NCRA Bills Support May Update

By Doug Brooms, ZWAC Co-Chair
The NCRA Advocacy Webpage “2022 Legislation” has been updated, as of 5/08/22. As a member of the Clean Seas Lobby Coalition, NCRA is a signatory to support letters for least 12 Bills.

Among CalRecycle’s Priority Bills, at least 18 Bills are no longer listed and presumed inactive. Another 7 Bills have been deemed as insufficient interest to NCRA. That leaves some 21 Assembly Bills and 19 Senate Bills remaining of potential interest to NCRA, mostly for support. Some are still scheduled for committee hearings, but most have been placed in the respective Appropriations Committee Suspense File. The Senate Appropriations Suspense File Hearing date is 5/19/22, and likely the same as for the Assembly Suspense File Hearing.

For a concise description of the Appropriations Committee deliberations, here is one of 12 paragraphs taken from Indivisible’s 2019 The California Legislature 101:

Appropriations committee: After passing policy committee, bills go the Appropriations Committee which analyze the fiscal impact of the bill. All bills which have a fiscal note of more than $150,000 in the Assembly and $50,000 in the Senate (this is most bills) are referred to something known as the Appropriations Suspense File. Once bills go the suspense file, legislators lobby the chair of the Appropriations Committee to take their bills “off suspense.” This process is secretive with no public visibility. In the suspenseful suspense file hearing, all the chosen bills are pulled off suspense, voted on, and passed. The others are left on the suspense file to die.

A more elucidating 2021 article is Understanding How A California Bill Dies Without Public Debate (thanks Valerie).

The number of CalRecycle Priority Bills that will be taken off of Suspense and allowed to advance, likely will be of a smaller more manageable number from which to finally select candidates for NCRA support. As always, anyone is welcome to share recommendations and to assist with drafting position letters. Thanks for considering.

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ZWAC Legislative Report, April 2022

By Doug Brooms, Zero Waste Advocacy Committee Co-Chair, 4/14/22

Following up last night’s ZWAC meeting, we now know that there is a hearing on SB 983 before the Senate Judiciary committee chaired by Senator Umberg on 4/19/22 at 1:30pm where people can appear remotely and register their support or opposition and a link was shared on the chat to do so.Jenn Engstrom of CalPIRG and Liz Chamberlain of both asked if NCRA members could contact their legislators to express support. SB 983 seems to be a lot like the plastic bag referenda in 2018 (as something NCRA would clearly support) where NCRA made a big effort to support the plastic bag bans with videos, phone trees, and in-person community outreach

At the ZWAC Showcase yesterday, the topic was Right to Repair. Zoom attendees included I believe four who were participating from New Zealand, including featured Recycling Pioneer Warren Snow, credited as the first person in the World to create “Zero Waste” in New Zealand as a goal. Attendees spoke passionately about SB 983, the need for Right to Repair as a Zero Waste issue, and urged NCRA to “help bust the monopoly on repair”. Jenn mentioned that Californians on average throw away 46,000 cell phones every day. Should the NCRA montra be fixed: “Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Recycle”?

Below is a note from CPSC, urging support for SB 1256, another Bill that NCRA has signed on to support. SB 983 is also scheduled for the same Senate Judiciary Hearing on 4/19. Of the 11 Judiciary Committee members, only two represent the Bay Area, Bob Wieckowski in Fremont and Scott Wiener in San Francisco. If you are a constituent, then prior to the hearing, consider calling their Sacramento office to state that you support these Bills (Only takes a minute).

For the Tuesday 4/19 hearing, here is the agenda and sequence of the 29 scheduled Bills. For anyone willing to call in during the hearing to voice support for either or both SB 983 and SB 1256, see the Teleconference Instructions. Another Bill scheduled for 4/19 that you might consider is SB 1173 Public retirement systems: Fossil fuels: Divestment. Here is one article in support of the CA Divestment Act.

Consider forwarding this to constituents in other Judiciary Committee members’ districts. Thanks for any and all support and activism.

From Nate Pelczar, California Product Stewardship Council, 4/13/22

Just a quick note to please reach out to the following members in support of SB 1256, which is the bill we’re sponsoring regarding single-use 1lb propane cylinders.  We ask that you reach out to these offices if you are in the member’s district and ask your member to support SB 1256 next Tuesday, April 19th, in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.  I’ve also attached the original press release and the latest bill Q&A document for your convenience.  Please let me know if you have any questions.

Yours in advocacy, CPSC Team

Member District Offices Party Room Phone Fax
Borgeas, Andreas (Vice-Chair) 8 Fresno, Oakdale, Sutter Creek R 7240 (1021 O St.) 916 651 4008 916 651 4908
Caballero, Anna 12 Merced, Salinas D 7620 (1021 O St.) 916 651 4012 916 651 4912
Durazo, Maria Elena 24 Los Angeles D 7530 (1021 O St.) 916 651 4024 916 651 4924
Gonzalez, Lena 33 Long Beach, Huntington Park D 7720 (1021 O St.) 916 651 4033 916 651 4933
Hertzberg, Robert 18 Van Nuys D 8610 (1021 O St.) 916 651 4018 916 651 4918
Jones, Brian 38 El Cajon, Escondido R 7140 (1021 O St.) 916 651 4038 916 651 4938
Laird, John 17 Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz D 8720 (1021 O St.) 916 651 4017 916 651 4917
Stern, Henry 27 Calabasas D 7710 (1021 O St.) 916 651 4027 916 651 4927
Umberg, Thomas (Chair) 34 Santa Ana D 6730 (1021 O St.) 916 651 4034 916 651 4934
Wieckowski, Bob 10 Fremont D 6530 (1021 O St.) 916 651 4410 916 651 4910
Wiener, Scott 11 San Francisco D 6630 (1021 O St.) 916 651 4011 916 651 4911


ZWAC Show and Recordings

Under construction… Being updated… Content accurate

Upcoming Meeting: Second Tuesdays of most months at 5:30pm via Zoom. Call in at 5pm for sharing. All are invited to attend. RSVP

(List date and time and topic if known. Place graphic here when ready.)

