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California’s Radical De-Incarceration Experiment

Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice

California has undertaken two gigantic experiments in de-incarceration, one of youths and the other adults. They were largely forced on the state by court mandates and budget constraints—but also by some key policy changes.

The first experiment is so radical that even the most progressive reformers could never have envisioned it. California has all but abolished state imprisonment and has sharply reduced local incarceration of youths to the lowest levels ever recorded—by far.

In 1996, there were 10,115 youths in state-run youth correctional facilities, and another 10,678 temporarily confined in local juvenile halls and camps—a total of 20,793 youths locked up on an average day in a total youth population age 10-17 of 3.7 million.

Since 1996, California’s teenaged youth population has grown to 4.1 million. Yet, as of December 31, 2013, California held just 683 youths in state-run youth correctional facilities (which effectively operate as juvenile prisons) and housed 8,653 temporarily in local juvenile halls and camps—a total of 9,336 youths behind bars on an average day. That’s a 60% drop in the rate of youth incarceration in 17 years, along with a huge shift toward local and shorter terms.

Reliable records going back to 1943 (when state juvenile facilities held 1,080 wards in a youth population of just 850,000) and sporadic facility counts from earlier years show the proportion of California youths who are incarcerated probably stands at an all-time low.

The most spectacular reductions have been in state incarceration of youths—down 88% for violent crimes, and down 99% for property, drug, and other crimes. The state now commits youth only for the most serious offenses. Today, 96% of state Division of Juvenile Facilities commitments are for felony violence, 4% for major property offenses, and none for drugs or other crimes.

In summary, California now has a record-high youth population, now nearly three-quarters of color, a record-high proportion of which is out on the streets—a “triple whammy” that terrified the most-quoted crime experts. “Get ready,” UCLA crime expert James Q. Wilson grimly warned in 1995, forecasting a surge in violence accompanying the growth and racial diversification of the teenage population. A “teenage crime storm,” “new wave of mayhem,” “juvenile superpredators,” and “deadly demographics” led the dire predictions.

What actually happened? California’s youth crime rate plummeted to its lowest level since the first statewide crime statistics in 1957. That year, juvenile arrests equaled 9.4% of the state’s youths age 10-17, including 1.3% for felonies. In 2012, juvenile arrests totaled just 2.9% of youth population (including 0.9% for felonies)—one-third the rate of the 1950s, and a 60% drop since 1996.

The second experiment has been an unprecedented reduction in adult incarceration. Since 1999, as prison populations nationally remained stable, California reduced its adult prison rosters by 30,000, a decline rivaled only by New York’s.

In 1999, approximately 240,000 adults were held in California state prisons and local jails on an average day, in an adult population (age 18-69) of 21.7 million. In 2013, 217,000 were incarcerated in an adult population of 25.8 million. That’s a decline in the adult incarceration rate of 24% in 14 years, back to the level of 1993.

During the post-1999 period of adult de-incarceration, violent crime declined through the first half of 2013, with decreases in rates of adult arrests (down 30%) and reported offenses (down 35%, to the lowest level in half a century, including a 27% drop in homicide). Property offenses fell 13%, with adult property-offense rates dropping 14% and overall arrests falling 30% over the period. The only bad news seems to be sporadic, localized fluctuations in property and drug offenses.

While large-scale de-incarceration of youth and low-level adult offenders in favor of alternative strategies may contribute to long-term benefits, the size of California’s crime decrease, especially among youth, suggests much larger forces are at work. That locking up lots of younger and lesser offenders is not vital to public safety today opens up discussion beyond the simplistic debates of the past surrounding get-tough measures and sentencing reform.

By managing increasing numbers of offenders at the local level, California’s counties have the opportunity to develop solutions rooted in best practices to promote better outcomes for justice-involved individuals. Many counties operate model programs with proven results that can be replicated through technical assistance by law enforcement peers. California has no viable option to retreat back to the high-incarceration past; our only realistic choice is to initiate a modern discussion to forge 21st century justice strategies.


Mike Males is with the Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice.

