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Another fight about who pays for public disclosure

On the heels of last week’s California Public Records Act dustup, we’ve seen another sign that local governments don’t want to be told how, or foot the bills, to keep the public informed.

The state Senate Judiciary Committee today voted 7-0 to pass AB 1149 by Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, which would require all local government agencies to notify their workers and constituents if their electronic data has been hacked, as the state and the private sector already are required to do.

But the bill’s opponents include the Association of California Healthcare Districts, California Association of Joint Powers Authorities, California Special Districts Association, California State Association of Counties, the League of California Cities and the Urban Counties Caucus.

“AB 1149 infringes on local governments that have already adopted their own policies related to information breaches, and we are concerned about the potential cost implications for some cities of setting up the breach notifications outlined in the bill,” Natasha Karl, the League of California Cities’ legislative representative, said via e-mail today.

In other words, they don’t want to be told how – or be forced – to do it, or to pay for it. Campos contends that without such a law, there’s a patchwork of local policies – or no local policies at all – on disclosing such information leaks.

Nora Campos“People have the right to know if their personal information has been stolen so they can take appropriate steps to prevent further theft,” she said. “It’s outrageous that local governments are standing in the way of this. They say it would be too costly. But this is a public duty.”

Campos said her account was once hacked when she served on the San Jose City Council, and she was grateful for the alert she received so that she could contact her bank and credit card companies to warn them of any potential identity theft.

Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, said she understood local governments’ misgivings over potential costs, “but this just makes so much sense because local government does use this kind of information… A breach is a breach. It’s very important to have that protection.”

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, just last week were contending that few if any local governments would hesitate to foot their own bills for compliance with the California Public Records Act. Such entities would be too scared of the public’s wrath to ignore the law, they insisted as they pushed Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal that the state stop funding the law and major sections be reduced to recommended best practices if locals don’t want to pay for them.

Amid a public outcry, the lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown reversed course. The state will keep reimbursing local governments for compliance with the Public Records Act at least until voters can decide next year whether to enshrine the PRA in the state constitution – and in doing so require the locals to foot the bills themselves.

Posted on Tuesday, June 25th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Mark DeSaulnier, Mark Leno, Nora Campos | 8 Comments »

Mark Leno responds to Public Records Act hubbub

The story that Tom Peele and I wrote late Friday afternoon about a budget trailer bill essentially letting local governments opt out of their obligations under the Public Records Act – which many say guts the law – drew a lot of righteous outrage over the weekend.

The general policy initially had been suggested by Gov. Jerry Brown, in his budget proposals. State Sen. Mark Leno, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee that authored the bill in question, didn’t get back to me Friday in time for the story’s deadline, but did return my call and leave me a message on Saturday afternoon. (I was off Monday, so I only just heard it this morning.) Here’s what Leno, D-San Francisco, said:

Mark Leno“The policy question before the Legislature was not in support or opposition to the Public Records Act – that is intact. Voters have supported the public records act, that has not changed. The policy question was is it a responsibility of the general fund – and the LAO has pegged the cost at tens of millions of dollars annually – to pay for local government to do what they should and the voters want them to do.

“We do not believe that there will be much change at all. Local government is not going to stop doing this, and if they do, they put themselves, local electeds will put themselves on record as a result of this bill to say ‘We won’t do this anymore.’ So if reporters or the public or anybody else has a problem with that, it’s with their local elected officials.

“Everyone supports the Public Records Act, it’s a question of is it a responsibility of the general fund. And then of course there’s the whole conversation of how the state has been abused by these mandates, locals billing us outrageous amounts for minimal time and expense – that’s a whole other question.”

Posted on Tuesday, June 18th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, Mark Leno | 11 Comments »

3 from Bay Area on budget conference committee

The Bay Area is well-represented on the joint legislative committee tasked with hammering out a state budget deal.

The Joint Conference Committee on the Budget has four assemblymembers and four state senators who’ll reconcile differences over the budget between the two houses of the Legislature.

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has named state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, as a co-chair of the committee, and the other senate appointees are Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley; Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles; and Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands.