The NCRA Zero Waste Advocacy Committee has been hosting a monthly “ZWAC Show”, featuring a recycling or sustainability topic of contemporary interest and a brief reading about a Recycling Pioneer from the Recycling Archives. Check here for the schedule.

September 13  – What Happened in the Room?

During the 2021 Legislative session, ZWAC had hosted three monthly discussions about the Bottle Bill, however the leading Bills faltered, and a last ditch effort to rescue CRV bottle deposit redemption centers failed.

Jeff Donlevy of the Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets and Curbside Recycling  and Business Development Manager at Recycling Industries, Inc, had been “in the room” throughout, and discussed the who, what and why, and what portends for next year.

Recycling Archives: Gerry Gillespie, a founding member of Zero Waste International Alliance, discussed how he played a key role in the first governmental adoption of a Zero Waste program in Australia.

August 10 – Advocacy for the Disenfranchised

Attorney Cynthia Chandler, featured in the documentary Belly of the Beast recounted her fight against State of California law and policy that began with Nazi-era eugenics that lead to our state prisons sterilizing women, mostly women of color, without their consent.

Nancy Gorrell, long time Berkeley activist, spoke about how she helped catalyze the reconfiguring of a holiday celebrating Christopher Columbus to one celebrating indigenous peoples.

Recycling Archives: Nancy went on to also discuss Berkeley’s landmark Styrofoam ban, and her zero waste artwork

July 13 –  Combating Plastics Pollution & Resource Recovery Businesses

Sumona Majumdar, general legal counsel to Earth Island Institute, discussed their newest lawsuit against plastic product makers like Coca-Cola, and how it differs from other anti-plastic campaigns which target misleading advertising about recyclability in plastic.

Panel Discussion Resource Recovery Businesses:

Neil Seldman of the Washington DC based Institute for Local Self-Reliance discussed his many years of research into the benefits of local resource recovery.

Three founder/owners of Bay Area resource recovery businesses each discussed their experiences, why and how they started their businesses, their market niches, how they impact zero waste and create jobs at the same time:

Stephanie Regni, Fillgood in Berkeley.

Nikki Kozlowski, Wisdom Supply.

Will Bakx, Sonoma Compost.

June 8, 2021
Three Ways that Zero Waste Can Save the Planet

Attorney Lori Mendez of the Save the Albatross Coalition discussed ongoing battles against plastic pollution.

Brenda Platt of the Institute for Local Self Reliance and directs ILSR’s Communities for Compost project, discussed advances in composting, soil policy, and carbon sequestration.

Monica Wilson, Policy and Research Coordinator of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, spoke about the continuing global problem of garbage incineration.

Recycling Archives: Brenda Platt

May 11, 2021
Action Items for a Revamped Bottle Bill

At the 4/13 meeting, there had been a strong consensus that ZWAC and NCRA should try to promote legislation to help CRV Bottle deposit redemption centers. However there was no bill in the current legislative session to achieve this. Discussed were essential features and strategies for a revised Bottle Bill, which would need a huge social media and community outreach component to succeed.

Recycling Archives: Delyn Kies, inspirational story of how she spearheaded environmental legislation in Oregon in the 1990s.

April 13, 2021
Should the Bottle Bill be Fixed or Scrapped and Why

Susan Collins, President of the Container Recycling Institute, and Richard Valle, Alameda County Supervisor and President of Tri-CED, each provided answers, insights and perspectives on pertinent Bill proposals.

Adolfo Ramirez, owner of BC Recycling Inc, with several buyback facilities serving the most disadvantaged populations in Visalia, described the shortcomings of the current and proposed Bottle Bill legislation.

Dr. Dan Knapp, President of Urban Ore Inc, discussed the sociology of recycling and why personal contact with redemption centers is such an important part of zero waste that cannot be served only by machines.

Recycling Archives: Susan Kinsella, Director of the Recycling Archives, read passages from the early transformative years the youthful Dr. Knapp.

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Plastics and Oil Bills Strategies, 2021

By Doug Brooms, NCRA Board Member and Chair of the Zero Waste Advocacy Committee,  NCRA News, 1/11/21

Download Resource Sheet

During October 2020, an editorial “Post Mortem of 54-1080 & Others”, had been emailed to members of grass-roots environmental justice organizations. Examination of the practices of lobbyists, and of the voting patterns particularly among certain Democrats, has further demonstrated the corrupting influence of money as impediments towards passage of important environmental legislation. If there should be an undertaking to reintroduce the same or similar plastics and oil regulation Bills in 2021, it was was stated: “then little or nothing can be left to chance. Beyond hopeful thinking, required would be a prior well planed, broad based, comprehensive strategy, for the long term…” A list of ideas and strategies had been proposed.

What follows here is an update on the developments and implementation of those ideas which had been most receptive, plus others.

Oil and Gas Regulations Bills

In regards to the two fossil fuel related Bills, SB 246 Oil and Gas Severance Tax, and AB 345 Oil Production Setback, there have been recent developments and increasingly compelling reasons for a version of each of them to be reintroduced this January, 2021.