A Great Divide: The Election Fight for California’s Schools

An election campaign now being fought almost completely out of public view could radically alter the way California’s school children are taught. If Marshall Tuck unseats incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the state’s public education system could become a laboratory for a movement that prizes privatization and places a high value on student test scores over traditional instruction. The contrasts between the two top contenders in the nonpartisan race could not be more dramatic – nor could the stakes for the country’s largest education system.

The 40-year-old Tuck is a Harvard Business School graduate who has worked as an investment banker for Salomon Brothers and as an executive at Model N, a revenue-management software company. He is a former president of Green Dot Public Schools, a charter school operation in Los Angeles, and later served as the first head of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools — former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s controversial education nonprofit that tried to improve 17 low-performing public schools, with mixed results.

Tuck’s candidacy is supported by the same mix of wealthy education privatizers, Silicon Valley and entertainment money, hedge fund and real estate interests that backed privatization candidates in the 2013 Los Angeles Unified School District school board election — when billionaire businessmen such as Eli Broad and Michael Bloomberg gave large campaign contributions to an unsuccessful effort to defeat board member Steve Zimmer. (The Broad Residency, an education management program operated by the Broad Foundation, lists Tuck as an alumnus.)

Tuck is also supported by former Washington, D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, a polarizing figure who was once believed to be a potential contender for Torlakson’s job. Like Rhee, Tuck supports using student test scores as a way of evaluating individual teachers’ performances. Critics of this policy, which is favored by school privatizers, claim that it forces classroom instructors to “teach to the test” and scrap curriculum that is not seen as reaping high student test scores.

“The contest between Mr. Tuck and Superintendent Torlakson couldn’t be starker in every way,” says Steve Zimmer. “Superintendent Torlakson is a lifetime public servant. He’s an educator, he’s a legislator and he’s kind of a [policy] wonk. In contrast, Mr. Tuck is a business man. I’m not sure there’s anybody more engaged at running schools like a business.”

In conversation Tuck presents an affable, conciliatory persona and seems at pains to play down differences between the movement he represents and the educators who oppose it through their unions, several of which are financial supporters of Capital & Main.

“There’s no question that the teachers union has a lot of influence on the state, but I think they get too much negative credit for all the problems,” Tuck tells Capital & Main during a lengthy interview at his bare-bones campaign office on Venice Boulevard in Los Angeles. Then, almost in mid-sentence, he appears to change his mind about teachers unions. “Right now,” he continues, “their seat at the table is too big and they have too much influence over education policy.”

Tuck has spent almost no time as a classroom instructor, while the 64-year-old Torlakson is a veteran science teacher and track coach. Torlakson, who is still a teacher on leave from Contra Costa County’s Mount Diablo Unified School District, says he usually teaches one community college course every year. He was elected as California’s 27th State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2010 after serving in the state legislature. The two men also face longshot candidate Lydia Gutierrez, who lost a bid for superintendent in the 2010 primary. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the June primary vote, a runoff election between the two frontrunners will take place in November.

Torlakson has received substantial financial support from unions and celebrates his closeness with teachers. “I’m happy to be aligned with teachers – classroom teachers know me and trust me,” he says in a telephone interview.

A significant indication of what a future Tuck administration’s relations with teachers might look like can be found in his embrace of a lawsuit that seeks to erase nearly a century of teacher job protections, including seniority rights. The lawsuit, Vergara v. California, is currently being tried in Los Angeles Superior Court and names Torlakson as a defendant.

“I’m supportive of the case,” Tuck says. “I think that the changes they’re asking for are good for kids and make sense for California schools.” He points out that he recently wrote a commentary for LA School Report backing the case. Tuck also believes in the contentious Parent Trigger law, which has opened the door for charter schools to take over public schools and is strongly supported by conservatives and school privatizers. Torlakson voted against the law in 2009 when he was a member of the state Assembly.

Surprisingly, even those who follow the politics of education have paid little attention to the Tuck-Torlakson battle, which has received scant media coverage so far. John Rogers, director of the University of California, Los Angeles’ Institute for Democracy, Education and Access, suggests that influence over education policy has shifted somewhat from the superintendent to the California State Board of Education. The board’s current president is Michael Kirst, who was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown. Kirst had served on the state board of education under Brown in his first term as governor in 1975.

