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Archive for the ‘California Resources’ Category



Three Dot Thursday: Cheap Shots at the Wounded

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

photos2Memo to Methuselah: Jerry Brown airily dismisses Gavin Newsom’s bid to make a generational contest of the Democratic primary, but maybe that’s because Crusty the General hasn’t looked in the mirror lately.

Calbuzz was shocked – shocked! – while viewing a TV report on Brown’s recent visit to the Central Coast to realize that the 71-year old former everything really, really, um, looks his age on the tube.

Since we’re a solution-oriented outfit, we immediately dispatched some recent photos of Brown to the Calbuzz Division of Superficial Issues and Cosmetology Fixes for some quick action step recommendations.

ebsenAfter a full-body scan, in-depth analysis that lasted until a few minutes before lunch, our highly-trained and highly paid technicians reached consensus that Brown needs some work on those geezer eyebrows, which make him look like a cross between Jed Clampett and the prophet Isaiah.

Yo Anne! What – they don’t sell products in Oakland?

Using the latest in online, web-based, digital era technology, Calbuzz herein proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that a little dye job would take 20 years off the guy’s face; once you’re done with that, General, we can discuss those white-as-snow sidewalls . . .

gay_marriage_210

Gay Marriage – The Long March: Same-sex marriage advocates made a smart calculation by pushing plans for a new initiative to roll back Prop. 8 into 2012 instead of next year.

For starters, there’s the boost in voter turnout guaranteed in any presidential election; beyond that, recall that Kuwata’s Law holds that every campaign includes three fundamental pieces: money, organization and message. Two years provides a much more realistic time frame than a 2010 rush job for assembling the first two and for carefully framing the third in a way that addresses the pro-marriage side’s political weaknesses within religious and minority communities, which proved fatal in 2008.

As for the governor’s race, the move takes a little steam out of Newsom’s gov run by nulling his signature issue, but also makes it easier for him to appeal to Latino and African American voters, who supported Prop. 8 in large numbers last year. Although it won’t be an issue in the June primary, gay marriage might still provide a little traction for whoever the Democrat candidate is in November, assuming either Meg Whitman or Steve Poizner wins the GOP nomination (Tom Campbell favors gay marriage).

Without gay marriage on the ballot, the wannabe governors will be forced to focus more than ever on state finances as the dominant and driving issue of the campaign; in scoping out a distant second, don’t discount illegal immigration, legalization of marijuana and, of course, the constitutional convention; initiatives on all three subjects are either circulating, or sitting at the Attorney General’s office awaiting title and summary.

megsteve

Poizner vs Whitman, Round 62: While Meg Whitman’s top priority on a recent visit with Santa Cruz Republicans appeared to be barring Calbuzz from the event, chief rival Steve Poizner was busy scoring grassroots points elsewhere on the Central Coast.

While eMeg basks in being the darling of Beltway Big Feet, Poizner keeps rolling up the backing of street level pols, the kind of guys and gals who’ve, you know, actually run and won elections in California. His latest list of Central Coast endorsers includes former Assemblyman and current Assessor Tom Bordonaro Jr. of San Luis Obispo, Councilman Jim Monahan of Ventura City, Vice-Mayor Jim Reed of Scotts Valley, Vice-Mayor Victor Gomez of Hollister, Councilman Glen Becerra of Simi Valley, Councilwoman Charlotte Craven of Camarillo, Councilman Leo Trujillo of Santa Maria, Trustee Robert Huber of Ventura County, and former Councilman Jim Heggarty of Paso Robles.

Of course, Fred Barnes and George Will have never heard of any of these people.

