Tag Archives: dennis tootelian

Petition to Kill California’s Anti-Pollution Legislation Off to a Rocky, Slimy Start

So it’s been over a week since Texas oil refiners (and two of California’s worst polluters) Valero and Tesoro ponied up close to $2 million to launch a petition drive to get an initiative on the November ballot to kill AB 32, California’s nation-leading legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels and encourage job creation in the booming green/clean energy and tech industries. Naturally, Valero, Tesoro and assemblyman Dan Logue (R-Chino), one of the initiative’s primary sponsors, are doing their best to keep Texas Big Oil’s involvement in the petition a secret, refusing to confirm or deny that Valero/Tesoro are actually the sole funders of the signature drive and stand to profit from insuring that Californians continue to breath some of the dirtiest, most unhealthy air in the nation.

Unfortunately for them, the secret is out. Supporters of AB 32, the environment and clean energy started a website, NoOnValero.com, to let Californians know that the effort to kill AB 32 is about Big Oil profits, not saving or creating jobs. They also staged a rally in front of a Sacramento Valero station to tell Valero to mind its own business. Below is news coverage of the event, and you can also visit the No On Valero Youtube channel to hear what the protesters think of Valero’s involvement in trying to kill AB 32.

Not to be outdone, the Teabaggers, America’s favorite racists and climate change/evolution deniers, decided to stage their own pro-Valero rally the next week. That’s right, a rally to celebrate the fact that an out-of-state Big Oil company — a member of one of America’s most hated industries after banks and health insurers — is attempting to further corrupt our political system and compromise the health of Californians. Because apparently Teabaggers, who claim to value what they call “freedom”, think it’s better if unelected Texas CEOs of heavy-polluting corporations write California’s anti-pollution laws. Also, someone may want to tell the Teabaggers that Valero’s involvement in the petition is supposed to be, you know, a secret. And I’ll be curious to hear what Valero thinks of getting the support of a group known mostly for racism, unhinged anger, willful ignorance and irrational, apocalyptic conspiracy theories.  

Then again, Valero may need all the support it can get. In a shocking turn, one of the leaders pushing for the anti-AB 32 ballot initiative, conservative Dan Costa of People’s Advocate, is now opposing the ballot initiative due to Valero and Tesoro’s involvement and the seediness of keeping it a secret, possibly in violation of state campaign laws. From the Sacramento Bee:

Ted Costa, of People’s Advocate, said he continues to believe in the thrust of the initiative but that the signature-gathering campaign has been “stolen” by big-money interests that have not identified themselves publicly.

“You ruin the whole organization when you go through this kind of muck,” said Costa.

And Costa told the LA Times:

“I wanted to do a grassroots operation and involve a lot of people,” Costa said. “But they believe they can run this thing out of the country club and to hell with the little people of California. If they have half a million dollars, how come they haven’t reported it?” he asked.

Of course, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to Costa that Logue would be hopping in bed with Valero and Big Oil, even if it seems unseemly or illegal. After all, Logue knows who owns him. From California Watch:

Last year alone, the oil and energy industries donated $14,200 to Logue’s campaign coffers, including $2,000 from Valero. Other Logue donors in 2009 include Chevron, Occidental, and the California Independent Petroleum PAC.

So Big Oil buys Logue through campaign contributions to get him elected, then Logue sponsors a ballot initiative to kill legislation that Big Oil is opposed to, then two Big Oil companies provide the funding to gather signatures for the initiative. Could the dots be any easier to connect? The Circle of Oil continues…

And in another surprise, not only are the authors of the thoroughly debunked Varshney/Tootelian report claiming that implementing AB 32 would lead to massive economic pain refusing to defend their work from the withering criticism it has received, but apparently they don’t think AB 32 is so bad. From the State Hornet:

“We conducted an independent and unbiased study, and certainly support the spirit of AB 32,” [Dennis Tootelian] said in an e-mail. “Our study estimated the costs, and we have no other comment.”

You’d think he’d have something a bit stronger to say after Tootelian’s co-author on the report, Sanjay Varshnay, received criticism like this:

“For a guy [Varshney] who purports to be a professor, this is an embarrassment to himself and an embarrassment to [Sacramento State],” said Chris Thornberg, economist and founding principal of Beacon Economics.

Thornberg said the report committed fatal flaws in basic statistical analysis. The authors used regression analysis, a statistical technique used to test one variable while controlliing for many others. The report looked at state output, but did not control for the number of workers and amount of capital in California.