Nonetheless, Rogers said that the state superintendent retains the power to use a “bully pulpit” to articulate a vision for public education. For Tuck, that means streamlining what he characterizes as California’s bloated education code, which he says is a big impediment to making needed changes.

“We can’t run a school that way,” he says, holding the code in his hand. “You call the state and say, ‘How can we actually drive change?’ and the state says, ‘There’s nothing you can do about it.’ It’s in the 2,300-page State Education Code, in four-point font.”

To defeat Torlakson, Tuck will have to convince voters that his opponent – not low funding levels – are responsible for California’s dire academic standings. He will also need to persuade Californians that what he lacks in classroom experience he makes up for in his determination to fundamentally restructure the state’s educational system.

“Our state is 45th in the country in terms of achievement in math and reading,” Tuck says. “I mean, California is the wealthiest state in the nation, the most innovative state in the nation, we’ve got the entertainment capital of the world, the innovation capital of the world, and yet we’re 45th in achievement.”

Tuck says his experiences running Green Dot charter schools and overseeing the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools are at least as relevant as teaching experience, and believes the current superintendent, despite his classroom experience, is out of touch with the state’s education needs.

“I think the last time he’s actually been a classroom teacher was in the early 1980s,” Tuck says. “We’re talking about 30-plus years ago. I taught for a year. I taught internationally. My work has been running school systems and building, and not teaching, although I have actually been in front of kids, carrying a course load, teaching groups of kids in a classroom both in Zimbabwe and in Thailand.”

But in the end it’s Tuck’s perceived adversarial position toward the men and women who teach, and the labor groups that represent them, that sets him apart from Torlakson.

“There’s no question that I’m focused on changing the status quo in schools in California,” he says. “If that feels like a threat, then that’s maybe what it is.”


This article was originally published at Capital & Main. This article is part of Capitol & Main’s California Exposé, an ongoing series by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Cohn.

Vergara v. California’s Corporate Heart

Are job protections for teachers to blame for educational underachievement among low-income students of color in California? That’s the provocative question ostensibly at the heart of Vergara vs. California, which seeks to invalidate the tenure, due process and seniority rights of hundreds of thousands of educators.

Astute observers of the nation’s escalating education wars, however, may be asking another question: When did it become permissible to use the welfare of children as a fig leaf for an all-out legal attack on teachers?

Or, as historian and teacher John Thompson wrote recently in Scholastic, “Are corporate reformers unabashedly using the courts as a battleground for battering employees’ rights, as opposed to helping children?”

Sadly, the answer to Thompson’s question appears to be an unequivocal yes. For while the outcome of Vergara will have far-reaching national implications, it is hardly unique in its attempt to scapegoat teachers for sub-par educational performance. Similar efforts are underway across the country, as some so-called “education reformers” seek to simultaneously privatize public education and weaken the hard-won protections of teachers.

Though efforts to remake public education have attracted both Democrats and Republicans, the three-pronged strategy of austerity, privatization and demonization is familiar to anyone who has watched the conservative movement over the past several decades. First you starve government of the resources needed to perform at a high level. Then you claim that the private sector is more efficient and effective, and should be given greater authority. Finally you target public sector workers and the unions that represent them in order to clear the field of opposition, claiming that they are hurting the very people they are charged with serving.

The buildup to Vergara is a perfect example of this sequence. Over the past decade, California saw massive cuts in its education budget, which has only recently started to recover. In 2010-11, the state was 46th in the nation in K-12 spending per student, and 50th in the number of K-12 students per teacher. At the same time, the Golden State has been ground zero for education privatizers, who have spent millions of dollars on school board races, legislation such as the controversial parent trigger law and the relentless effort to advance charter schools.

Now, with Vergara, these forces are seeking to strip teachers of fundamental protections, using the patronizing argument that children must come first (indeed, the name of the group that brought the Vergara suit is the cloying “Students Matter”). That facile assertion is convenient cover for a legal case predicated on weak evidence and willful blindness toward the actual conditions that impact both children and teachers.

To succeed, the plaintiffs in Vergara must prove that the California Educational Code systematically discriminates against low-income children. Because no evidence exists to support this claim, plaintiffs are relying on anecdotes as well as theories that have come under heavy fire from education experts.

