Tag Archives: BHP Billiton

LA Times Gives The Emperor’s Clothes An Alteration

Two months ago, I wrote a story about how Arnold Schwarzenegger is not that great on the environment, and the hype surrounding His Greenitude is largely a media creation.  Today, the LA Times gets around to the same thing, in what is actually a brave move to rewrite the narrative by using the actual facts.

Back home, environmentalists see the governor’s green credentials as thin.

The governor has taken more than $1 million in campaign money from the oil industry, whose products contribute to the greenhouse gas buildup that Schwarzenegger says he wants to roll back. And he is not reliable in using his bill-signing powers to protect the environment, activists say.

more on the flip…

Each year, the California League of Conservation Voters puts out an annual scorecard that rates the governor on a scale of 0 to 100, based on the environmental bills he has signed or vetoed. Last year, Schwarzenegger’s grade was 50, down from the previous two years when he logged a 58.

Gray Davis, the governor Schwarzenegger ousted in the 2003 recall, scored 75 in 2002 and 85 the year before that.

“Despite the governor’s public embrace of the environment, his record on signing good environmental bills into law remains mediocre,” the league said in its annual report card.

I don’t expect the national media to understand this.  After all, Arnold’s bringing sexy back to the environment.  But locally, there has to be some pushback against this absurd notion that the guy with the fleet of Hummers is the nation’s biggest environmentalist.  In fact, within the article, Peter Nicholas explains that this is all mainly an election strategy:

…audio recordings of the governor’s private meetings show that his aides have seen political value in making the environment a pet issue.

“Every four or five weeks, we’re going to spend an entire week on the environment,” the governor’s communications director, Adam Mendelsohn, told him in a private meeting in early 2006. ” … I do not believe it’s smart politics here in California to not talk about your environmental stuff.” […]

In the recordings, Schwarzenegger seems to wonder if people would accept a high-living, Hummer-driving ex-muscleman as an environmentalist.

“Here I was driving Hummers,” he says at one point. “I don’t know if I leave myself open here by calling myself an environmentalist. So we should just be aware of that.”

(These were the real revelations in the not-so-secret Schwarzenegger tapes, not the “hot-blooded” nonsense.)

I would argue that now, Arnold’s green lip service keeps him nationally relevant, and keeps his approval ratings up.  He’s a decent environmental governor for a Republican, but he falls well short of even Gray Davis’ record.  This makes him useful to the environmental movement, as they can say “See, even a REPUBLICAN supports our cause,” but it doesn’t do much to roll back global warming pollution, up 18% since 1990.

Nicholas also remembers something the whole country never knew – that he didn’t write AB 32, and it wasn’t a slam dunk that he would support it:

With only one day left in the legislative session, it was by no means certain that Schwarzenegger would sign the bill. Powerful interests stood in opposition. Business groups – the core of Schwarzenegger’s fund-raising base – feared that it would jack up costs.

Schwarzenegger wanted business-friendly provisions that would allow companies to trade emissions credits, meaning some could pay for the right to pollute.

The governor’s office offered “a number of amendments that would have watered down provisions of the mandatory reductions,” Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles), a coauthor of the bill, said in an interview.

A game of chicken followed. Nuñez told the governor’s staff that he would push forward with or without Schwarzenegger’s support. The governor threatened to veto the bill if his changes weren’t adopted, Nuñez said.

With Nuñez poised to tell a news conference that he was proceeding alone and Schwarzenegger needing legislative achievements to fuel his reelection campaign, the governor signed on. The trading system Schwarzenegger wanted is allowed under the law but is not mandatory.

“It was touch-and-go until the very end as to whether or not the governor would sign the bill,” said Ann Notthoff, California advocacy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, who was involved in the discussions.

We all know that he vetoed other environmental bills.  We know that his appointee voted to approve the environmentally harmful BHP Billiton LNG Terminal which was thankfully stopped by Democrats on the Land Commission panel.  We know that Senate Democrats are so fed up with his lax regulation of AB 32 that they offered a raft of new legislation to fight global warming.

