New Report Impugns Texas Oil Companies Funding California Prop 23
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."