“The results are so screwy and crazy,” Thornberg said. “It’s so bad that if a freshman student handed this to me, I wouldn’t even give him an ‘F,’ I would call it incomplete and hand it back to them.”

With only a month to get almost 434,000 signatures, the anti-AB 32 petition drive is off to a pretty rocky start. But one thing that’s for sure is that you should never, ever count the republicans out. They never give up and will fight to the end using the dirtiest tactics, the biggest lies and the most outrageous scaremongering imaginable. Plus, the anti-AB 32 movement was handed a gift this week in the form of a new report by California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office claiming that AB 32 will result in short-term job losses, even though the Union of Concerned Scientists pointed out that the report admits that predicting job losses or gains from AB 32 is extremely difficult, provides no independent research to back its claim of overall job losses, and fails to mention the numerous studies that have found that AB 32 would be a net job creator with little or no impact on small businesses.

With California’s reputation for setting precedents that the rest of the country often follows, you can bet that powerful players are gearing up for a fight that will only grow in intensity as the days tick down until the petition signatures are due on April 16.  

EXPOSED: Texas Big Oil Funding Petition to Kill California’s Anti-Pollution Legislation

Stealthily and without fanfare, a petition has been launched to get a measure on the November ballot suspending AB 32, California’s landmark legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions and spur green job growth. So who is funding the signature drive? None other than San Antonio-based oil refiners Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp. — the #7 and #8 biggest polluters in California. From the LA Times:

Two Texas-based refinery giants have pledged as much as $2 million to fund signature gathering for a ballot initiative to suspend California’s landmark global warming law [AB 32], according to Sacramento sources.

The companies, Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp., own refineries in California that would be forced under the law to slash emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

But neither Valero or Tesoro is owning up to it.

A Tesoro spokesman did not respond to inquiries. But the company’s website invites visitors to lobby Congress to ensure “fair” climate legislation and fight any effort by the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Bill Day, a Valero spokesman, declined to confirm or deny the company’s involvement, saying that “any contributions would come out in normal disclosures” under California’s campaign laws.

And neither is Dan Logue (R-Marysville), one of the initiative’s main sponsors. From NYTimes:

Dan Logue, the Republican assemblyman behind the suspension, also refused to discuss where funds had originated.

So forget about the astroturf groups claiming the movement to kill AB 32 is a bunch of small local businesses worried about their survival in a tough economy. The mask is off the anti-AB 32 movement, and behind it is exactly what we thought we would find: big oil, big pollution, big corporations and the corporatist Republicans who love them. That’s why Logue, Valero and Tesoro refuse to admit where the money for the ballot initiative is coming from, even if it means possibly violating California Fair Political Practices Committee regulations. The fact that Texas Big Oil is funding an initiative to keep California’s air dirty and kill its burgeoning green economy is a PR nightmare.

So let’s have no more illusions about what the move to kill AB 32 is all about.

Killing AB 32 is not about job creation or lowering unemployment. Valero and Tesoro don’t care about creating jobs or lowering unemployment in a state over 1,000 miles away from them since that won’t increase their profits. If they did care about job creation, they would be supporting AB 32 since California’s clean/green economy is creating jobs at a rate 2.5 times faster than the rest of the economy while attracting billions in venture capital investment, including an announcement this week that Kyocera will be opening a plant in San Diego to manufacture solar modules. Besides, the Varshney/Tootelian report that AB 32 opponents often cite to prove that AB 32 will kill jobs and hurt the economy has been exposed by numerous economists, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the California Budget Project as being fatally, almost cartoonishly flawed, with one pair of economists calling it “one of the worst examples of schlock science we’ve ever seen.” Even Sanjay Varshney, one of the report’s co-authors, admitted that the report is “not exhaustive” and now seems to be backing away from its conclusions.

The move to kill AB 32 is about even more astronomical profits for Big Oil, regardless of whom or what it harms. Valero and Tesoro don’t care that hundreds of Californians die every year from respiratory illnesses aggravated by pollution, or that the adverse health effects of pollution disproportionately fall on minorities. They don’t care that the top four most polluted cities in the country are in California or that Californians breath some of the dirtiest air in America, with 95% of Californians living in areas with unhealthy air.

