New Report Impugns Texas Oil Companies Funding California Prop 23

AB_32_presser_8_10.jpgSan Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, No on Prop 23 Chair Tom Steyer, and Ella Baker Center Green-Collar Jobs Campaign Director Ian Kim at the microphone. Photo: Matthew Roth.

UPDATED: 10:00 pm, 8-11-10

The fight against Proposition 23, which qualified for the November ballot and if passed would suspend California’s pioneering climate law AB 32, got testy today as San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom called out Valero and Tesoro, the Texas oil companies spending the lion’s share of the money for Prop 23, and said political candidates like Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina were standing in the way of progress for cheap political gain.

Mayor Newsom joined with the No on Prop 23 campaign, the California Nurses Association, and the California chapter of the American Lung Association at a press conference in the Bayview to highlight a new report, "Toxic Twins" by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and the California Environmental Justice Alliance. The report details the numerous environmental violations perpetrated by Valero and Tesoro as well as the toxic chemicals they spew legally and illegally into the air.

As the report shows, Tesoro and Valero combined have four facilities on the list of the top
15 worst polluters in California, with Valero’s Benicia refinery at
number 4 and Tesoro’s Martinez refinery at number 8. Both companies have also repeatedly violated pollution laws in California and continue to do so, settling with government agencies like the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The report also notes the people most impacted by the pollution are people of color and low-income communities.

"Just like BP cut some corners in
the Gulf Coast to make a little extra money with disastrous
consequences, we know with this report today that these nasty Texas oil
companies Valero and Tesoro are cutting corners in California every day
to make a little more profit," said Ian Kim, the Green-Collar Jobs Campaign Director for the Ella Baker Center.

Kim said in California 63 percent of people living within two and a half miles of oil refineries are black, Latino, Asian and pacific islander. In some communities, like Wilmington, CA, 85 percent of people living near the refineries are people of color, 25 percent below the poverty line.

"We
know It’s going to hurt low-income communities and people of color first
and worst because the people behind Proposition 23 are hurting low
income communities and people of color first and worst," said Kim.

"We cannot let these companies pull us backwards as we try to move
forward in the future," said Tom Steyer, a noted hedge fund manager with Farallon Capitol Management and co-chair of the No on Prop 23 Campaign with former Secretary of State George Schultz. "They’re trying to weaken the rules to make it
easier for themselves. They’re going to roll back energy and air
quality standards for their own sake. It makes sense for them. Their
kids don’t live in California. Their kids are not going to feel the
results of this."

Jane Warner, President and CEO of the American Lung Association in California said the impacts of air pollution affect nearly all Californians. "Here
in California 91 percent of us are living in counties where we’re
breathing air that has gotten failing grades. Those of us in urban
areas are breathing over 100 days of polluted air every year, that’s
about 3 months out of the year dirty air," she said.

Warner said there are 300,000 respiratory illnesses reported each year in California and 19,000 die
prematurely because of air pollution. "Prop 23 will do nothing but
cause more air pollution, cause more children to have asthma, send more
seniors to the emergency room, and take more lives of Californians," she said.

Just after official press conference, Newsom lashed out at the oil companies, as well as Whitman and Fiorina.

"Here we are in California that’s a mecca for environmental stewardship,
that’s really raised the bar over the last 30 years and you have
Texas-based oil companies that are disproportionately funding an
initiative that absolutely affects our future and our economy and our
environmental stewardship as well as our health and well-being," said Newsom, who asked rhetorically what their motivation could be for spending millions, possibly tens of millions, to support Prop 23.

"The
idea that their spokesperson would say we want to help the California
economy by rolling back AB 32 is laughable," he added. "Do you think private
corporations out of Texas in the oil business actually want to spend
tens of millions of dollars to help the California economy? That’s
nonsense. This is purely about their bottom line.They are impacting the
one thing that’s working in California and that’s our green jobs sector"

As for the Republican candidates for governor and senator, Newsom said Whitman was backing away from Prop 23 because she realized it was a bad policy and he questioned whether Fiorina really understood the impacts.

"California has the opportunity to lead not just this
nation, but the world and the only thing stopping that is politicians
like Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina," he said. "They’re wrong on this and they’re
playing to a political base that, with all due respect, is in my
rear-view mirror and is not the future of this state."

Assemblymember Dan Logue (R-Linda), author of Prop 23, said Mayor Newsom and supporters of AB 32 were attacking Valero and Tesoro because they didn’t want to address the core issues the proposition addressed. He also called the Ella Baker Center a "far left organization out of Oakland" that shouldn’t be trusted.