Three dot special: Over at Calitics, Dante Atkins reports that he was awakened last Sunday morning by a poll-taker for Fairbanks, Maslin, Maullin and Associates who was apparently testing lines of attack for PXP oil company, in its continuing efforts to win state approval for an offshore drilling lease at Tranquillon Ridge, off the coast of Santa Barbara. This one ain’t going away anytime soon, sports fans . . . Hardcore junkies will want to check out Politico’s early line on what the wannabes are up to a mere 1,182 days before the 2012 presidential election . . . News that stays news: LiveScience.com reports that the average dog is as smart or smarter than a two-year old curtain climber; the key question remains unanswered, however:  how much smarter are Rex and Fido than the average teenager? . . . Norm Pattiz, founder and chairman of Westwood One, America’s largest radio network, UC Regent, Joe Biden buddy, Democratic donor and mongo Lakers fan gets inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. Calbuzz is impressed .

Key Democrats Plan New Push for Oil Severance Tax

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

johngaramendiGov Lite John Garamendi and Assemblyman Pedro Nava tell Calbuzz they are preparing a new political offensive to push aggressively for a 9.9 percent per barrel severance tax on oil producers in California.

Having led the charge to defeat the governor’s proposal for a lease authorizing oil drilling in state waters off the coast of Santa Barbara, the two are seeking to harness the momentum built by the statewide coalition of environmental groups that quickly mobilized in that fight.nava

“The taxpayers have been giving their oil free to the oil companies for 100 years, and it’s time for the oil companies to start paying it back,” Garamendi, who’s running for congress, told us. “The environmental community, having rallied to defeat (Schwarzenegger’s offshore leasing plan) is very engaged on this.”

Nava, who’s seeking the Democratic nomination for attorney general, said in an interview that he is also working with environmental groups “invested in opposition to offshore drilling” as he puts together legislation for a severance tax to raise $1-1.5 billion a year.

“Do the math,” Nava told us. “The governor was willing to sell of the coast for $100 million – this would raise over $1 billion a year.”

Torrico-AlbertoA proposal to impose such a tax and earmark the money for higher education, by Assemblyman Alberto Torrico – who’s also running for attorney general – is pending in the Legislature. Nava said his bill would not restrict the use of new revenue within state government: “Earmarking the money divides people,” he said.

Because California is the only oil-producing state that does not impose a severance tax, such a proposal could gain political traction, at a time when Democrats insist they will not support further education and social welfare cuts after joining in passing a red-ink budget that slashed many programs.

Passing a tax increase would be an uphill fight because it requires a two-thirds vote in both houses. However, the public unpopularity of oil companies offers Democrats perhaps their best opportunity to pressure Republicans on a revenue-raising measure. Schwarzenegger at one point suggested an oil tax, but dropped the idea in the face of opposition by GOP lawmakers.

John Doherty, a legislative aide to Torrico, told us the assemblyman did not have the votes to get his proposal out of the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee earlier this year; Torrico plans to use the rest of the current legislative session to build support for passing it in 2010, he addedm a wide-open election year in which many legislators will be seeking statewide offices.

A 9.9 percent severance tax would generate about $1.4 billion a year with oil at $70 a barrel, according to the lieutenant governor. A barrel of crude oil was priced at $71.97 on Wednesday.

In the interview with Calbuzz, Garamendi also addressed three related issues, saying he:

-Expects the governor, having “set the stage for a new re-run,” to try again to push through the controversial Tranquillon Ridge project defeated in the Assembly after passing the Senate by one vote, perhaps when the Legislature reconvenes later this month.

-Plans at next week’s meeting of the State Lands Commission to hold a risk-assessment hearing to weigh the relative merits of drilling in state waters from offshore and onshore facilities: “Intuitively, drilling from the land, you’re not likely to spill in the ocean (while) drilling from the sea you’re likely to spill in the ocean,” he said, “We want a data base to determine the facts.” The issue is timely because Venoco Oil Co. is proposing an onshore slant drilling project in state waters off Santa Barbara, not far from the Tranquillon Ridge project.

-Dismisses speculation that if he (Garamendi) wins his congressional race, Schwarzenegger will be able to hand-pick a successor as lieutenant governor who would swing the balance of power on the lands commission in favor of authorizing an offshore lease. The governor’s nominee would have to be confirmed by the Democrat-dominated Legislature, three of whose members are already running for the post, he noted.