Meanwhile, in their zeal to punish teachers, Vergara’s supporters conveniently ignore the fact that educational outcomes have been pummeled by funding cuts for virtually everything in public schools. Teachers, counselors, nurses, deans, assistant principals, office staff — all have fallen victim to the budget axe.

None of this seems to register with Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch, the force behind Vergara. He and other supporters of the suit insist that teachers should be able to transcend such conditions.

It hardly seems a coincidence that Welch went knocking on the doors of a big money corporate law firm whose clients have included Walmart (defending them in a huge employment discrimination case), Chevron (defending them in a $27 billion environmental suit) and Dole Food Company (defending them in a farmworker sterility case), among others. The firm’s involvement would seem a natural fit for a case that would eviscerate the rights of workers.

Perhaps educator Mitchell put it best: “How did we get to a point where corporate powers can cherry-pick some theoretical research about a complex problem and strike down imperfect but basically good laws, without offering alternatives?…Why should a few rich people’s opinions on the causes of failure in poor schools be allowed to trump social science and the democratic rights of educators?”

Important questions, indeed.


This article was originally published at Capital & Main.

State Senators Mitchell and Leno Introduce Fracking Moratorium Bill

State Senators Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) have introduced legislation that would impose a moratorium on fracking and acidization in order to protect California’s air and water from pollution caused by this dangerous form of oil and gas extraction.

The bill was introduced as California reels from a record drought and Governor Jerry Brown continues to support the expansion of fracking in California and the construction of the fish-killing peripheral tunnels under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).

Senators Mitchell and Leno’s bill, SB 1132, faces an uphill struggle. All but one fracking bill, including fracking moratorium legislation, failed to pass through the Legislature last year due to intense lobbying by the Western States Petroleum Association and oil companies. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), headed by Catherine Reheis Boyd, the former chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called “marine protected areas” in Southern California, is the most powerful corporate lobbying organization in Sacramento.

The only fracking bill to pass through the legislature and be signed by the Governor in 2013 was Senator Fran Pavley’s Senate Bill 4, legislation that gives the green light to fracking in California.

SB 1132 calls for a moratorium on all forms of “extreme well stimulation,” including hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and acidization until a comprehensive, independent and multi-agency review exploring the economic, environmental and public health impacts is complete.

“The study will also include evaluation of the adverse and disparate health impacts and environmental burdens affecting lower-income and minority communities,” according to a news release from Senator Mitchell’s Office. “It further requires that Governor Jerry Brown act in response to the study’s findings to determine if and where fracking and other well stimulation may resume.”

“There are a million Angelenos that live within a 5-mile radius of the largest urban oil field in the country,” said Senator Mitchell, whose predominantly minority district includes the Inglewood Oil Field. “In my district vulnerable neighborhoods lie adjacent to drilling operations whose practices go largely unregulated.”

“Complaints that residents are exposed to hazardous chemicals and toxic pollutants and which cause all kinds of health symptoms have been ignored. When industrial operations like fracking and acidization disproportionately impact minority communities, environmental justice has been breached and needs to be restored. SB 1132 will do that,” she stated.

Mitchell noted that current California law does not regulate either fracking or acidization. Of the more than 750 chemicals used in fracking, at least 29 of them are known to be harmful to human health. These chemicals, including hydrofluoric acid and benzene, have been linked to cancer, respiratory, developmental, and neurological problems, yet the practice of fracking and other potentially dangerous methods of oil and gas extraction continue to spread.

A bill passed last year, Senate Bill 4, requires an independent study of fracking, Mitchell said. SB 1132 would expand its scope to include health risks posed by chemicals used in other forms of well stimulation, the safety of industry workers and nearby residents, as well as the state’s water supply.

“A moratorium on fracking is especially critical as California faces a severe drought with water resources at an all-time low,” said Senator Leno. “We are currently allowing fracking operations to expand despite the potential consequences on our water supply, including availability and price of water, the potential for drinking water contamination and the generation of billions of barrels of polluted water.

The Center for Biological Diversity issued a statement praising the bill, noting that “Senate Bill 1132 seeks to safeguard California’s water supply from overuse and contamination by fracking as the state struggles with a devastating drought.”

