The Executive Director of the California Public Utilities Commission, Steve Larson, announced that he was leaving the PUC to take a job at the Australian oil giant Woodside, according to Mark Martin, who is reporting it today on the San Francisco Chronicle Politics Blog. Woodside, along with several other Big Energy firms, is in the midst of a frenzied campaign to transform the California coastline into 1,000 miles of beautiful
beaches Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) port facilities. As part of that effort, LNG companies have been hiring several state energy officials away from their government jobs, knowing that access and influence is crucial to overcoming the public’s skepticism about these ports. As Martin reports:
Larson’s decision shouldn’t come as a surprise. In addition to whatever lucrative package he is getting from Woodside, Larson’s appetite must have been whetted late last year when he took an all expenses paid junket to South America with other state officials thanks to a nonprofit group funded by Big Energy. Public records we demanded from Larson show that the trip was a lavish, tourist-oriented and corporate-driven twelve days in the sun. The documents indicate that the so-called "International Travel Study Project to South America" for California government officials between November 9 and November 22 was an extravagant junket filled with island hopping, golf, wine tasting and a night at the Copacabana Palace, described as "the best luxury hotel in Latin America."
Get a feel for the luxuries Larson got a taste for last November at each of the five hotels on the trip’s itinerary:
This trip wasn’t the first or last five star trip for California gov’t officials. See blogger dugan’s item on Spring Break 07 in Europe on BP, Chevron and Shell’s dime. And this LNG junket to South Korea and Australia in 2004, in which then Schwarzenegger official Joe Desmond enjoyed the stay at the Four Season’s Hotel in Sidney before leaving for NorthernStar Natural Gas. And one with LNG proponents to Tokyo last week.
Who knew how good those state employees had it?