to drill into state waters, from a platform it already operates in federal waters, is a worthwhile trade off for its promise to end permanently most of its federally leased drilling in the region.

Whatever you think, as a policy matter, of the agreement she crafted – and environmentalist opinion was bitterly polarized on the issue – Krop is a smart, determined and passionate coastal protection advocate who’s paid her dues and deserves better than being dissed by a muscle-bound, metrosexual movie actor without a principled bone in his sagging body.

Whaddya mean you work for me? Of course, enviros don’t seem to be the only ones who failed to see Schwarzenegger’s switcheroo coming.

Last Saturday, Chronicler Marisa Lagos did a good piece probing whether the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe had triggered any rethinking within the Administration about its full-square support of the T-Ridge project. No effin’ way, one of Conan’s army of mouthpieces insisted to her:

As oil spewed Friday from a blown out well in the Gulf of Mexico and spread into Louisiana’s sensitive wetlands and rich fishing grounds, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration defended a plan to allow new drilling off California’s Central Coast.

A spokesman for Schwarzenegger said the proposed Tranquillon Ridge project off Santa Barbara County is attractive because the oil company behind the project has agreed to end drilling off the coast in exchange for a permit to do so for the next 14 years…

“This doesn’t really change anything, because we’re looking at a platform that’s already in operation,” said Jeff Macedo, the governor’s spokesman. “If anything this makes the T-Ridge project that much more important, because it would put a sunset date on when it shuts down.”

Oh, never mind.

Two days later, Schwarzenegger stood before reporters and sounded exactly the opposite opinion.

Without the simple courtesy of telling someone to pick up the phone and let the pro-T-Ridge environmentalists know what he was about to do, Arnold instantly and categorically rejected the entire environmental argument in favor of the project.

He not only turned his back on his previously stated certainty that the PXP deal, by aiming to close out currently open-ended federal offshore leases, would actually make an oil spill near Santa Barbara less likely; he also shrugged off the importance of the $100 million the project would have brought to the state annually – after more than a year of thundering about the crucial importance of that money to California’s fiscal condition.

Not surprisingly, he said he changed his mind after watching TV.

* correction

Yo, AP! What, Exactly, Does Meg Whitman Regret?

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

When we read the story by Juliet Williams of the Associated Press in which she wrote: “Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman said [last] Tuesday she regrets taking part in a now-banned stock sale practice at Goldman Sachs . . .” we searched for a quote to back up the statement that Whitman had expressed “regret.”

There wasn’t one. “The lesson learned about it is you have to be extra vigilant about seeing any actual or perceived conflict of interest,” Whitman said. “I missed the signposts here.”

Williams wrote: “Whitman, a billionaire, said she forfeited the profits from the stock sales as part of the settlement to end the distraction of the lawsuit. She said the practice was part of the ‘normal course of business’ at the time.”

“As I look back on it, would I do it again? No,” Whitman said. However, she was also quoted saying, “There was no link between accepting these IPO shares and funneling business to Goldman.”

We tried to speak to Williams about this to find out if she had a quote in her interview in which Whitman had expressed regret about the actions she had taken in regard to Goldman Sachs – not just the legal and political fallout. But we couldn’t get through to the reporter; we were cut off by John Raess, AP’s San Francisco Bureau Chief, who referred us to corporate AP in New York for a response. More on that later.

We were concerned that Williams had attributed “regret” to Whitman that the former eBay CEO herself did not feel. Let’s be clear, “regret,” according to Webster’s New World Dictionary, is “1. to feel sorry about or mourn for (a person or thing gone, lost, etc.) 2. to feel troubled or remorseful over (something that has happened, one’s own acts, etc.) – n. 1. a troubled feeling or remorse over something that has happened, esp. over something that one has done or left undone . . .”

Our suspicion was confirmed when, in Sunday’s debate, Carla Marinucci of the Chronicle asked Whitman, and John Myers of KQED re-asked, whether she had done anything wrong in the Goldman Sachs spinning incident. Whitman replied:

“I did not do anything wrong. It was a legal and standard practice. With 20-20 hindsight, would I do it again? No, because it was called into question.”

By now it was pretty clear that Whitman didn’t regret what she’d done – she regretted what happened afterward. So we asked her spokesman Tucker Bounds whether Meg regretted having been involved in spinning IPOs that were made available to her by Goldman Sachs.

“Yes. I think the Associated Press report was completely accurate,” said Bounds, who sat in on the interview. “She’s expressed a lot of regret about the issue.”

But wait, we asked. If she did nothing wrong, what does she regret?

“That there was a perceived conflict of interest when one did not exist,” Bounds replied. “Perception is reality and that’s where the regret comes from.”