No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge

One tactic should be early and widespread usage of the existing “No Fossil Fuel Money” Pledge. There have been mostly incumbents and some candidates for California Legislature Districts, who had taken the Pledge by early 2020. There had been 9 for the 80 Assembly Districts, and 15 for the 40 Senate Districts. How many more commitments could be acquired during 2021 and beyond? Having legislators on record would not guarantee pledge adherence to refuse Big Oil contributions, but would help with holding them accountable.

An important and integral part of gathering “No Fossil Fuel Money” Pledges, would be the need of concentrated efforts to gather Pledges from among certain Legislative Committee members.

For each Bill, there will be a preordained succession of committee hearings, typically with 5 to 15 members each (except up to 30 in the Budget Committee), who will consider the Bill’s relevance and impact to their committee requirements, and to take a vote. The Bill must pass each committee in succession before reaching the house of origin Senate or Assembly for a Floor vote.

It would take just enough conservative Legislators in any one committee with a simple majority to defeat or block a Bill from advancing. Also, it appears apparent that Committee Chairpersons have the discretionary authority to summarily table or delay a first year Bill until the second year, by indefinite postponement of the hearing, and without ever calling for a vote. It in not evident what Committee rules allow for a two year Bill to be suspended and held over. However the focused gathering of Pledges from among committee chairpersons and members in the path of each Bill should help to forestall the preemptive derailing of Bills.

Tracking the Dirty Dollars Project

Towards accountability, another strategy would be usage of the Sierra Club’s new “Tracking the Dirty Dollars” Project. It includes a comprehensive report plus a spreadsheet of each “problematic” legislator, which reveals their poor voting performance to correspond to their greater Big Oil “Dirty Dollars” contributions. Page 4 of the report states:

“For a detailed look at which dirty donors are funding each leader’s campaign, simply flip through the spreadsheets of this report. Broadly, the results of this report were not at all surprising. The legislators with the worst scores on our report card and who are often hostile towards Sierra Club and other environmental advocates receive substantial amounts of campaign cash from dirty donors.”

Particularly, the Moderate Democrats on this list could be forewarned that if their past pattern and appearance of their “No Votes” and “NVR” of being swayed by Oil interests, would continue during 2021, then that propensity would likely be used against them by challengers during the March 2022 California Primaries.

SB 246 and Other Oil & Gas Severance Tax Bills

In the piece “2020 10 Post Mortem 54-1080 & Others”, it was stated on page 2: “In all, at least 7 bills have been introduced in both the Senate and Assembly since 1990.” However, since 1980, there actually had been 11 Bills and 3 Ballot Initiatives, total 14 Severance Tax attempts. There also had been 5 other Petroleum Industry Tax proposals. See the attached “2021 Ca History of Oil & Gas Tax Bills”, and in particular on Page 4: “Bills Preemptive Quashing”.

Of the 11 Oil and Gas Severance Tax Bills since 1993, 8 had died prematurely in a Senate or Assembly Committee. There likewise had been early endings for 3 of 4 other Petroleum Industry Tax Bills. In all, there had been 12 out of 15 attempts to pass an oil and gas tax, which died in committee, before ever reaching a Senate or Assembly Floor for ascertaining votes, to make known the position of each legislator.

Given the high propensity for Bills to have died before reaching the Assembly and/or Senate Floors for votes, it provides a stark appearance of Bills systematically being “preemptively quashed”. The three committees from which a Severance Tax Bill did not emerge during at least two occasions, were the Assembly Revenue & Taxation Committee, the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the Senate Governance & Finance Committee.

It is no surprise that the Oil and Gas Lobby has played the key roll, over the many years, of assuring the early demise of Bills unfavorable to them. The early quashing of Bills in committee would provide a shield for each of their coveted legislators to never be required to cast a floor vote, and become individually expose for their fidelity with Big Oil.

This “Playbook” strategy evidently had been used to quash both SB 246 (Wieckowski) Oil and Gas Severance Tax, and AB 345 (Muratsuchi) Oil and Gas Production Setback. Both Bills had been put on waivers during the first year, and then killed or left to die in committee during the second year. For details, in the article “Post Mortem of 54-1080 & Others”, see the Section “SB 246 and AB 345 Post Mortems”.

Industry Opposition Letters

A part of the apparent strategy to stop Bills has been to send a Bill opposition letter to a targeted committee, days before an important Bill juncture. Such had been the case with SB 246, with a SB 246 Coalition Letter sent to the members of the Senate Governance & Finance Committee, just prior to a 1/15/20 scheduled hearing. Curiously, the 1/15/20 hearing on SB 246 was postponed, and was removed from the agenda, effectively killing the Bill for failure to advance out of the Governance & Finance Committee before the 1/31/20 deadline. It is not yet known whether the decision to postpone the hearing, and effectively to run out the clock on SB 246, had been at the sole discretion of the Chairman, or a majority vote among the following Senators:

Senate Governance and Finance Committee

Member Roster (7) 2019-2020             Member Roster (5) 2021-2022
Mike McGuire, Chairperson, (D) SD-2  Mike McGuire, Chairperson, (D) SD-2
John Moorlach *, Vice Chair, (R) SD-37         Jim Nielsen, Vice Chair (R) SD-4
Jim Beall *, (D) SD-15                         Maria Elena Durazo (D)
Robert Hertzberg, (D) SD-18                         Robert Hertzberg, (D) SD-18
Melissa Hurtado, (D) SD-14                           Scott Wiener, (D) SD-11
Jim Nielsen, (R) SD-4
Scott Wiener, (D) SD-11

* Note: Moorlach and Beall were defeated during Nov. 3, 2020 CA General Elections

As early as possible, a first step should be to solicit “No Fossil Fuel Money” Pledges from among the above five Senate Governance and Finance Committee members. Concurrently or subsequently do likewise with committee members which will be in the Bill’s succession path.