“There’s a lot of foolishness about this,” he said of speculation in Sacramento about such a scenario.

Polling on Offshore Drilling: Energy or Environment?

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

oilrigWhen the Public Policy Institute of California came out last week with its most recent data on public support for offshore oil drilling, there was a lot of gnashing of teeth and some name-calling among certain folks on the environmental left.

PPIC’s poll had found that for the second year in a row, a narrow majority of registered voters (51% in 2008 and 53% in 2009) said they favor allowing oil drilling off the California coast.

Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, for one, went nuts, attacking PPIC’s poll as worthless and biased, until the attorney general wannabe got hosed down and recalibrated his comments as a critique of the news media.

As we said then, Mark Baldassare of PPIC is an excellent pollster. He’s as unbiased as they come, interested only in gathering data that accurately reflect the public’s outlook on important issues. His survey methodology is first-rate (despite some reservations we have about how he handles cell phones), he has massive resources, a fair-minded approach to public policy research and pristine academic and professional credentials.

Which doesn’t mean his work is flawless. There are some reasons why PPIC’s measure on offshore oil drilling – even if it’s 100% accurate — may not reflect what California voters actually think about offshore oil drilling as an issue in state politics.

With its constellation of questions, PPIC is actually measuring what California voters think about a cluster of policies – asked in a series that is rotated randomly — designed “to address the country’s energy needs and reduce dependence on foreign oil sources.” These include: requiring automakers to significantly improve the fuel efficiency of cars sold in this country; building more nuclear power plants; increasing federal funding to develop wind, solar, and hydrogen technology, and allowing more oil drilling off the California coast.

In other words, offshore oil drilling is being examined primarily, not as an  environmental issue – which, in our view, is how most California voters approach it – but as a function of national energy policy.

Even in that context – and here’s where the enviros have an argument – proposing offshore oil drilling as a way to “address the country’s energy needs and reduce dependence on foreign oil sources” is a dubious proposition.

As Media Matters for America has previously documented, the Energy Department’s Annual Energy Outlook 2007 found “access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030. Leasing would begin no sooner than 2012, and production would not be expected to start before 2017.”

PPIC is not alone in posing offshore oil drilling as a matter of national energy policy. The esteemed Field Poll has done much the same, asking in July 2008, whether “oil companies should be allowed to drill more oil and gas wells in state tidelands along the California coast” as one of the policies for respondents to consider after this introduction:

“I’m going to read some proposals that have been made that attempt to deal with the rising cost of energy. For each, please tell me whether you agree or disagree.”

Interestingly, the Field Poll – which surveys registered voters and includes (at great expense) a large component of respondents who have only cell phones — asked that about the same time PPIC did last summer and came up with a mirrored response: 51% disagreed and 43% agreed – just about an identical flip-flop of the PPIC finding.

It’s unclear why Field and PPIC would have such different results on the offshore oil question. Sampling differences, especially of cell phone-only respondents, the cluster of policies in which offshore oil is included, question order, to name of few factors, could explain the difference. That’s a story for another day.

Despite Nava’s complaint, there’s good reason for both surveys to ask the offshore oil drilling question as they have – in order to track public opinion over time. The shift PPIC has found, for instance, especially among independent voters (since Democrats and Republicans have not changed much) is worth noting when looking at how the issue compares to other policy choices.

But as Baldassare acknowledged, it is possible that the set-up – crafted from national polling questions and designed to measure offshore drilling as a policy option among several others — is problematic in measuring support for offshore oil drilling as a distinctly California political issue.

So what is to be done? We hope that our good friends at PPIC and Field will, in some future poll, ask about offshore oil drilling as an environmental question or as a stand-alone question concerning California public policy to avoid confusion stemming from conflation with attitudes on gas prices or dependence on foreign oil.

Our gut-level suspicion is that a candidate who supports offshore oil drilling in a statewide race does so at his or her own peril. But some hard data would be valuable.