“Senator Mitchell deserves applause for working to protect Californians from fracking pollution with a bill that stops the use of this toxic technique,” said Brian Nowicki of the Center for Biological Diversity. “A fracking halt is what’s needed in California, and a halt to fracking is what a majority of Californians support. To safeguard our air, water and climate, Sacramento legislators should move quickly to pass this badly needed bill.”

The Center said facking blasts massive amounts of chemical-laced water into the ground to crack rock formations. The process routinely employs numerous toxic chemicals, including methanol, benzene and trimethylbenzene. Fracking has been documented in 10 California counties.

Oil companies have also fracked offshore wells over 200 times in the ocean near California’s coast, from Seal Beach to the Santa Barbara Channel, according to a Freedom of Information Act Request and media investigation by the Associated Press and truthout.org last year.

The Center cited two studies documenting the harm fracking poses to human health. Birth defects are more common in babies born to mothers living near fracked wells, according to a new study by researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health. In California, a recent Center report found that oil companies used 12 dangerous “air toxic” chemicals more than 300 times in the Los Angeles Basin over a period of a few months.

“Even as California copes with a drought of historic proportions, an escalation of fracking threatens the state’s water supplies. The huge quantities of water used to frack wells are so contaminated that they must be removed from the hydrological cycle. Fracking chemicals can also pollute rivers, streams and aquifers. And fracking pollution contributes to climate change, which is worsening droughts in many areas,” the Center noted.

Besides posing a big threat to human health, the pollution to California groundwater supplies, rivers and the Delta that will result from fracking and acidization will devastate already imperiled populations of Central Valley Chinook salmon, steelhead, Delta smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species.

Background on oil industry money and power

Since it is the most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento, the oil industry is able to wield enormous influence over state and federal regulators and environmental processes. The result of this inordinate money and influence is the effective evisceration of the Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 during the MLPA Initiative process and the signing of Senator Fran Pavley’s Senate Bill 4.

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) spent over $4.67 million, more than any other interest group, while lobbying state government in 2013, according to data released by the Secretary State’s Office and compiled by the Capitol Morning Report.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association and former Chair of the Marine Life MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force in Southern California, led the successful campaign last year by the oil industry to defeat all one bill to ban or regulate the environmentally destructive practice of fracking last year.

The oil industry added last minute amendments to Senator Fran Pavley’s already weak legislation to regulate fracking in California, Senate Bill 4, last September, making an already bad bill even worse. Governor Jerry Brown signed the legislation, dubbed by environmentalists the “green light for fracking” bill, on September 20.

Another oil company giant, Chevron Corporation and its subsidiaries, spent $3.95 million, the third most spent by any group on lobbying state government in 2013. Chevron also spent much of its money on lobbying against bills that would ban or regulate fracking in California.

A report recently released by the American Lung Association revealed that the oil industry lobby spent $45.4 million in the state between January 1 2009 and June 30, 2013. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) alone has spent over $20 million since 2009 to lobby legislators.

Oil and gas companies spend more than $100 million a year to buy access to lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento, according to Stop Fooling California, an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse Californians.

The oil industry extends its influence not only by direct lobbying, but through its presence and leadership on boards and panels, in a classic example of the fox guarding the hen house. In an extreme conflict of interest, WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd not only chaired the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, but she served on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.

The MLPA Initiative, under the “leadership” of Reheis-Boyd and other corporate operatives with numerous conflicts of interests, created fake “marine protected areas” that fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, corporate aquaculture, wind and wave energy projects, military testing and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

While Reheis-Boyd served on the task forces to “protect” the ocean, the oil industry was conducting environmentally destructive fracking operations off the Southern California coast. Documents recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and media investigations by Associated Press and truthout.org reveal that the ocean has been fracked at least 203 times in the past 20 years, including the period from 2004 to 2012 when Reheis-Boyd served as a “marine guardian.”

For more information on oil industry power and money, go here.

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This article was originally published at IndyBay.

Western States Petroleum Association Top Spender In 2013

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the most powerful corporate lobbying organization in Sacramento, spent over $4.67 million, more than any other interest group, while lobbying state government in 2013, according to data released by the Secretary State’s Office and compiled by Capitol Weekly.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association and former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called marine protected areas in Southern California, led the successful campaign last year by the oil industry to defeat all one bill to ban or regulate the environmentally destructive practice of fracking last year.