On the Assembly side, Speaker John Perez named Bob Blumenfield, D-San Fernando Valley, who will serve as co-chair; Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, and Holly Mitchell, D-Culver City.

“For the first time in years, we are headed into budget negotiations without the dire need to cut billions from the budget, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to celebrate,” Pérez said in a news release. “It is time to assure our citizens that we are putting the state on a path to avoid future devastating cuts to state-provided services and education. I have confidence that the Conference Committee will craft the best budget possible for the people of California.”

Posted on Thursday, May 30th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, John Perez, Loni Hancock, Mark Leno, Nancy Skinner, state budget | No Comments »

Reactions to Jerry Brown’s May budget revision

From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

“The Governor’s May Budget Revision is another key milestone in our effort to pass a balanced on-time budget by June 15th. We appreciate the Governor’s commitment to maintaining the fiscal stability that has come from an improving economy, legislative Democrats making tough but necessary budget cuts, voters approving the majority-vote budget and voters standing with Democrats in supporting temporary tax revenues. We will review the Governor’s proposals and revenue projections, along with the LAO’s revenue projections, in depth, and his revised budget will be thoroughly discussed throughout the Budget committee and subcommittee process. Assemblymembers will review the Governor’s proposal through the prism of principles outlined in our Blueprint for a Responsible Budget: continuing fiscal responsibility, strengthening the middle class, and delivering effective, efficient services for Californians. On the whole, the Governor’s framework and the Assembly’s Blueprint seem to track well, and we’ll spend the next month reconciling our priorities.”

From Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Visalia:

“Governor Brown today put forward a revised state spending plan that I believe charts a realistic path forward in meeting the budget priorities of hard-working taxpayers. Republicans share the Governor’s commitment to paying down state debt and holding the line on new spending. It is our hope that Legislative Democrats will follow the Governor’s lead in making fiscal discipline a core budget principle. We must resist the temptation to blow through the surplus using one-time money for ongoing programs and reverse the progress we’ve made in closing the deficit.”

From state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento:

“Overall, this May Revision is a refreshing change. For the first time in four years, we no longer have to stare at enormous deficits and make agonizing decisions on which cuts will do the least harm to our children, to the poor, and to middle class families.

“That’s the politically correct thing to say, and it happens to be true.

“I agree we must aggressively pay down our state’s debt and set aside money for a reserve, but there’s a disappointing aspect to this proposal. It’s important that we also begin making up for some of the damage done to tens of thousands of Californians. Unless the Legislative Analyst has a different conclusion, the Governor proposes few if any resources to restore cuts made over the past few years to the courts, and to health and human services.

“The Governor’s Local Control Funding Formula is the right policy direction, but our serious concern about how it’s accomplished remains. The concentration grants treat thousands of disadvantaged students unequally. It also fails to expand the proven success of career pathway programs which can reduce dropout rates and improve our kids’ readiness for the workforce by combining rigorous curriculum that’s also relevant to students’ career goals.

“The budget debate begins in earnest. I look forward to a deeper analysis of revenue projections in the coming weeks while we continue to work with the Governor on the best budget for California’s economic recovery and its people.”

From state Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Brea:

“The Governor has revenue estimates that are lower than anyone expected, largely due to the increased payroll tax suppressing the economy. Higher tax rates and continuing high unemployment mean less money in people’s pockets and less money to propel the economy.

“We have common ground with the Governor in a belief that we cannot return to a culture of overspending that drives new budget crises. Governor Brown referred to this as a ‘Call for Prudence,’ we would call it ‘Common Sense.’ It seems that the Governor’s biggest budget challenge will be in restraining legislative Democrats and their growing wish list of new spending.

“Senate Republicans continue to believe that the State must meet the promises of the voter approved Proposition 30 tax increase measure by increasing funding for K-14 and higher education. We also believe that the Governor should support our efforts to allow Californians to vote on the bi-partisan rainy day reserve fund that had been previously scheduled for the 2012 ballot. Implementing a voter approved rainy day reserve requirement is the best way to protect against future budget crises and ensure stability.

“The Legislature should spend less time on a growing list of additional tax proposals such as soda taxes, oil severance taxes, tobacco taxes and several property tax measures that undermine historic Proposition 13 protections and instead focus on the growing public safety crises caused by the passage of AB 109, the Governor’s Public Safety Realignment scheme that has shifted 65,000 criminals from state prison to our local communities and neighborhoods.”

From California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye:

“I’m disappointed that the Governor’s revised budget proposals provide no more fiscal relief to the courts. Given the state’s current fiscal condition, I had hoped for more effort to help stop the downward spiral of the judicial branch budget. Courts across the state are already closing courthouses, courtrooms, and reducing the hours they serve the public. Without reinvestment in the courts, these terrible impacts will only expand, and the poor and middle class residents who rely on the courts to resolve issues that affect their lives and livelihoods will be adversely affected, as well those businesses still digging out from the effects of the great recession. We need adequate, ongoing funding for the courts that will permit us to reverse the damage caused by five years of budget cuts. The reforms I’ve put in place have helped save money and created more efficiencies. We needed critical support a year ago from the other two branches and now the need for justice is urgent. I am heartened by Speaker Perez’s comments last week about the need to begin reinvesting in the courts. I am optimistic that the Legislature and the Governor can work toward reversing some of the adverse impacts on access to justice before a budget bill is passed and signed.”

There’s a whole lot more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Connie Conway, Darrell Steinberg, Ellen Corbett, Jerry Brown, John Perez, Leland Yee, Mark Leno, Rich Gordon, state budget, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Gov. Jerry Brown signs law to fund gun seizures

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law a Bay Area senator’s bill to use $24 million from gun background-check fees to boost a program that takes handguns and assault weapons away from those who aren’t legally allowed to have them.

This is the first gun-policy bill to make it to Brown’s desk this year.

SB 140 by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, gives a big boost to the state Justice Department’s Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS), which cross-references the state’s list of handgun and assault-weapon owners with ever-updated lists of newly convicted felons and mental-health commitments. APPS, launched in 2007, had developed a huge backlog; the new law is effective immediately because it was designated an urgency measure.

“While our state is the only one in the nation that has a system to track and identify persons who at one time made legal purchases of firearms but are now barred from possessing them, until now we have lacked sufficient resources to take back those weapons,” Leno said in a news release. “We know for the safety of our communities that these people should not possess guns, and our reinvestment in this tracking program gives us the opportunity to confiscate them.”

The Justice Department’s Firearms Bureau has identified about 20,000 Californians who illegally possess an estimated 40,000 handguns and assault weapons, and the list grows longer by 15 to 20 people per day. Attorney General Kamala Harris said the money will let her increase the number of agents who go out and seize these firearms.

Agents last year seized more than 2,000 firearms, 117,000 rounds of ammunition and 11,072 illegal high-capacity magazines in targeted sweeps.

Gun-rights and lobbying groups including the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the California Rifle and Pistol Association had opposed the bill, saying lawful gun owners shouldn’t pay the cost of such a program; any surplus background-check fee money should be returned or lead to a reduction in the fee, they said.

The Legislature’s final votes on SB 140 were 65-10 in the Assembly and 37-0 in the state Senate.

Posted on Wednesday, May 1st, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, gun control, Jerry Brown, Mark Leno | 21 Comments »

Bill would force police to get warrants for emails

A Bay Area lawmaker’s new bill would require California law enforcement agencies to get a search warrant before asking service providers to hand over a private citizen’s emails.

SB 467 by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, is sponsored by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based civil liberties group. Leno introduced a place-holder version of the bill last month, but rolled out its operative language today.

go get a warrant“No law enforcement agency could obtain someone’s mail or letters that were delivered to their home without first securing a search warrant, but that same protection is surprisingly not extended to our digital life,” Leno said in a news release.

“Both state and federal privacy laws have failed to keep up with the modern electronic age, and government agencies are frequently able to access sensitive and personal information, including email, without adequate oversight,” he said. “SB 467 repairs the existing holes in California’s digital protection laws, ensuring that electronic communications can only be accessed by law enforcement with a warrant.”

Some law enforcement agencies have claimed investigators don’t need a warrant to obtain any email that has been opened or has been stored on a server for 180 days. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy recently announced it would support changes to federal law that would require a warrant in such cases.

“California, the home of many technology companies, should be a leader in protecting the privacy of people’s electronic communications,” EFF staff attorney Hanni Fakhoury said in Leno’s release. “Many of the state’s technology companies have already indicated that they require a search warrant before disclosing the contents of communications. With SB 467, the warrant requirement becomes the status quo for all electronic communication providers and all law enforcement agencies across the state.”

The American Civil Liberties Union also supports the bill, which “would ensure that content stored in the cloud receives the same level of protection as content stored on a laptop or in a desk drawer,” said Nicole Ozer, the Northern California ACLU’s technology and civil liberty policy director.

Posted on Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, Civil liberties, Mark Leno | 2 Comments »

Mark Leno touts bill to end Cow Palace gun shows

The San Mateo and San Francisco boards of supervisors would have to pass resolutions supporting a gun show at the Cow Palace before any such events could be held there in the future, under a bill by state Sen. Mark Leno.

Those boards in the past have unanimously adopted resolutions urging the Legislature to end gun shows at the Cow Palace, an indoor arena on the Daly City-San Francisco border that’s owned and operated by the state Department of Agriculture’s Division of Fairs and Expositions.

So, Leno’s SB 475 would almost surely be the death knell for gun shows at what may be their most popular Northern California venue.

The Crossroads of the West Gun Show attracted thousands of people to the Cow Palace in January, less than a month after the shooting massacre at a Connecticut elementary school brought calls for new gun-control laws – calls which fueled a firearms feeding frenzy. People lined up hours in advance to get in.

That same Utah-based gun-show operator is scheduled to return to the Cow Palace for shows on April 13-14, June 29-30, Sept. 14-15 and Nov. 2-3.

Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced the bill Feb. 21 but held a news conference with local officials Friday outside the Cow Palace.

“For years, residents, community organizations and elected leaders from the neighborhoods surrounding Cow Palace have asked to have a voice in the decision to hold gun shows in their backyards, but they have been ignored,” Leno said in a news release. “Meanwhile, firearms related crimes persist in these communities, tearing apart the lives of innocent families who reside in the surrounding area. We must give local communities a say in determining whether they want gun shows in their neighborhoods, especially when they live in daily fear of gun violence.”

Leno noted the Cow Palace lies directly across from the Sunnydale public housing project and close to Visitacion Valley, Bayview-Hunters Point and the Mission District – a where many of San Francisco’s homicides and gun seizures occur.

San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen said gun violence has devastating impact on the community. “We have been working for years on the local level to do everything possible to limit unlicensed access to firearms and ammunition in an effort to address this violence. This proposed legislation will give San Francisco residents a needed voice in deciding the activities that go on in our own backyard.”

Leno authored two previous bills that would have banned gun shows at Cow Palace. The most recent bill, SB 585, was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009.

The state Senate yesterday voted 31-0 to pass Leno’s SB 140, which would let the state Justice Department use surplus money from firearm background check fees to beef up the Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS) program, which identifies and confiscates handguns and assault weapons from those no longer legally allowed to own them due to criminal convictions, mental illness or protective orders. Justice Department officials told the state Senate in January that they had a backlog of almost 20,000 names APPS had identified as no longer eligible to own firearms, without enough time, money and manpower to pursue those leads.

Hector Barajas, communications director for the California Senate Republican Caucus, sent an e-mail this morning questioning whether Leno is being “a bit hypocritical.”

“Yesterday Leno wanted to use money from individuals that legally purchase firearms to confiscate guns from people prohibited from owning them – using the money from the background checks to hire law enforcement personnel,” Barajas wrote. “And the very next day, Leno wants to prevent the legal sale of guns at the Cow Palace – if he does reduce the sale of guns or makes it more difficult, where is the state going to pay for the newly hired personnel?”

As a practical matter, it’s probably not a concern – California’s Dealer Record of Sale fee for background checks has been running a substantial surplus for years, so nixing gun shows at one venue almost surely won’t affect available funding. As a matter of principle – what do you think, readers?

Posted on Friday, March 8th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, gun control, Mark Leno | 1 Comment »

What they’re saying about the governor’s budget

From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

“This is a proposal that clearly shows California has turned the corner. The Governor’s budget is sober, restrained and forward thinking, and I believe it’s a solid foundation for the budget process. I am looking forward to thorough and insightful public hearings as we work with the Governor to adopt the final budget by our Constitutional deadline.”

From California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro:

“It’s easy for Gov. Brown to tout austerity and fiscal restraint when he has more of the taxpayers’ money in his pocket. His challenge will be to follow through on those promises when the economy continues to stagnate and the Democrats’ pie-in-the-sky projections don’t come to pass. That’s why Republican legislative leadership correctly proposed this week for the Governor to mandate that his new Prop 30 taxes fund our classrooms and protect our communities.

“What’s disappointing about Gov. Brown’s announcement is that job creation was never mentioned. Cutting the regulatory burden was ignored. Working with Republicans to unify the state is sadly not part of his agenda. In order for California to finally emerge from its economic doldrums and enter a new Golden Age, the answer lies with policies that encourage job growth and unleash the innovation of small business owners, not with budget wrangling and deferred payments that mask billions in debt to the federal government for unemployment insurance and more.

“We need bold reforms to go hand in hand with accountability and responsible fiscal governance if we want to return California and its citizens to prosperity. If Jerry Brown thinks we’re out of the woods just because, on paper, we’ll finally be ‘living within our means,’ he’s sadly mistaken.”

From state Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco:

“The budget proposal released today by Governor Brown is the most positive one we have seen in half a decade. The budget is narrowly balanced and contains elements that ensure a modest reserve. However, it reflects the difficult cuts and decisions the Legislature and Governor have made in the past few years to address the state’s structural budget deficit. It also demonstrates the confidence entrusted in us by voters in November who recognized that our fiscal situation was untenable without new temporary revenues. Although we are still under fiscal constraints, I am hopeful we are now past the period of devastating cuts we saw in previous years to education and programs that provide critical aid to elderly Californians, disabled people and working families.

“With the improvement of our fiscal outlook comes the opportunity to continue our work to restore California. While our recent efforts have focused largely on making cuts in the least harmful manner possible, we will now have more capacity to refine our work to improve essential programs and analyze the role of government and its effectiveness. I look forward to working with Governor Brown and my colleagues in the Legislature to evaluate this year’s budget to help ensure it is the best possible plan for a state on the mend.”

From state Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar:

“New funding for our classrooms is a positive step forward for California. However, the Governor’s budget only seems to include $2.7 billion in new funding for K-12 schools and community colleges even though Proposition 30 taxes will generate $6 billion this year alone – Californians should be disappointed.

“I remain concerned that while state spending is being increased by $5 billion over last year, much of this money is used to expand state programs and provides major pay and benefit increases for state employees.

“Basically, this budget is balanced by a $50 billion tax increase, and Californians have yet to see any real, long-term plan to bring back jobs and help our struggling families.”

More, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, January 10th, 2013
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, Gavin Newsom, Jerry Brown, John Perez, Kamala Harris, Loni Hancock, Mark DeSaulnier, Mark Leno, Rob Bonta, state budget | No Comments »

Bay Area Senators revive DISCLOSE Act

Two Bay Area state Senators announced Thursday the re-introduction of a bill requiring that the top three funders of political ads be clearly identified, both on the ads themselves and on the campaign’s website.

SB 52, the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act, by state Senators Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Jerry Hill, D-Palo Alto, is sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign. It applies to advertising for ballot measure campaigns, independent expenditures and issue advocacy. The bill introduced today is intent language, to which details will be added early next year before it’s heard in policy committees.