Press Clips: Fun Facts & Fine Kerfuffles

Friday, July 31st, 2009

mbaldassareWelcome to the NFL: Torey Van Oot, the rookie California blogger hired by the Bee to juice up its online “Capitol Alert” (which has flagged considerably since the departure for the L.A. Times of the indefatigable Shane Goldmacher) set off a fine kerfuffle Thursday over polling, politics and the smash-mouth issue of offshore oil drilling in California.

Van Oot put up an early morning post about the new PPIC poll’s finding that a majority of Californians now favor offshore oil drilling. The item included an attack on the institute’s survey methodology by anti-drilling Assemblyman Pedro Nava, who called the results “completely worthless” and opined that “PPIC should find another line of work, if this is the best they can do.”

For those who know PPIC president Mark Baldassare (along with the Field Poll’s Mark torey22DiCamillo) as one of the smartest, most trustworthy and thoughtful pollsters in the nation, Nava’s wild man act was an hysteric, over-the-top, shoot-the-messenger rip job that ignored the rather important facts that a) PPIC has been asking the same question since 2003 and b) there’s undeniable evidence throughout their data that a significant shift in public opinion on the offshore issue has taken place (primarily among independents).

The piece was notable for one other reason: it carried not a word from Baldassare, or anyone at PPIC, responding to Nava’s charges, although he  directly assailed the professionalism and competence of the San Francisco-based outfit.

A few hours later, apparently after Baldassare and the Bee Blogger had a full and frank exchange of views, Van Oot posted an update that included a 243-word response from the pollster, which looked like a billboard slapped up on the page, setting the record straight about his methodology:

“At the end of the day, we feel it’s our obligation to as accurately as possible reflect the opinions of all Californians in our polling, so particularly on controversial issues like this one, we take special care to use national survey questions and repeat questions over time to give us a sense of whether opinions are changing,” he concluded.

A feperry white 2w hours after that, Nava issued a press release walking back his direct criticism of PPIC. Transforming himself into a journalism critic, he instead insisted that the media had “misled” the public by writing too narrowly about the offshore drilling question instead of taking a broader approach to other data about environmental issues that “should have been the focus of yesterday’s stories.”

Yo! Perry White! Here’s a tip from the political desk: When you’re in a hole, first stop digging.

World’s First Legislator: The Handbook of Political Writing Cliches requires that all stories about California’s budget include at least one use of the phrase “draconian cuts,” as confirmed by a random check of recent budget yarns in the Bee-minus, the Chron and the By God L.A. Times, as well a quick Google search of “draconian cuts California budget” (126,000 hits).

Ever desperate for a fresh angle, Calbuzz assigned our highly trained and highly paid Department of Evolutionary Linguistics to get to the bottom of this hoary phrase. A wide-ranging investigation, including an in-depth check of Wikipedia, revealed that it derives, neither from Harry Potter pal Draco Malfoy nor Star Wars Imperial Knight Antares Draco, but rather from the uni-named Draco, credited as “the first legislator of ancient Athens.”

Besides his more or less direct responsibility for the free cars, per diem payments and fulltime salaries for part-time work afforded today’s California lawmakers, Mr. Draco also laid down the first written constitution, a rather harsh collection of laws that required debtors to be forced into slavery and called for capital punishment for even minor offenses.

Draco, according to Plutarch, “when asked why he had fixed the punishment of death for most offences, answered that he considered these lesser crimes to deserve it, and that he had no greater punishment for more important ones.”

Ouch.

Eventually karmic justice caught up with Draco, who reportedly died after a demagogic performance at the Aeginetan theatre, when his supporters, in a traditional sign of approval,  “threw so many hats and shirts and cloaks on his head that he suffocated, and was buried in that selfsame theatre.”

Now there’s an idea for a ballot initiative to rein in the Legislature.

More fun facts about language: Calbuzz’s political correctness antennae stood straight up when the redoubtable David Dayen over at Calitics referred to our most recent budget rant, not once but thrice, as “shrill.”