I believe that environmental activists don’t speak up about this much because they find Arnold to be a useful advocate.  He can be heard by groups that would normally tune out the message.  And that’s helpful.  But they should use this as a lever to get real action and change in California.  Every threatened veto, every slip on legislation, they should be tied to Arnold like an anvil.  “He talks the talk but refuses to walk the walk.”  That’s how an effective environmental movement would act.

VICTORY: Cabrillo LNG Terminal Stopped

I was unexpectedly yet unavoidably unable to attend any of today’s public hearing in Oxnard for the proposed BHP Billiton LNG Terminal, but enough people showed up to make a difference.

The State Lands Commission decided late Monday not to award a lease essential to a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal off the Southern California coast, citing environmental concerns.

In the 2-1 vote, commissioners complicated efforts by Australia’s BHP Billiton LNG International Inc. to build an $800 million terminal in the ocean northwest of Los Angeles, about 14 miles off Malibu and about 20 miles off Oxnard. BHP officials have said the facility would provide a reliable source of low-polluting energy.

The decision was met with loud cheers by the estimated 900 people who packed the auditorium for Monday’s commission hearing. Many were opponents who wore blue shirts emblazoned with the words “Terminate the Terminal.”

900 people, WOW.  That’s some real grassroots action.  I’m guessing that Garamendi and Chiang did the right thing here (although a 2-1 vote the other way elected not to certify the environmental impact report, which keeps the door open for future predations, I fear).

LNG is a lower-polluting energy, but this terminal was unecessary, would have increased foreign consumption of oil, and would have lessened air quality.  It’s good to see it go down (for now).

UPDATE: I want to share with you Marcy Winograd’s firsthand account on the flip:

Though newspaper accounts mention a crowd of hundreds, the head count was more like 2,000 at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center, where Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (go 41st AD! -ed.) urged the commission not to approve a project fraught with risk.  Amidst a sea of blue Sierra Club “Terminate the Terminal” (a little Schwarzenegger dig there) t-shirts, scientists, former Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, Chumash healers, Malibu’s Pierce & Keeley Brosnan, the incredible former PUC commissioner Loretta Lynch, Mayor Maricela Morales of Pt. Hueneme, Santa Barbara’s Bob Handy, a rabbi, actors and activists spoke of asthma, smog, greenhouse gasses, and environmental racism (the pipes would run through Oxnard, a city over 70% Latino).

Maureen Cruise, Michael Jay, Mary Pallant, and I waited hours to testify on behalf of the executive boards of  Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains, and the Palisades Democratic Club, but ultimately we ceded our time in respect to a Sierra Club organizer who asked that we let the commission vote on the issue, rather than postpone because of hearings that would stretch past midnight.

“All those opposed to the project please stand up,” said the Sierra Club organizer.  Hundreds, maybe a thousand, shot to their feet.  “I cede my time,” he said.  Before the next name was called, Garamendi added, “Wait a minute.  All those in favor of the project please stand.”  Only five suits, (Were they Billiton reps or Oxnard Chamber of Commerce men?) slowly rose from their chairs. 

Yes, it’s lonely at the top of an LNG terminal.

On behalf of the Executive Board of Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, I want to thank all of you who wrote letters and campaigned to protect our coast. 

Marcy Winograd

Gotta love it.

ACTION ALERT: Cabrillo Port LNG Terminal Hearing Next Monday

It is very critical that everyone in Southern California who is interested in breathing decent air at some point in the next century attends a meeting on Monday, April 9 in Oxnard.  The details on the meeting here:

California State Lands Commission Hearing:
Monday, April 9, 2007
Location: Oxnard Performing Arts Center
800 Hobson Way, Oxnard, CA 93030
Times: 10:00am and 5:00pm

The details on why it’s so important, and what you can do no matter where you live in California, on the flip.

The largest mining company in the world, BHP Billiton, wants to build a massive LNG (liquefied natural gas) storage and processing terminal 14 miles off the coast of Malibu, at the Los Angeles/Ventura County line.  This fossil fuel terminal is not necessary; the US has plenty of natural gas reserves, and this terminal would mainly import natural gas from abroad for processing.  What this terminal would do is:

• cause 20 “Class One” impacts to air and water quality, public safety, marine wildlife, views, recreation, noise, and agriculture;

• based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates, “the Cabrillo Port project will emit over 200 tons of smog-producing pollutants (NOx and ROC) each year,” which would make it the largest smog-producing polluter in Ventura County.

