Foes link AB 32 rollback to Gulf of Mexico spill

Foes of a proposed ballot measure to roll back California’s landmark greenhouse gas emissions law are in a froth today because two of the oil companies bankrolling it – Tesoro and Valero, both based in Texas – have put more money into it while the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster unfolds.

A report filed with the Secretary of State’s office shows Tesoro gave $150,000 and Valero gave $250,000 on May 19. That brings the two companies’ total ante so far to about $1.28 million, a hefty chunk of the $2.78 million contributed so far for the measure; most of the rest comes from other oil companies and industry groups, plus almost half a million from the Missouri-based, conservative Adam Smith Foundation.

“It’s outrageous that instead of using their obscene profits to assist in the worst environmental disaster in American history, these Texas oil companies are trying to take a wrecking ball to California’s efforts to wean itself fossil fuels,” Steven Maviglio – a longtime Democratic staffer and campaign operative now speaking for the measure’s opponents – said in a news release today. “These Texas oil companies should be spending their millions helping to offset the economic and environmental damage in the Gulf instead of trying to way to buy their way onto California’s ballot.”

The Courage Campaign, which with CREDO Action has organized a boycott of Valero gas stations, got in on the act, too. “Before the oil companies spend another dime of their record profits on their dirty energy proposition, they should match what they’ve already spent to foul California on helping the thousands of families, businesses and communities being hurt by their unchecked greed on the Gulf Coast,” Courage Campaign founder Rick Jacobs, a former Occidental Petroleum executive, said in his news release.

But… really? Isn’t demanding that Tesoro and Valero pay to mitigate a BP oil spill sort of like demanding that Honda recall and fix Toyota’s cars? Think what you will of out-of-state oil companies buying a California ballot initiative to protect their profits, but it’s odd to advocate expanding one company’s responsibility and liability to an entire industry just like that. Or, were we supposed to think that big oil – one of the world’s richest, most politically connected industries – would instantly abandon all of its political efforts and slink away due to BP’s ecological and economic trainwreck?

I guess one could wish that companies would be good citizens and lend a hand out of the kindness of their hearts, but their hearts are the stockholders, who might not countenance such a thing without filing suit to stop it.

There are lots of solid arguments to be made against rolling back AB 32 based on public health, environmental protection and green jobs, and lots more to be made against the way that money buys policy in California. But this seems to be a purely political stunt designed to kick an industry that’s suffering a public relations nightmare from one company’s epic disaster.

UPDATE @ 12:02 P.M. SATURDAY: I just received a message from Courage Campaign founder Rick Jacobs:

Thanks for that post yesterday. I don’t think it’s a political stunt. I put something up at Calitics about it, but the essence is this, using your analogy: Imagine if Honda had put an initiative on the California ballot to suspend safety regulations for five years right in the midst of the Toyota problems. That’s what Oxy, Tesoro and Valero are doing.

When I worked at Oxy, we were quick to help out in the wake of the Mexico City earthquake and even the one in Armenia in 1989. We sent doctors and equipment to Chernobyl and Moscow in 1986 after the reactor explosion. Companies are not obligated to help out, but with the concentration of wealth and the global reach of these entities, in the long run it’s better for them and all of us if they do.

Wal-Mart, not beloved by the left, jumped in with both corporate feet to help after Katrina. Oxy, Tesoro and Valero should do the same. It’s what good corporate citizens do. And why oil companies? First, it would send a message that they care about the messes they make. Second, it’s their business. And finally, if they are willing to pay to pollute in California, which they want to do with their AB 32 rollback effort, we have the right and obligation to demand that they pay to clean up a mess that is but a portent of what they seek to do here.

AB32 is about oil companies. The Gulf is about oil companies. It’s the same thing.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Bob Loblaw

    Courage Campaign = Political Stunts and nothing else.

  • AJ

    And also dumb for boycotting independent entrepreneurial station owners not owned by the Corporations not to mention that these independent station owners put $$ into state coffers at a time when California has $19B deficit. Anyone boycotting these stations should be jailed for conspiring to put California more into debt. Also I’ll bet Mr. Maglivio won’t put his “obscene profits” for being the mouthpiece for the Gulf clean up effort. What morons!

  • BlueGardenMom

    Courage Campaign should also be boycotting PG&E for bankrolling Yes on Proposition 16 with profits made from Californians paying for gas and electric service.

    Or how about insurance companies backing Propossition 17?

    Or any company acting in its own political interest?

    They must plan to grow their own food and make their own clothes like Little House on the Prairie. . .