In fact, Valero and Tesoro want California’s air to become even more dirty and dangerous because they profit from pollution. Instead of being ethical and responsible and cleaning up their own mess, they can make even more by “socializing” and externalizing the cost of pollution — making Californians pay for it in the form of taxpayer-funded environmental cleanups, increased medical bills and lost work days stemming from pollution-related illness, and premature death. Tesoro claims it wants “fair” climate legislation when the most “fair” thing they could do is to clean up their own pollution instead of making others deal with it. And while they adamantly oppose any legislation that puts a price on carbon, the truth is that Valero and Tesoro know that carbon already has a price — the extra profits they make by not cleaning up the carbon pollution they generate.

Call Valero at (210) 345-2000 and/or email Tesoro and tell them what you think of what they’re doing. They’ll try to redirect you to a PR firm, but be insistent. And if anything, tell them that you and all of your friends will never, ever buy their gas again.

We’ve already had out-of-state interests stick their nose in to tell Californians who we can marry. Let’s make sure out-of-state Big Oil doesn’t dictate what kind of air we’re forced breath.

Co-Author of Report Cited by AB 32 Opponents Backs Away From Findings

The move by republicans and polluters to suspend/kill AB 32, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act that seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and spur green job growth, was dealt a devastating blow on Friday — one of the authors of the much-cited (and much-criticized) Varshney/Tootelian report (VTR), which predicts an economic catastrophe if California implements AB 32, is now backing away from the report’s claims.

Facing yet another round of criticism — this time in a report by Stanford University economist Jim Sweeney that found VTR to be “highly biased…based on poor logic and unsound economic analysis” and overstates the costs of AB 32 “by a factor of at least 10” — Sanjay Varshney has refused to defend his report’s claims. When asked by a reporter for the Sacramento Business Journal to respond to Sweeney’s criticism, Varshney, who is Dean of the Business School at California State University Sacramento, would only say, “I haven’t really kept up with the debate. It will be very difficult for me to comment.” (You need to be a subscriber to see the full article.)

Hardly what you’d call a full-throated defense, or even a boilerplate response about his confidence in both his methods and his conclusions. And Varshney should be well-prepared to address the kind of criticism found in the Stanford report since it echoes criticisms found by other economists, as well as the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The main and most obvious criticism of VTR is that it only looks at the projected costs of implementing AB 32 ($24.9 billion) while purposefully omitting any of the savings that AB 32 would generate ($40.4 billion) — a net savings of $15.5 billion.  

It is a methodology that literally makes no sense. How can you account for the cost of buying a more fuel-efficient car, then not account for the money drivers would save at the pump by driving a more fuel-efficient car? How can you include the cost of building a home so it uses no net energy, then not include the savings for a family living in that home who no longer has to pay energy bills? Yet that is exactly what VTR does, a methodology the Stanford report calls “highly biased and has no credibility.”

Virtually all of VTR’s conclusions are based on this decision to look only at costs without savings, which the Stanford report estimates causes the results of VTR to be inaccurate by a factor of ten or greater. The authors of VTR try to justify their methodology by claiming that the estimated savings generated by AB 32 are “too speculative to consider at this time,” an explanation the Stanford report says has “little credibility” since VTR has no problem citing the costs of implementing AB 32, many of which are also speculative. And, as said before, it makes no sense to include the cost of increasing energy efficiency without including the savings from using energy more efficiently. The Stanford report goes on to highlight more errors and flawed methodology used in VTR, like claiming that saving $30/month by driving a new fuel-efficient car amounts to a $30/month increase in gas costs for those who stick with their current cars. It’s no wonder economists Christopher Thornberg and Jon Haveman of Beacon Economics called VTR “one of the worst examples of schlock science we’ve ever seen.”

Yet VTR — for which Varshney and Dennis Tootelian were paid $54,000 by the California Small Business Roundtable — is virtually the only evidence that AB 32 opponents give for their doomsday predictions that AB 32 will ruin California’s economy, cost the state a whopping 1.1 million jobs (more than have been lost as a result of the current recession) and raise consumer prices. Republican Meg Whitman has mentioned its findings as a reason why she has promised to suspend AB 32 if she is elected governor, as has a representative for her republican opponent, Steve Poizner. VTR has also been cited by numerous newspapers, including the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, who heralded its findings as proof that there would be no “free green lunch” in California if AB 32 is implemented.