Now while it’s true that the members of the Calbuzz Executive Content Production Team are not technically, well, of the female persuasion, we have been around long enough to know that calling someone “shrill” is just asking to be denounced by sensitive souls, such as ourselves, for some type of “phobia” or “ism.”

But now comes Dayen, graciously concealing his smirk at our utter lack of hipness, to disclose that “shrill” represents a compliment in what you call your online blogging community, high praise for cutting to the bone instead of mealy-mouthing an issue, as explained here.

So little time, so much to learn.

How to fix California: A prolific sort, Dayen churned out an excellent thumb-sucker on a California constitutional convention, one of a pair of intriguing posts this week that highlight the vast ideological divide over the ways and means needed to fix the state.

Chris Reed over at Politicker offered the second, a brisk policy prescription for the excessive spending and trough-feeding public employees whom he perceives as the fundamental cause of the Mess in Sacramento, a package which includes a tight spending cap, pension reform and restrictions on political donations by unions.To Dayen, though, the problem is much more one of structure: “Right now, we have a progressive legislature and a conservative system, which frustrates efforts at accountability.”

And there it is, spectator sports fans: two looks at the dysfunction of state government from opposite ends of the telescope, a case study of the political chasm a con con will have to confront and bridge.

Lou_Cannon-175Must reads of the week: For those looking for one piece on California’s woe that puts it all together, Lou Cannon offers up a smart and stylish overview on Politics Daily that shows why he’s a Hall of Fame political writer…Nice scooplet by Anthony York at Capitol Weekly, who reports that the final vote on last week’s defeat of Arnold’s offshore oil drilling proposal mysteriously disappeared from the official record of the Assembly….Finally, Kevin Roderick, the City of Angels bard who never sleeps, dashed off this very Calbuzz kind of item that demonstrates the true power and importance of links:

Best city for deli: L.A.?

From the Jewish Journal’s food blog, posted by editor Rob Eshman:

‘I just got a peek inside David Sax’s new book, “Save the Deli,“ due out Oct. 19, and can report that it is official: L.A. is the best deli city in America.

Bite that, New York….'”

Arnold’s Offshore Oil Drill Project Not Dead Yet

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

offshoreA new statewide poll reports that a sizeable majority of likely voters now favors  expanded offshore oil drilling in California, a finding likely to fuel renewed efforts to approve the just-defeated Tranquillon Ridge project .

A PPIC survey released late Wednesday  shows that 55 percent of likely voters support more oil drilling off the coast, compared to 41 percent who oppose it. Among all adults, the gap is narrower — 51-to-43 percent in favor — although this is the second year in a row that PPIC found majority backing for more drilling, which previously was a long-settled issue in the state.

The new data comes as executives of the Houston-based oil company PXP vow to continue pressing for approval of a state lease for the controversial project off the coast of Santa Barbara, which was defeated in the Assembly last week after passing the senate by one vote.

An Administration spokesman also said the governor remains enthusiastic about the proposal – and hopes to get another chance to sign it into law.

“The fact that the Legislature did not approve it does not in any way lessen the Administration’s support for the project,” Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer told Calbuzz. “Nor does it in any way lessen the fiscal and environmental benefits to the state, which we hope the Legislature will re-examine.”

In the context of the budget battle, the basic media narrative that emerged from last week’s dust-up framed the Tranquillon Ridge vote, with its potential revenues for the state, as a simple yea-or-nay referendum on offshore drilling. In fact, the policy issues at stake are more nuanced and complex, given that the rejected legislation has its roots in a negotiated 2008 agreement between PXP and a large group of Santa Barbara environmentalists ; they enthusiastically backed a new state lease –- for slant drilling off an existing oil platform in federal waters — as a pathway to ending some drilling off their coast permanently.