The oil industry added last minute amendments to Senator Fran Pavley’s already weak legislation to regulate fracking in California, Senate Bill 4, last September, making an already bad bill even worse. Governor Jerry Brown signed the legislation, dubbed by environmentalists the “green light for fracking” bill, on September 20.

Another oil company giant, Chevron Corporation and its subsidiaries, spent $3.95 million, the third most spent by any group on lobbying state government in 2013. Chevron also spent much of its money on lobbying against bills that would ban or regulate fracking in California.

The top 10 companies and groups that hired lobbyists during 2013 spent a total of $30.5 million, reported Capitol Weekly.

The rest of the top 10 spenders were:

  • California State Council of Service Employees, $4.26 million.
  • California Chamber of Commerce, $3.7 million.
  • California Hospital Association/California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, $3.15 million.
  • Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. — $2.24 million.
  • AT&T Inc. and its affiliates — $2.33 million.
  • California Medical Association — $2.27 million.
  • SEIU-UHW (Labor organizations) — $1.88 million.
  • Southern California Edison, $1.84 million.

Since it is the most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento, the oil industry is able to wield enormous influence over state and federal regulators and environmental processes. The result of this inordinate money and influence is the effective evisceration of the Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 during the MLPA Initiative process and the signing of Senator Fran Pavley’s Senate Bill 4.

A report recently released by the American Lung Association revealed that the oil industry lobby spent $45.4 million in the state between January 1 2009 and June 30, 2013. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) alone has spent over $20 million since 2009 to lobby legislators.

Oil and gas companies spend more than $100 million a year to buy access to lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento, according to Stop Fooling California, an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse Californians.

Governor Brown, a strong supporter of the environmentally destructive practice of fracking, has become known as the “Big Oil Governor.” Robert Gammon, East Bay Express reporter, revealed that before Governor Jerry Brown signed Senator Fran Pavley’s Senate Bill 4, Brown accepted at least $2.49 million in financial donations over the past several years from oil and natural gas interests, according to public records on file with the Secretary of State’s Office and the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

In addition to supporting the expansion of fracking in California, Governor Jerry Brown is fast-tracking the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels during the midst of a record drought. The massive tunnels won’t create one drop of new water, but they will divert huge quantities of precious water from the Sacramento River to corporate agribusiness interests, Southern California water agencies, and oil companies conducting steam injection and fracking operations in Kern County. The construction of the tunnels would hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon and Delta fish populations, as well as imperil salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity River, the largest tributary of the Klamath River.

The oil industry extends its influence not only by direct lobbying, but through its presence and leadership on boards and panels, in a classic example of the fox guarding the hen house. In an extreme conflict of interest, WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd not only chaired the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, but she served on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.

The MLPA Initiative, under the “leadership” of Reheis-Boyd and other corporate operatives with numerous conflicts of interests, created fake “marine protected areas” that fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, corporate aquaculture, wind and wave energy projects, military testing and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

While Reheis-Boyd served on the task forces to “protect” the ocean, the oil industry was conducting environmentally destructive hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations off the Southern California coast. Documents recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and media investigations by Associated Press and truthout.org reveal that the ocean has been fracked at least 203 times in the past 20 years, including the period from 2004 to 2012 that Reheis-Boyd served as a “marine guardian.”

The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) is a landmark law, signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999, designed to create a network of marine protected areas off the California Coast. However, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004 created the privately-funded MLPA “Initiative” to “implement” the law, effectively eviscerating the MLPA.

When will there be a long overdue investigation into the conflicts of interest, terminally flawed science, violation of the Yurok Tribe’s gathering rights and failure to provide comprehensive protection in so-called “marine protected areas” that have made the MLPA Initiative into one of the most tainted environmental processes in California history?

While California has been falsely portrayed as a “green state” by the mainstream media and corporate “environmentalists,” the state’s current political leadership is in reality controlled by Big Oil, Big Ag and other corporate interests. For more information on oil industry power and money, visit Counterpunch.


This article was originally published at Daily Kos.