"The bottom line is that this is camouflage," he said. "I think you’re camouflaging the issue of Prop 23. I don’t see you going after the green guys."

Logue said the groups funding No on Prop 23 also stood to gain financially from green technology, which he said couldn’t hold its own without government subsidies.

"My biggest frustration is the message and the whole issue is not being addressed," he added. "My concern is we’re killing the messengers and we’re killing the financiers."

  • cagsw

    no to texas oil now!
    I need and want clean air!

  • Msmad

    I am glad people are taking the time to educate us about what’s on the ballot and who is backing up certain initiatives. Anything backed by corporations leaves me thinking they only care about their money and not the people. No on Prop 23 from this California voter!

  • Earl Richards

    The California Jobs Initiativr (CJI) is an oil corporation farce and fraud. There is no connection, whatsoever, between greenhouse gas emission reduction and the loss of jobs. This notion is an insult to the intelligence of the people of California. In fact, there is job growth in the clean, renewable energy industry. Chevron employs 65,000 worldwide and CJI is not going to change this. The only jobs created by the oil industry are clean-up jobs after oil spills and deep water, blow-outs and pump-handler jobs. CJI will make fantastic profits for the oil industry, increase air pollution, especially in communities around their refineries, and there will not be lower gas prices. Both Valero and Tesoro are super Enrons.

  • kumbamama

    No to Prop 23! The innovation potential is ENDLESS when it comes to coming up with better alternatives to oil. Come on California, we’ve got the talent, we’ve got the resources, and we’ve certainly got the people! Let’s do it right and continue to set the standard for the rest of the country.

  • Almost always, when a proposition has a huge amount of money to run ads….you know something is fishy. People dont spend millions of dollars to help the state, they do it to help their personal business.

    Last election, for example, there was a proposition about car insurance. I didnt really understand it at first, but there were TONS of ads being run by insurance companies telling us to vote for the prop, which told me all I needed to know: the only people who would win would be them if it passed.

  • icarus12

    Attacking the sponsor of a ballot initiative (or of any idea) is an inferior way to argue against an initiative. I am much more interested in detailed and substantive discussion of how voting for or against this measure will help or harm Californians. Of course, I don’t trust the oil companies on this one, but neither do I trust broad generalizations like “going green will bring tons of jobs.” So far I’ve not heard or read enough to know how to vote on this.

  • No to 23…send e-mails to the oil companies and make sure you tell all you friends and family to vote no. Also goes for Whitman and Fiorina, of course. Contribute what you can to defeat them all!

  • “Both companies have also repeatedly violated pollution laws in California and continue to do so, settling with government agencies like the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.”

    Maybe it is time for the Attorney General (and hopefully next Governor) to sue over those continuing violations.

  • James

    Well icarus12

    I understand your point. The green tech industry is the fastest growing industry in CA and if your worried about the economy prop 23 would destroy possibilities for huge investments in CA. The green tech industry has received upwards of 9 billion dollars of investment since 2006 as a direct result of the land mark legislation AB 32. Destroying this bill is equivalent to destroying an entire sector of our economy.

    Getting rid of clean air laws hurts low income communities and people of color the worst. They are the majority of the people who live near the oil refineries in CA and are the least able to cope with the health issues caused by these polluters, why get rid of our clean air laws?

    These communities have the highest rates of asthma and respiratory diseases including lung cancer. Save them the costs of the emergency visits, and help to stop the 19,000 premature deaths a year caused by pollution. NO on 23!

  • icarus12

    Thanks James for the info. Do you have any websites that I could read more about the actual investments made in California due to Green Tech? That 9 billion dollar figure really caught my attention.

  • Where is the EPA? The DOA? “The US EPA listed Valero’s oil refinery in Benicia as the fourth largest emitter of toxic chemicals in the state in 2009. Tesoro’s refinery in Martinez ranked 8th.” Where are the fines, the penalties?

    Also, if I’m not mistaken, the 2006 law has been in place for three years; I’ve yet to see the proof linking it to lost jobs. And of course, there are other costs with letting this pass: rampant pollution and addiction to fossil fuels: greater health problems (especially in urban neighborhoods), rampant smog, and other environmental risks.

    A commitment to green energy can actually create jobs as well.

  • Tom Emery

    I can’t believe that the oil companies think we are that stupid. Talk about arrogance and hubris Time to get serious about alternatives.Solar and wind folks.Exciting times ahead. No on 23.

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