The above Member Roster for 2021-2022 was taken from the Senate Committee Membership Assignments. See also the 2021-2022 Assembly Committee Membership Assignments.

By the way, what Committee rules allow for a two year Bill to be suspended and held over until the second year? Is it needed and alternatively, would there be justification to seek its repeal?

Rebuttals to Industry Opposition Letter

The previously mentioned SB 246 Coalition Letter had purported an abundance of unsubstantiated claims, including the following:

Claim: “SB 246 will result in significantly lower property tax revenues, which are earmarked by local governments for public schools and public safety.”

Fact: Senate Bill 246 would raise approximately $900 million per year for the General Fund, to better fund schools and other important services in California.

Claim: “California’s oil production industry supports an ethnically diverse workforce with an estimated 55,000 blue collar, high wage paying jobs, including organized labor… studies show that a 10% severance tax can lead to 20,000 lost jobs and more than $300 million annually in lost revenue by 2025.”

Note: The Cited Reference #3 “Impact of a Severance Tax on Oil Production and the California Economy”; Prepared for the California Foundation for Commerce and Education by Capitol Matrix Consulting; March 2014”, could not be found via online searches.

Facts: “Transitioning to lower-carbon energy will entail a contraction of the fossil fuel sector, along with a loss of jobs. We find that from $1 million spending in fossil fuels, on average, 2.65 full-time-equivalent (FTE) jobs are created, whereas $1 million spending in renewables or energy efficiency would create 7.49 or 7.72 FTE jobs respectively. Thus each $1 million shifted from brown to green energy will create a net increase of 5 jobs.”

Claim: “SB 246 has the potential to reduce incentives to invest in California and thus making our state more reliant on imports of crude oil from foreign countries… While every barrel of oil produced in California is consumed in the state, nearly 70% is imported from mostly foreign sources to meet the state’s energy demands.”

Facts: “That argument, to put it as politely as possible, is utter nonsense… Between 2013 and 2017, California refineries increased both their crude oil imports and their refined fuel exports by roughly similar amounts… California refineries now export more than 200,000 barrels of refined products per day… California is at risk of becoming the gas station of the Pacific Rim.

In anticipation of such spurious Oil Industry opposition letters being used again, what will be needed are well crafted support letters, which include authentic documented references, preferably citing government and university facts and figures. Support letters should be sent to relevant committee members prior to scheduled Bill hearings.

Oil And Gas Severance Tax Bills Perseverance

There had been intermittent intervals during which no Oil and Gas Severance Tax Bills, or any Petroleum Industry tax proposals, had been pursued in California. The most recent lapses had been during the Legislative Sessions of 2015-2016 and 2017-2018. It is an historical anomaly that California had remained the only one of 34 oil producing states throughout the years and decades, without ever having successfully passed a Severance Tax.

Evidently, the first Legislative attempt had been 27 years ago in 1993 with AB 1693. In the Bill Analysis, it was stated:

“The purpose of this bill is to raise General Fund revenues to help balance the budget. According to the proponents, this bill levies a tax on a non-renewable natural resource of the state, which should be used to the benefit of the state’s residents, and that it is only fair that producers pay for the utilization of this resource…. California is the fourth largest oil producing state in the U.S. and is the only major oil producing state in the U.S. without an oil severance tax.”

Prior to 1993, what various strategies had all other oil producing states pursued to have successfully passed an Oil and Gas Severance Tax? How many years did each state take, via their legislature or state ballot initiative? Since 1993, California has failed in 14 consecutive attempts, intermittently since 1980. It remains curious and perplexing as to why there had not been ongoing determined efforts each and every year, without exception. to get it done,. Has the California Legislature simply given up out of exasperation? What are any unintended consequences to the California Legislature, with regards to public perception and confidence? Could it be that the Fossil Fuel Industry and Lobby has resolved that California shall never be allowed to pass an Oil and Gas Severance Tax, regardless of their cost?

Simultaneous Assembly and Senate Oil and Gas Severance Tax Bills Strategy

Referring again the attached “CA History of Oil and Gas Tax Bills”, there had been only two Legislative Years during which simultaneous Oil and Gas Severance Tax Bills had been pursued. During late 2008, of three simultaneous Bills, AB 9 x3 passed Assembly Floor, SB-1 passed Senate Floor, but failed Assembly Floor, and AB-2 passed Senate Floor, and passed Assembly Floor. For three simultaneous Bills, score that as 5 out of 6 occasions to have reached a Floor vote. During 2010, of two simultaneous Bills, only AB 656 passed Assembly Floor. During the 2013-2014 Session, two Bills were sequential, rather than simultaneous, and neither reached the Assembly or Senate Floors.


AB 9 x3 Passed Assembly Floor: 45-30-5. 11/30/08 – Died in unfinished business file.

SB-1 12/08/08 – Passed Senate Floor: 33-1-5. 12/16/08: Failed Asm Floor: 1-27-54.

AB-2 12/18/08 – Passed Senate Floor: 23-15-1, and passed Assembly Floor: 47-27-6.

1/06/09 – Enrolled and vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger.


AB 656 1/27/10 – Passed Asm Floor: 41-28-9. 11/30/10 – Died in Senate Education Comm.

AB 1604 5/10/10 – In Asm Revenue and Tax Comm suspense file. 11/30/10 – Died in Comm.

2013-2014 *

SB 241 5/20/13 – Passed Sen Appr Comm: 6-0-1. 2/03/14 – Died in Sen Appr suspense file.

SB 1017 5/19/14 – Passed Sen Appr Comm: 7-0-0. 11/30/14 – Died in Appr Comm.

* Consecutive Bills, rather than concurrent.

In all other instances of a solo Severance Tax Bill in a 2-year Session, the Bill never survived to reach a Floor vote. It would appear from these limited examples, that for a Severance Tax Bill to have any hope of reaching an Assembly or Senate Floor for a vote, then there needs to be two simultaneous Bills. Prior single and sequential Bills have all died in committees. This lesson is also reminiscent of the identical Plastic Pollution Bills AB 1080 and SB 54 during the previous 2019-2020 Session. During 2019, each simultaneous bill had passed its respective Senate and Assembly Floor votes, and during 2020, each had received Floor votes, although neither prevailed during 2020.

Anyone is free to speculate or theorize about possible factors, maybe greater transparency, synergism, or whatever, for simultaneous Bills to have better survived committee obstacles. The sample size is quite small. However it should be sufficient to simply recognize that solo Severance Tax Bills have never survived.

AB 345 Oil and Gas Regulations Setback Zone

AB 345 would have established a buffer zone, up to 2,500 feet, between oil production activities and populated areas, but encountered opposition along the way. On 4/22/19, AB 345 had passed out of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee by a 7-3-1 vote. However, after intense lobbying by the Western States Petroleum Association and the oil companies, it stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on 5/16/19, becoming a two-year-bill. On 1/27/20, AB 345 had narrowly passed the Assembly Floor via a 42-30-8 vote. On 8/05/20, AB 345 had been defeated in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water, via a 4-5 vote. Democratic Senators Hertzberg, Hueso and Caballero joined the two Republicans to oppose the bill.

Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee

Member Roster (9) 2019-2020           Member Roster (9) 2021-2022
Henry Stern (D), SD-27, Chair         Henry Stern (D), SD-27, Chair*
Brian Jones (R), SD-38, V. Chair      Brian Jones (R), SD-38, V. Chair
Ben Allen (D) , SD-26                        Ben Allen (D), SD-26
Hanna-Beth Jackson (D), SD-19       Andreas Borgeas, SD-8, (R-Fresno)
Bill Monning (D), SD-17                     Susan Talamantes Eggman (D), SD-5
* Andreas Boregas (R), SD-8             Robert M. Hertzberg (D), SD-18
* Anna Caballero (D), SD-12               Ben Hueso, SD-40 (D-San Diego)
* Robert Hertzberg (D), SD-18            John Laird, SD-17 (D-Santa Cruz)
* Ben Hueso (D), SD-40                      S. Monique Limón, SD-19 (D-Santa Barbara)

* These five members voted NO on AB 345, four others voted AYE

It is noteworthy that among the four Democrats who had voted AYE, their combined total in oil and gas donations had been $16,200, whereas for the five Senators who voted NO, their totals were $229,506, including $142,206 among the three Democrats.

If another such AB 345 should be introduced in 2021, it undoubtedly again would require a majority vote to pass beyond the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. If returning committee members Jones, Boregas, Hertzberg and Hueso were to again vote NO, then it would necessitate that returning members Stern and Allen, along with newest members Eggman, Laird and Limón to all vote AYE.

It is granted that neither Republican would consent to the “No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge”. Given their rather vehement pronouncements against AB 345 by Democrats Hertzberg and Hueso during the 8/05/20 hearing, the consent of either to the Pledge would be doubtful, and regardless, would not be reassuring. Even the specter of being held to account by being challenged during the March 2022 Primaries, may not serve as sufficient deterrence to another NO vote. Alternative strategies would been needed.

California Oil & Gas Lobby, and Mod Dems

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) is the trade association for the oil industry, and the largest and most powerful corporate lobbying organization in California. “WSPA and Big Oil wield their power and influence over public discourse in 6 major ways: through (1) lobbying; (2) campaign spending; (3) serving on and putting shills on regulatory panels; (4) creating Astroturf groups: (5) working in collaboration with media; and (6) contributing to non profit organizations.”

The WSPA in California’s capital of Sacramento, spent $8.8 million lobbying state policymakers in 2019, more than any other interest group. Over the last five years, the group, which cultivates both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, has spent $43.3 million on lobbying, nearly double the total of the second-largest lobbying spender. During the 2019-2020 California Legislative Session, the greater oil and gas industry spent $34.5 million on lobbying.

In the 2017 Report “CA Democrats Who Received Gifts from Big Oil Gave Gifts to Big Oil”, it was reported how “Big Oil and the Western States Petroleum have effectively captured the regulatory apparatus in California, under the administrations of Governor Jerry Brown and his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The connection between so-called “moderate” Democrats and Big Oil gifts is an example of how powerful an influence Big Oil exerts over politicians and regulators.”

“An informal caucus in California known as the “Mod Dems” (a.k.a. the Mod Squad) is a bloc of democrats that tends to side with the business community and oil interests. An analysis shows a correlation between higher gift values from Big Oil and friendlier votes from so-called “moderate democrats,” i.e. Oily Dems. From 2012 to 2016, the oil-affiliated groups gave legislators gifts with a value of $1.24 million.”

In the 2018 report “Oil Industry Spends Millions to Boost California Democrats”, it was stated: “Oil companies and other business interests are pooling funds on campaigns supporting other Democrats running for the Legislature… The petroleum industry has put $19.2 million into California politics in the 2017-18 election cycle… It’s all part of a broader push by business interests in recent years to shape the type of Democrats who hold power in the state Capitol… Big business has helped foster a cadre of more conservative Democrats in the Legislature. This “mod squad” amounts to a bloc that can kill or water-down environmental legislation.” The “mods” align with business interests and the handful of remaining Republicans to kill policies they say are too costly or too far to the left. Their voting bloc is most powerful in two-thirds votes reserved for taxes, but they have also been able to hold up bills needing a simple majority.”

“The Western States Petroleum Association regularly tops the list of Sacramento’s top lobbying spenders, and oil companies are major funders of PACs that shower chosen democrats with millions of dollars each cycle. The oil and gas industry remains an economic pillar in certain districts… in the kind of rural, inland agricultural and oil-producing districts areas where Moderate Democrats’ power base lies.” Assembly-member Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) leads the informal moderate caucus, although there’s no formal moderate Democrat designation. “New taxes are anathema to various business interests, as are measures that would lower the bar for cities and counties to enact levies of their own. Proposals to do either often falter for lack of Democratic support. A proposed oil severance tax has failed year after year.”

From the above examples and descriptions, it is evident that WSPA and the oil industry exert considerable sway, if not dominion, over the caucus of Moderate Democrats, and of Republicans. The label “Oily Dems” should be suggestive as to why “A proposed oil severance tax has failed year after year”.

It was stated above that “The petroleum industry has put $19.2 million into California politics in the 2017-18 election cycle”. Imagine whatever portion that goes to Republicans and Mod Dems to have have blocked a “proposed oil severance tax year after year”. With the SB 246 Oil and Gas Severance Tax estimated revenues $900 million per year, what would be the petroleum industry’s annual return on investment? Are legislators sacrificing hundreds of millions in exchange for individual’s tens of thousands?

It is not readily apparent how large the informal caucus is, and on which relevant committees they serve, and whether their allegiance would allow for any compromise or accommodation for supporting any oil related Bills.

Simultaneous Assembly and Senate Oil Severance Tax and Buffer Zone Bills Strategy

The takeaway lesson from the history of Oil and Gas Severance Tax Bills is that every solo Assembly or Senate Bill has died in committee, before reaching the Assembly or Senate for a Floor vote. This has allowed “special interests legislators” to stay “under the radar”. Such had also been the case with both SB 246 and AB 345 during 2019 and 2020.

Each Floor vote is an important milestone, as it requires each legislator to make a recorded vote. Particularly for some, to vote NO or to abstain (NVR) could signal and ultimately expose the extent of their monetary allegiance with special interests. One page of the Industry Playbook apparently is to hold over a first year Bill, to kill it in committee, or let it expire, to prevent it from ever reaching either Floor for a vote.

In considering the previously described successes of simultaneous Severance Tax Bills, and of the SB 54 and AB 1080 tandem experience for reaching Floors, then it should be more strategic to bring forth simultaneous Assembly and Senate versions of both SB 246 (call it SB246), and AB 345 (call it AB345) in early 2021. Each “Oil Bill” would appear before a different set of legislators in likely the same named committees in the respective Senate and Assembly houses, although evolve with different amendments, which would be fine.

Moderate Democrats Re-considerations

Perhaps in the minds of Moderate Democrats, accustomed to voting with industry, this dual Bills scenario could tilt the playing field, and interrupt the decades old Playbook script. Plus, there would be new wrinkles in 2021 for them to contemplate:

      • For a committee or chairperson to table their Oil Bill until 2022, while knowing that the chair of the same committee in the other house would be predisposed to hear and pass their Oil Bill, it certainly would invite heightened scrutiny and consternation, so maybe not worth the risks.
      • For each Oil Bill to progress unimpeded past each committee, to reach a Floor vote, would create a dilemma. Casting an AYE vote would jeopardize future industry contributions, whereas voting NO or abstaining (NVR) would be disquieting to constituents, and jeopardize their support.
      • Another dilemma would be whether to sign or to dodge the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge. Either way, it would create unwelcomed consequences. The ongoing campaign, of urging legislators to commit to the Pledge, is here to stay and will grow.
      • The Sierra Club California has rolled out their Accountability Project, which tracks and publicizes so called “Dirty Money” contributions from Fossil Fuel companies to each legislator.
      • The Sierra Club will also issue their annual report card, grading each legislator’s voting performance on SC’s favored Bills, and with respect to their receiving “Dirty Money” contributions. The time-frame would be several months before the March 2022 Primaries.
      • The Oil Industry’s opposition claims of lost jobs and lost revenue for California, has largely been rebutted, leaving diminished credibility for anyone still using it to justify opposition.
      • During 2020, the number of organizations in support of AB 345 had grown to over 270, insisting on a buffer zone to protect proximate communities, as an Environmental Justice matter. During 2021, the numbers should be even greater and the clamor louder, becoming more difficult to dismiss.
      • There is ever increasing consternation about fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions, which exacerbate climate change, with eminent perilous consequences.
      • Other legislators are increasingly loosing patience with colleagues, who are seen as beholding to industry, to block or impede progress.
      • Particularly the younger constituents, fluent with social media, are becoming increasingly informed and educated about such climate and environmental justice issues, and expecting action.
      • Any legislator who abstains or votes against such increasingly popular Oil Bills in 2021, could face the ire and wrath of disgruntled constituents come the March 2022 Primaries.
      • Interest and support for these issues will not wane, but rather persist however long until such Bills ultimately are passed.

This is part of a checklist for Legislators who have become accustomed to receiving industry contributions, and may be reluctant to change, until their costs outweighs the benefits.