The Politics

As a political matter, the unsettled conflict over the project is significant for several key reasons:

— In California, the fight over Tranquillon Ridge reflects a shifting political landscape, as recession-mired residents appear to be recalibrating the balance between long-held, pro-environmental values and economic growth and energy  costs. The PPIC poll found that public support for policies to improve the environment “has dropped a notch,” in the words of poll-taker Mark Baldassare, on a host of issues, including climate change and air quality, with wide partisan differences in each case.

— Across the nation, the fight over the PXP project is being watched as a possible precedent-setter, at a time when the Obama Administration is conducting a review of the government’s five-year drilling plan for the outer continental shelf. The issue is particularly germane in Florida where U.S. Senators from Alaska and Louisiana are trying to remove prohibitions against drilling in a wide swath of coastal waters.

— In Sacramento, the issue is filled with palace intrigue, because environmentalists who negotiated the agreement with PXP hope eventually to bring it back to the State Lands Commission for reconsideration. The commission defeated it on a 2-to-1 vote last January, with Lt. Governor John Garamendi leading the opposition; with Garamendi now running for a House seat in the 10th Congressional District, insiders are spinning scenarios in which Schwarzenegger might appoint Garamendi’s replacement, swinging the balance of power on the commission in support of the project.

What’s Next

PXP oil company executives have spent millions on some of the top lobbying talent in Sacramento, including Darius Anderson, good pal of  Schwarzenegger chief of staff Susan Kennedy, according to a nice weekend piece by the Bee’s Kevin Yamamura that examined how the Third House influenced the budget deal.

PXP executives made it clear immediately after the project was voted down in the Assembly that they plan to keep pushing: “PXP is committed to continue working with California’s elected and appointed leaders on a potential agreement for the T-Ridge project to build on the momentum generated by the (Schwarzenegger) Administration’s and Senate’s bipartisan support,” PXP vice president Steve Rusch said in a statement released Sunday.

The project could return in several venues. Speaker Karen Bass said in a statement after the budget vote that the project “could be reconsidered in August.” Although Bass’s press office failed to return calls seeking clarification about exactly what this meant, it is possible the project could return in a standalone bill. With state revenues continuing to plunge, the project might also be resurrected yet again if the governor and Legislature have to craft another deficit cutting package in the fall or winter.

And as leaders of Santa Barbara’s Environmental Defense Center work to address the problems with the project cited by the State Lands Commission in January – specifically the enforceability of PXP promises to permanently end offshore drilling on four federal platforms in exchange for the state lease – the possibility that Schwarzenegger could name a replacement for Garamendi would be crucial.

“This ain’t over,” Attorney General hopeful and Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, who led the charge against the project, told us.  “Round two is coming up.”

Weed Whacking with PPIC

Foes of offshore drilling no doubt will try to minimize the importance of the new poll’s basic finding –- that all adults surveyed favor expanded drilling by 51-to-43 percent –- which is essentially unchanged from last year, when a slim majority of Californians –- 51-to-45 percent –- favored more drilling, albeit for the first time in PPIC polling history.

But if you, uh, drill down into the data, there are some troubling trends for coastal oil foes.

For starters, among likely voters, which is to say the most politically engaged Californians, the majority of those who favor more drilling is significantly larger – 55-to-41 percent – than among all adults. In this group, the pro-drilling view has grown substantially stronger in one year; in 2008, likely voters told PPIC they favored more drilling by 51-to-45. This represents a net pick up of eight percentage points for the drill baby drill team in just one year.

Breaking the likely voter numbers down along partisan lines shows that the polarized views of Democrats and Republicans on the subject are essentially unchanged: 34 percent of Democrats now favor more drilling (compared to 32 percent last year) while 81 percent of Republicans are now in favor (compared to 80 percent in 2008).

But there has been a dramatic switch in attitudes among independent voters:

— In 2008, independents opposed more drilling by a ratio of 53-to-43 percent, with four percent having no opinion.

— In 2009, independent likely voters now say they favor more offshore drilling, by 55-to-42 percent, a net swing of 23 points in favor of the oil companies’ position.

–Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine