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MLPA Task Force Chair Calls for More Oil Drilling off California Coast


by Dan Bacher

April 2, 2010 -- An oil industry lobbyist who chairs a panel in charge of developing controversial marine reserves on the Southern California Coast this week called for new oil drilling in California ocean waters. 
Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), told the San Francisco Chronicle that she hopes the Obama administration “will eventually allow new drilling off the California coast." (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/03/31/MNU41CO3O4.DTL
"We are disappointed," Reheis-Boyd said, in response to Obama’s announcement Wednesday that the U.S. will begin drilling for oil in the waters off the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. "When you look at the resources here, they're considerable." 
Reheis-Boyd is chair of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast. She also sat on the MLPA Task Force for the North Central Coast and now sits on the task force for the North Coast. 
Critics of her appointment to the panels believe that she has been placed there to protect the oil industry’s interests – and to make sure that so-called “Marine Protected Areas” don’t conflict with the operation of existing offshore oil rigs or the installation of new rigs if the Obama administration lifts the ban on oil drilling off the California coast. 
“There are more than 10 billion barrels of crude oil reserves located off the California coast and huge reserves of natural gas,” Reheis-Boyd said earlier this year in “A Message from WSPA” on the oil industry group’s website (http://www.wspa.org/wspa-message.aspx?id=17). “Our industry has demonstrated over the past 40 years it can and does operate safely in the marine environment.” 
Reheis-Boyd also told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that she was “disappointed” by Obama's decision to continue excluding California's "resource-rich" waters from energy development. 
“Without added offshore oil development, the state would have to bring in more oil by tanker, and ‘we don't want that,’” Reheis-Boyd said, according to the Press Democrat (http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20100401/NEWS/4011015?p=4&tc=pg). 
John Stephens-Lewallen and other North Coast environmentalists and fishermen have charged that the Marine Life Protection Act, a law passed by the State Legislature and signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999, has been hijacked by oil industry, real estate and marina development interests under the Schwarzenegger administration. The MLPA Initiative since 2004 has been funded by a private corporation, the Resource Legacy Fund Foundation. 
The text of the legislation states very clearly, "Coastal development, water pollution, and other human activities threaten the health of marine habitat and the biological diversity found in California's ocean waters." 
However, Schwarzenegger has completely taken coastal development, water pollution and other human activities other than fishing and seaweed harvesting "off the table" in his MLPA process. Schwarzenegger is an advocate of increased oil drilling off the California coast – and the appointment of Reheis-Boyd on all three “marine protection” task force fits his plan to destroy and plunder the California coast. 
“In March, Reheis-Boyd assured the Fort Bragg City Council that setting up marine reserves had nothing to do with opening oil drilling up,” said Stephens-Lewallen. “But at same time, they toured port facilities at the Albion and Noyo harbors where we suspect they could eventually install onshore facilities to be used in tandem with offshore rigs. The North Coast Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) seem designed to eliminate the fishing industry in the Point Area area, since they bracket the harbor.” 
Stephens-Lewallen questions whether the placement of these marine reserves has been designed to facilitate the development of offshore oil in the Point Arena Basin in Mendocino County. This is one of the areas the oil industry is most interested in exploring for oil – and is one of the greatest marine ecosystems, sustained by upwelling, on the West Coast. 
“Any oil pollution generated from normal operations or a spill will be carried by the California current all of the way to Monterey Bay,” said Stephens-Lewallen. 
Governor Schwarzenegger has fast-tracked the MLPA process at the same time that he is pushing for the construction of a peripheral canal and new dams to provide increased water exports from the California Delta to corporate agribusiness, southern California water agencies and water privateers. The construction of the peripheral canal is likely to result in the extinction of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, green sturgeon and other fish populations. 
Schwarzenegger's peripheral canal campaign and his privately funded MLPA process are the two sides of the same corporate greenwashing process that facilitates the privatization of public trust resources at the expense of fish populations, fishing communities, California Indian Tribes and the democratic process. 
About Reheis-Boyd's Group: The Western States Petroleum Association is the leading petroleum industry trade association in six western states - California, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Its twenty-eight members include major integrated oil and natural gas companies as well as independent refiners and marketers, and independent producers. Formed in 1906, it is the oldest petroleum industry trade association in the United States.