In other words, Whitman is not sorry. She’s not remorseful about what she did. She sees nothing unethical. No conflict of interest. No illicit insider advantage. She doesn’t think she did anything wrong (even if it was condemned and outlawed later on).

And that’s why the AP story was so  misleading. By writing that Whitman had regrets, Williams suggested that the former eBay boss felt some remorse about what she had done when nothing could be further from the truth. The only thing Whitman regrets is that what she did was perceived to be unethical. As far as she’s concerned it was not only legal, it was just fine.

Which brings us back to our complaint to AP.

Having been told we could not talk to Juliet Williams and that we had to speak to New York, we did and, after a long conversation with Jack Stokes in Media Relations, we were encouraged to send an email outlining our complaint.

Here’s some of what we said:

It’s my belief that unless Juliet has a quote in which Whitman expresses regret, then this was an over-interpretation by the writer of an emotion which the writer has no basis to know. How do we know Whitman “regrets” what she did? We know she says she wouldn’t do the same again because it was perceived to be a conflict of interest. But we have no way of knowing — at least from the quotes Juliet shared — that Whitman has any regrets.

The evidence suggests that Whitman strongly believes — because this is what she says — that she, in fact, did nothing wrong. What is there to regret, except that the whole thing was perceived to be a conflict of interest and has since caused her some political inconvenience?

I am not interested in seeking unpublished material from Juliet. I’d prefer if she published the material she has that substantiates what she wrote and that her editors would demand it. In fact, good editing here ought to dig down to the issue of whether a reporter has overstepped her knowledge base and written something for which she actually has no substantiation. This is a common problem in political reporting where writers characterize the motives and emotions of politicians instead of simply reporting the effect of their statements or actions. How does Juliet know that Whitman regrets what she did? How does AP know this?

Before we sent that note to AP we had received an email from Raess that informed us: “After talking with Juliet and with Tom Verdin [AP’s California political editor] I think we’ll let the story speak for itself. I’m confident it’s an accurate reflection of the interview. I’d be happy to discuss this with you personally.”

And now that Bounds has said the story is “completely accurate,” we don’t expect AP will do anything to repair the misimpression its story created. They’ll figure it’s case closed and that they’ve been vindicated.

They haven’t, of course. They were just used by the Whitman campaign.

Team eMeg wants the news media to say Whitman has expressed regret while, at the same time, never actually forcing their candidate to express genuine regret – which she can’t because as far as she’s concerned, she did nothing wrong.

SCHWARZMUSCLE PULLS PLUG ON T-RIDGE: As Calbuzz suggested almost two weeks ago, the blowout in the Gulf of Mexico kills plans to revive drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara with the Tranquillon Ridge project.

Monday, Gov. Schwarzenegger announced: “That will not happen in California . . . I’m sure that they also were assured that it is safe to drill,” he said. “You turn on television and you see this enormous disaster, and you say to yourself, why would we want to take that risk?”

Which kills the Houston-based PXP Co. project at the State Lands Commission. It’s dead. Done. Kaput.

Leaders of Santa Barbara’s Environmental Defense Center, the enviro sponsors of the PXP deal – which they’ve argued would lead to an earlier end to existing drilling in the region – said they were “very surprised and disappointed” in Schwarzenegger’s move.

Which is understandable, since the governor was still publicly backing the proposal as late as last Friday, and yesterday’s out-of-left field announcement totally pulled the rug out from under EDC. Still they continued to insist the T-Ridge plan is the way to go:

Our plan, negotiated as part of a settlement agreement, would have provided the only legal and available means to put an end to existing oil drilling off our coast…

In terms of next steps, we have no choice but to wait and see what unfolds.  We challenge those who have opposed our plan to tell us how they intend to shut down these platforms and thus reduce the threat of oil spills off our coast.  Maintaining the status quo only perpetuates the existing risks.

As a political matter, the biggest winner in the  situation is Pedro Nava, the termed out Santa Barbara Assemblyman who’s running for AG, who has fiercely battled the proposal since it surfaced more than two years ago. Said Nava:

I am pleased that Governor Schwarzenegger now agrees with me, Florida’s Governor Charlie Christ and, 110 other environmental organizations that the PXP proposal to drill three miles off the California coast is a bad idea and not worth the risk. We welcome the Governor’s change of heart. .

Now it’s time for PXP to pack up their tent and abandon their plans to open up the California coast to new, dirty, and dangerous offshore oil drilling.

This just in: Sarah Palin says she hopes the ongoing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico won’t lead to distrust of oil companies. Spill, baby, spill.

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.’”