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Chevron $ Makes Speaker Weak On Big Oil | Oil Watchdog

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Chevron $ Makes Speaker Weak On Big Oil

CONTACT:By

Thu, Aug 23, 2007 at 11:35 am

    Chevron $ Makes Speaker Weak On Big Oil

    NEWS RELEASE
    August 23, 2007

    CONTACT: Jamie Court, (310) 392-0522 ext. 327, or Judy Dugan, ext. 305

    Assembly Speaker’s Promised Action to Curb Gasoline Price Spikes Fails as Chevron Money Flows, Says Letter;

    Group Asks State Watchdogs to Investigate Over-sized Contribution Linked to Speaker Núñez

    Santa Monica, CA –Three months ago, Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez
    stood next to a Chevron gas station in downtown Los Angeles and vowed
    in strong language to "curb oil company machinations that drive up
    gasoline prices." The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights
    (FTCR) says in a letter to Núñez that "the result has been a great
    disappointment: weak original proposals, harmful amendments and
    additional legislation that directly benefits oil companies at
    consumers’ and taxpayers’ expense."

    FTCR has also asked the state Fair Political Practices
    Commission to investigate a $50,000 donation by Chevron, and directed
    to "Assembly Democrats," apparently made in connection with a Núñez
    fund-raiser April 13 and 14. The donation exceeds by nearly $20,000 the
    amount that may be used for electing candidates.
    Read the FPPC letter here.

    The letter to Núñez additionally criticizes a $100,000 donation
    by Chevron to pet cause of the Speaker, a ballot initiative altering
    term limits and allowing him to stay in his leadership post for an
    additional six years.
    Read the full letter to Núñez here.

    "Our disappointment about the gasoline-related bills is
    magnified by the ability of companies like Chevron to insert money into
    the political dialogue and neuter oil industry reforms year after
    year," said the letter. "This money pipeline is even more disturbing
    when its connections to legislative action are cloaked from public
    scrutiny."

    In the letter, FTCR grades each of the oil industry-related
    bills writer or backed by Nuñez, and the average is a disappointing
    D-minus.

    The letter’s "Report Card" list:

    – AB 1552 – Refinery Information. – This helpful bill to
    increase the operational, cost, storage and fuel transportation
    information that refiners must provide to the state is mostly unscathed
    so far. … Unfortunately, none of the specific refinery information
    will be made public, under the fiction that it is all "trade secrets."
    … Also disturbing is the likelihood, according to legislative
    sources, of weakening amendments in the Senate. Grade: B-minus.

    – AB 868 – "Hot Fuel." (Davis) – As a remedy for the "hot
    fuel" ripoff of motorists, this bill promises no more than studying a
    study, with no assurance of any legislative fix. … There is no
    question that California drivers lose at least $450 million a year when
    they buy gasoline that has expanded to temperatures above 60 degrees.
    … The U.S. Senate is already considering legislation (S.1997,
    McCaskill) that would require temperature compensation in the retail
    sale of fuel. Yet, though California is the most affected state, AB 868
    would merely delay a real fix. Grade: D-minus.

    – AB 1610 – Refinery Oversight – An originally good bill
    that would add some direct state oversight to the operation of
    refineries, its current weakened state shows the power of a tiny change
    of phrase. [A] brief amendment hands majority control of a new
    refinery-operations oversight board to gubernatorial appointees. It
    removes from the board … the independently elected Attorney General
    and state Controller. The amendments slash any fig leaf of independence
    and could create a state-sanctioned defender of the oil industry rather
    than a watchdog. Grade: D.

    – AB 118 – Biofuel Development – Pretends to be a
    successor to last year’s narrowly defeated green-fuels ballot
    initiative, Proposition 87. But instead of imposing a modest extraction
    fee on oil companies, it cynically puts the full cost burden on
    consumers. The measure would undercut any later effort to reap part of
    oil and gasoline profits for renewable energy. No wonder the oil
    industry’s mouthpiece, the Western States Petroleum Association,
    officially supports the bill. Grade: F.

    – SB 98 – State Tax Relief – Chevron … stands to be one
    of the big beneficiaries of a tax break estimated to cost California
    more than $850 million in revenue when fully implemented. You pushed
    this last-minute measure through the Assembly as it approved the
    state’s budget in a late-night session. SB 98 would allow a company
    that has huge sales outside California and substantial property and
    payroll in-state (as Chevron does), to use a different [tax] formula
    that would substantially cut its state taxes. … at a time when state
    programs, including transportation, are being slashed from the budget. Grade: F.
    [After this letter was sent, SB 98 was omitted from the final budget deal]

    All of the above bills, except for SB 98, have passed the
    Assembly and their initial Senate committees, said FTCR. SB 98 was, as
    it richly deserved, killed in the compromise over the state budget this
    week.

    Regarding the Chevron donations, the letter said:

    Chevron, for instance, gave $100,000 on July 23 to one of your
    chief causes, a February ballot initiative altering term limits that
    would allow you to extend your term as Assembly Speaker by six years.
    The donation arrived after the weakened oil industry bills passed the
    Legislature. Your chief staff consultant, Gale Kaufman, is the
    spokesperson for the committee.

    We are equally troubled by a $50,000 donation this year by
    Chevron to the California Democratic Party that appears to be tied
    personally to you. The April 5 contribution is reported by Chevron, in
    an atypical manner, as designated for "Assembly Democrats." Sources
    within the Democratic Party confirm that these are funds solicited in
    conjunction with your "Speakers Cup" fundraising event [in April] …
    and which you will dispense. There is no question that raising funds
    from the state’s largest oil company for the reelection of your
    Assembly members, then quietly compromising oil industry reform bills,
    creates a cloud over your office. The easiest course for you to clear
    the cloud is for you to return Chevron’s contribution.

    – 30 –

    The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) is the
    state’s leading consumer watchdog group. For more information, visit us
    on the web at: www.ConsumerWatchdog.org and www.OilWatchdog.org.

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