Oil Bills Opposition – Additional Strategies

It is apparent from previously cited online articles, that Moderate Democrats have allegedly thwarted Oil and Gas Severance Tax Bills for at least a decade. Should it be beneficial to bring to the table particularly Mod Dems with Oil Industry allegiance? Perhaps their stances against Oil Bills are more so a matter of protecting Oil & Gas Industry jobs within their district. The proceeds from most prior Oil Severance Tax Bills have been intended for the General Fund. However towards reaching conciliation, consideration could be given to allocating some percentage for any of the following:

      • Displaced O&G workers could be enrolled in job transition and retraining programs in alternate renewable energy and energy efficiency industries. Oil and Gas Industry jobs increasingly are less safe and healthy for workers, and more damaging to the environment. Alternatives include O&G Lower-Carbon jobs, and more sustainable and stable green energy jobs.
      • Experienced O&G workers might be re-deployed in the decommissioning of idle and abandoned wells, continuing to leak methane and contaminate water sources.
      • There could be funds for equal numbers of transitional jobs in infrastructure projects, particularly those to restore and repair from O&G industry impacts.

There may be some Mod Dems who remain steadfast in their alignment with Big Oil, more so for the welfare of themselves over the welfare of their constituents (principal over principle). One remedy might be to seek their reassignments to committees not relevant to Oil and Gas Bills. Another tact could be to build support from among their constituents, via social media, letters to the editors of local newspapers, etc. The more permanent option would be to build support for more progressive candidates during the March Primaries of most any even numbered year.

There undoubtedly will be legislators who are content with the status quo, and accustomed to the perks of campaign contributions, beyond their salaries. There might be a carve out of Severance Tax proceeds for campaign finance reform, towards leveling the campaign playing field with colleagues less amenable to influence money.

Plastics Bills

In regards to SB 54 and AB 1080, the identical Plastic Pollution Reduction Bills, Senator Ben Allen, with a host of coauthors, already has re-introduce SB 54, as of 12/07/20 (Great news!). It is not yet known whether a version of AB 1080 will also be re-introduced. A considerable amount of time, effort and devotion had been invested during 2019 and 2020, towards having arrived at seemingly mutually acceptable level of amendments among stakeholders, for each Bill. The heavy lifting has been done. It seemingly would take less effort to use the same strategic playbook, to again introduce dual Bills, which will run the same round of committees with ultimate Assembly and Senate Floor votes.

To forecast or expect a favorable outcome in 2021, firstly here again is what took place in 2019 for the two first year Bills:

In 2019, SB 54 had passed out of the Senate on 5/29/19 by 28-8-2, and subsequently was sent to the Assembly where it failed on 9/06, by 38-16-25 (Ayes-Noes-NVR).

AB 1080 had passed the Assembly Floor a day later on 5/30/19 by 44-19-17, and presumably was sent to the Senate, but never came up for a vote by 9/01.

It is peculiar that during the subsequent 3 months, from 5/30 until time expired on 9/01, the Senate never had the opportunity to take a vote on AB 1080, which had passed their own SB 54 on 5/29/19. It is difficult to conjecture that the apparent withholding of AB 1080 for so long had been unintentional. Had it been the responsibility of the Speaker of the Assembly Rendon to have transmitted the amended AB 1080 to the Senate, and/or for Senate pro Tempore Atkins to have brought the Bill before the Senate Floor for a vote? It has been well over a year, but still it should be important to uncover whether any rules or protocols had been violated in 2019. Regardless, measures and accountability would need to be in place well in advance, to prevent any future such mishap.

The above scenarios are based on static assumptions, such that both Bills would have unencumbered paths through the committees, that prior AYE votes could still be counted on, and so forth. However, nothing is guaranteed, nor can be taken for granted.

The Plastics Industry has been building numerous multi Billion dollar plastics production plants, and cannot be expected to remain idle, and risk any curtailments or infringements upon their plans to scale up production. The Industry is formidable, and here is some of what to expect.

As previously reported, in “Post Mortem of 54-1080 & Others”, on 8/28/20, during the last few days of the Legislative Session, a “54-1080 Coalition New Oppo Floor Alert” apparently was circulated, which simply stated: “Vote No on AB 1080 and SB 54”. The two pages listed the logos and names of 87 organizations in opposition, seeming as an implied ultimatum. Among them were “presumably” campaign contributors, familiar to state legislators. The timing for the release of the Floor Alert on the last Friday appeared to be strategic, as it left little time for supporters to react with any counter campaign before the Monday midnight deadline.

In anticipation of such another “Opposition Floor Alert” from being used again, what should be needed is an alternative “Support Floor Alert”, with likewise logos and names of organizations in support. Perhaps included should be tactfully stated drawbacks for withholding support.

It would seem curious and coincidental that in the Assembly, SB 54 had missed the 41 votes for passage by only 3 votes short in 2019, and 4 votes short in 2020. It would appear that the Plastics Industry had taken a page from the Oil Industry’s playbook, to have cultivated and secured just enough commitments from among the Moderate Democrats to abstain, along with Republicans, to assure defeat of the Bills both years. During the final few days, all of the last minute calling and coaxing of Assembly Moderate Democrats to change their votes had been futile. As a blunt metaphor, it would appear that all of the checks had already been cashed.

What Could Be Different for 2021?

Once again, there are certain additional strategies towards leveraging passage. In the spirit of the “No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge”, a likewise “No Plastics Money Pledge” could be deployed in a likewise manner. The two Website domain names,, and, have been bought and secured. A draft of much of the intended language has been available for editing for the past several weeks, which can be viewed at “The No (Big) Plastics Money Pledge”. Feel free to also make proposed edits.