• put a giant terrorist target 14 miles off the coast of Los Angeles and Ventura counties;

• be a fixture off the Pacific coast for at least the next 40 years (actually, the license has no firm expiration date, so this could be forever or until California falls into the sea, whichever comes first).

There’s much more here.

Despite the EPA draft report on the environmental impact of this terminal, the agency actually reversed its initial position and granted BHP Billiton an exemption from Clean Air Act restrictions, enabling them to continue moving forward.  At this point, all that can stop this project… is you.

The April 9 meeting in Oxnard will be one of the last opportunities for public comment on the LNG Terminal project.  Staff members of the California Coastal Commission are recommending rejecting this project, and local lawmakers are fighting to keep BHP Billiton off the coast.  But the State Lands Commission will be vital to making the decision.  There are actually two statewide elected Democrats that sit on this baord: Lt. Governor John Garamendi and State Controller John Chiang.  Based on what I’ve heard from activists, NEITHER HAS COMMITTED to blocking this proposal.  They need to be heard from.

Lt. Governor John Garamendi
(916) 445-8994

California State Controller John Chiang
(916) 445-2636

In addition, if all else fails, the Governor can show his commitment to the environment by vetoing the proposal, and you can tell him why he should at the link.

We need to mass support to get this destructive environmental hazard away from our coastline.  I’ll be attending the April 9 meeting and will have a full report.

The SoCal Report (silent T)

In the interest of regional balance, here are a few things in the part of the state that gets sun (jus’ kiddin’, guys) which caught my eye:

• Full public financing of municipal elections will be on the agenda at tonight’s Santa Monica City Council Meeting.  Solidly progressive City Councilman Kevin McKeown raised this issue earlier in the year and couldn’t get a second, but they ran a staff report, and both Common Cause and the League of Women Voters are pushing this hard.  Just like everything else, we’ll need to win the Clean Money battle from the bottom up.


• This complete crackup of the Minuteman Project is so hilariously predictable that it should be a reality show.  I can’t wait for the twists and turns and the backstabbing.  You put a bunch of power-hungry authoritarians in the same group, who knew that they’d start fighting each other for control?  Fascinatin’.

• You might want to think twice before eating in LA – the biggest produce wholesaler in the city, the 7th Street Market, was cited for multiple violations, including rat infestation.  Never been, not going now.

• I wish I had the time to write the badly needed very long series of articles about the proposed LNG terminal off the coast of Malibu.  This would be an environmental disaster for the coastline, yet the Governor has given tacit support to BHP Billiton to build it.  This blog is a great resource for this story.  Look at this part:

Environmental Protection Agency political appointees used non-existent analysis and misled the public when they reversed course and rejected tough smog rules for the proposed Cabrillo Port liquefied natural gas terminal off the Malibu coast, the chairman of the House Investigations Committee said Monday.

Rep. Henry Waxman also accused top EPA officials of refusing to hand over key documents detailing the 2005 decision by a White House political appointee to overrule regional EPA officials on a key decision about whether the Cabrillo Port proposal can go forward.

The news from Washington comes as BHP Billiton and its lobbying firm have hired another two close associates of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, to press the case behind the scenes for Cabrillo Port. That facility faces key licensing decisions next month, and could be operating on Malibu’s coastal horizon in three years.

It looks like Assemblyman Lloyd Levine has withdrawn his support for the LNG Terminal, which is key.

New op-ed columnists at the LA Times.  Surprise, there are less now than there were – cost-cutting rulez!  Also, somehow, Jonah Goldberg kept his slot (then again, I actually like his op-ed today), though Arianna Huffington, Adam Hochschild, Gustavo Arellano (Ask a Mexican!) and Sandra Tsing Loh come aboard as “contributing editors,” which I think means they’ll write op-eds but won’t be paid as staff op-ed writers.