“We saw evidence in the most recent election cycle of unnamed organizations throwing around large sums of money in order to confuse California voters,” Leno said in a news release. “The only way to stop this covert financing of campaigns is to require the simple and clear disclosure of the top three funders of political ads so voters can make well-informed decisions at the ballot box.”

Hill said the bill is “vital to protecting the integrity of our democratic process and ensuring fair elections in our state. After seeing billions of dollars flow into elections across our country after the Citizens United decision, we need the DISCLOSE Act now more than ever.”

California Clean Money Campaign president Trent Lange said more than 350 groups and individuals signed on to support the last version of this bill and more than 84,000 Californians signed petitions for it, “demonstrating the rising outcry to stop Big Money special interests from deceiving voters when they fund political ads.”

Actually, this effort has had several iterations recently. AB 1148 last January got 52 Assembly votes, falling short of the two-thirds supermajority it needed to pass. And AB 1648 was passed by the Assembly in August after being amended to require only a simply majority vote, but was stuck in a state Senate committee at the end of the last session. Both of those bills were authored by then-Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, now congresswoman-elect for the 26th House District.

Posted on Thursday, December 20th, 2012
Under: California State Senate, campaign finance, Jerry Hill, Mark Leno | No Comments »

State Senate panel to probe refineries, gas prices

With gas prices soaring and news that the Chevron Richmond refinery’s crude oil unit won’t reopen until 2013, a state Senate committee will hold a hearing next month on the safety and reliability of California’s gasoline production system and its impacts on gas prices and the economy.

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, announced today he’ll convene the Senate Select Committee on Bay Area Transportation to explore the issue.

Mark Leno“The volatile spikes in gas prices and gas shortages in our state in recent weeks indicate serious problems with California refineries,” Leno said in a news release. “I am concerned that refineries have no incentive for keeping their operations safe and fully functional because their profits increase greatly following any type of disruption, whether it is the consequence of a potentially deadly explosion or failed piping. Meanwhile, consumers are paying the price for these refinery errors, not only at the pumps, but also in the risks posed to public health and safety.”

Leno said the hearing will focus on two main topics: system reliability for California’s refineries and its effect on the economy; and the state’s oversight process and role related to refinery worker safety. Topics may include monitoring health and safety at the state’s 15 oil refineries, state compliance and enforcement at refineries, West Coast gasoline prices and how they may be manipulated, refinery capacity and its relationship to gas prices and the economy, and the Chevron Richmond fire investigation.

“Chevron’s announcement late yesterday that its Richmond (crude oil) facility will be closed for the remainder of the year could further complicate matters for California,” he said. “Economists have estimated that a lengthy shutdown of that facility could slow the growth rate of the state’s economy by half a percentage point.”

This past weekend, Gov. Jerry Brown urged the California Air Resources Board to make an early switch to the state’s winter blend of gasoline to improve supply, and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., renewed her call for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the soaring prices.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., got into the act Monday, sending a letter urging the Department of Justice’s Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group to investigate the recent spike.

“Californians have too often been victimized as unscrupulous traders have created or taken advantage of supply disruptions to drive up energy prices,” Boxer wrote. “We cannot allow market manipulation by those who would seek to profit off the pain of our families at the pump.”

In the letter, Boxer pointed to published reports that cited energy traders saying the sudden rise in gas prices had “many of the hallmarks of a classic short squeeze.”

She acknowledged the maintenance issues facing California refineries beginning with the shutdown of Chevron’s Richmond crude oil unit in August due to a fire, the power outage at Exxon Mobil’s Torrance refinery, and the September shutdown of a Chevron pipeline that supplies crude from the Central Valley to the Bay Area. But noting a pattern of similar maintenance issues at West Coast refineries that led to price spikes earlier this year, Boxer wrote, “it is critical that we ensure that these shutdowns are not part of any broader effort to deliberately keep gasoline supplies tight—and prices high—at the expense of consumers.”

Posted on Wednesday, October 10th, 2012
Under: Barbara Boxer, California State Senate, economy, energy, Mark Leno, U.S. Senate | 6 Comments »