The fact that candidates like Poizner and Whitman (along with anti-AB 32 groups like the AB 32 Implementation Group) would put so much stake in a fatally flawed report that makes no secret of its most glaring failure is telling. But what are AB 32 opponents to do now when even one of VTR’s principal authors won’t defend its findings? Will they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund a petition drive calling for the suspension of AB 32 when their main justification for suspending it — the conclusions of the VTR report — no longer applies? And considering the numerous studies that have found that AB 32 would create jobs, position California as a leader in the growing green/clean energy economy, reduce costs for businesses and consumers, and improve the health of Californians while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, what justification can AB 32 opponents give for defending a status quo that enriches the state’s worst polluters?  

AB 32 Opponents Vulnerable on Pollution’s Health Hazards

(AB 32 is important for a number of reasons… – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

Imagine if Toyota made this statement:

“It has come to our attention that, due to faulty gas pedals, a small number of our cars have killed or injured a small percentage of our customers. However, to recall and repair our cars to address this problem would simply be too costly, especially in this difficult economy. So we are delaying a recall for one year, after which time we will re-evaluate the economic climate and decide whether conditions are favorable enough to initiate a recall. We ask for your patience and understanding during this time.”

Naturally, there would be a furious uproar. How dare a company attempt to put short-term economic interests ahead of people’s health and safety? Yet this is essentially what the opponents of AB 32, California’s nation-leading environmental legislation that seeks to reduce greenhouse gases in California to 1990 levels by 2020, are asking Californians to do. And since there is ample evidence that AB 32 would actually provide a needed boost to California’s economy without harming small businesses, what AB 32 opponents are attempting to do is arguably worse.

Not wanting to appear pro-pollution or tone deaf to Californians’ concerns about the environment, opponents of AB 32 — like Meg Whitman and dirty energy astroturf front the AB 32 Implementation Group (an especially Orwellian moniker for a group that doesn’t want AB 32 implemented) — claim they are deeply concerned about the state of the environment in California. And they should — Californians breathe some of the worst air in the nation, with 95% of Californians living in areas with unhealthy air. The top four most polluted cities in America when it comes to ozone (the primary ingredient in smog) are in California, with six California cities in the top ten. When it comes to the most polluted cities ranked by particulates in the air, the top three cities are in California, with six in the top ten.  

According to the American Lung Association, “numerous studies have linked air pollution to lung cancer, asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes and early death as well as increased hospitalizations for breathing problems.” There is also growing evidence that air pollution actually causes asthma in otherwise healthy children, whose smaller lungs require kids to breath at a faster rate. In addition, a study by the University of Massachusetts and the University of Southern California found that the effects of air pollution fall disproportionately on poor and minority communities. A report by the NRDC determined that if emissions in California are not reduced to 1990 levels, over 700 Californians will die prematurely in 2020 alone, along with thousands of cases of asthma and other respiratory illnesses aggravated by pollution.

The response by AB 32 opponents? “Sucks to be them.”

Am I exaggerating? Not really. That’s because by acknowledging that air pollution is a serious problem, AB 32 opponents are also acknowledging that the health risks caused by pollution are real and serious. If they want to dispute that, they can take it up with the American Lung Association. That’s a fight I’d like to see, and one AB 32 supporters should make them have.

With the economy polling as the #1 concern of Californians, I understand why AB 32 is largely being looked at through the prism of job creation. And AB 32 supporters should be winning easily on this front — the non-profit Center for Resource Solutions (CRS) found that three reports undertaken by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), University of California researchers and Charles River Associates/Electric Power Research Institute using very conservative estimates were correct in their conclusion that implementing AB 32 would generate robust economic growth. By contrast, CRS found that the report by Varshney and Tootelian that AB 32 opponents use to justify their job-loss scaremongering relies on outdated models and takes the perplexing step of ignoring any possible savings or benefits from adopting AB 32.

However, I worry that the media, striving for “balance”, will conclude that one discredited report somehow cancels out three vetted ones, and Californians who will never read the CRS analysis will conclude the same. So Californians, influenced by gobs of advertising and lobbying money from the dirty energy industry, will probably go with their gut instinct, which will tell them that upgrading and changing things (like cars, computers or TVs) usually costs money, and when you’re in debt (like California is) or worried about losing your job, it makes sense to hold off on new purchases. Besides, it’s easier to be scared of making a bad thing worse (job loss) than of losing something you’ve never seen (the green tech economy). It’s unfair, but there’s a good chance it’ll happen.

That’s why supporters of AB 32 would be wise not to put all their strategic eggs in the job creation basket. Because by acknowledging the health risks caused by air pollution, opponents of AB 32 are essentially confirming one of the best reasons why waiting to implement AB 32, like Toyota delaying a recall, is simply unacceptable.