What next is hoped for would be for a reputable organization to assume ownership of the two Websites, with the commitment and experience to develop, manage, and utilize, preferably nationally, to the fullest extent possible. Such would require a Webmaster to first design the Website, preferably similar in appearance and functionality, to the increasingly popular and utilized Website Another onerous task would be to assemble the list of Plastics and Chemical companies from which contributions would be prohibited. A reasonable starting point, at least for California, would be to select those companies that typically had been major “Dirty Money” contributors, particularly to Legislature Democrats, from the Sierra Club California‘s spreadsheet. Alternatively the California Secretary of State’s Website (​​) has a powerful tool to investigate elected officials’ campaign contributions, using their “Power Search” tool.

Nearly all of the previously discussed strategies for the Oil Bills, could also be adapted to bolster the odds for passage this year of the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act. If for any unforeseen reasons, the Bill(s) becomes carried over to 2022, then whatever new lessons would be learned and new strategies devised, could then be applied. If any failings in 2021 would be attributable to Moderate Democrats, then which and how many might become vulnerable during the March 2022 Primaries, to shift the Assembly balance just enough in time, for the second year?


On the last two pages of “Post Mortem of 54-1080 & Others”, there were proposed strategies for prior to the return of the Legislature. Now that the Legislature has reconvene for the 2021-2022 Session, here are additional strategies and ideas that should be worthy of pursuit.

It should be imperative to urge the Legislature to take whatever steps necessary to get an Oil and Gas Severance Tax passed, and if necessary, in every successive Legislative Session until it is finally done. Each year further delayed will cost California another approximately $900 million in lost tax revenue (Based on SB 246 estimates).

It is coincidental that the Sierra Club “estimates that there is a very high likelihood that the state will end up paying for California Resources Corporation’s $900 million worth of closure obligations if it doesn’t take corrective actions quickly. Today the CRC is sitting on nearly 18,000 wells, the vast majority of which have either been sitting idle for years, haven’t produced at all in 2020, or produced only a trickle of oil”… and leaking methane. On 10/13/20, CRC emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Furthermore, the California CST (Council on Science and Technology) estimates that the average cost… to plug all of California’s 107,000 oil and gas wells could exceed $9.2 billion.

In 2008, AB-2 had passed both houses, but was vetoed by Republican Gov Schwarzenegger. Assuming a round figure of say $1 Billion Severance Tax revenue per year, that veto has cost Californians about $11 Billion during the subsequent 11 years, and still counting. So how much longer should California remain as the only oil producing state without an Oil and Gas Severance tax?

It should be urgent to get an AB 345 version Oil and Gas Production Buffer Zone Bill passed, on an expedited basis for this year. The air pollution, both volatile organics and fine particulate matter, posing health risks and causing health consequences for neighboring communities, have been well documented and are ongoing. These lives also matter. Apart from the Environmental Justice violation being borne primarily by minority communities, there is the Climate Justice matter of such dirty crude and fugitive methane adversely contributing to climate change.

It should be a priority for the Legislature to finish the task of getting the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Act across the finish line. The obstacles encountered with AB 1080 and SB 54 during 2019 and 2020 have been addressed, and can be mitigated. If simultaneous Bills are again introduced, then there will be up to two years to get either one passed. It should not be the left to Recology and California voters via the ballot initiative in November 2022, to take on the Plastics industry having their unlimited spending capacity.

According to the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), the average base salary among the 41 states that pay their legislators for 2020 was $38,370. “California legislators remain on top of the compensation pile with a salary of $114,877.” If for nothing more than a matter of pride and self worth, our Senators and Assembly Members should be able to devise the means and to have the determination to prevail.

Furthermore, “following the 2020 election, in the Legislature, Democrats have a 31-9 majority in the Senate and a 60-19 majority in the House. The party also controlled the governorship, creating a Democratic state government trifecta. At the start of the 2021 session, California was one of six state legislatures where Democrats had a veto-proof supermajority in both chambers.”

The California Legislature has reconvened on Monday, January 11. Will grassroots environmental organizations find common cause to join together, to help enable the Legislature to chart the course for these particular Bills in 2021? What will be other “Must-Pass” Bills that could benefit from a broader base of support? Who has an amicable rapport to approach Legislators with any such recommendations? Consider lending whatever time and effort you can manage, to help make 2021 a year of multiple legislative victories, and to help ameliorate the abysmal memories of 2020.

Thank you for your indulgence. Figures are mostly single sourced from staff reporters, so any corrections are welcome. Share with and forward to others as desired. Copy and use any or all as you wish.

Remember, “It always seems impossible, until it’s done” – N. Mandella  


Post-Mortem Of SB 54/AB 1080 And Others

By Doug Brooms, NCRA Board Member and Chair of the Zero Waste Advocacy Committee,  NCRA News, October 23, 2020

In the early days of September, much had been written and explanations offered in the aftermath of both SB 54 and AB 1080, gasping and dying in fleeting days and hours on the floor of the California Legislature. As such, a post-mortem is defined as “an examination of a dead body to determine the cause of death”. Naysayers made spurious claims, it was Bad Policy. Backers lamented, if only we had more time, if we could have persuaded just a few more legislators, if…. How many have noticed or smelled the Elephant in the room?

SB 54 and AB 1080 Post Mortems

For the second consecutive year, both AB 1080 and SB 54, the identical Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Acts, failed to emerge from the California State Legislature. The redirection of State funds for Covid-19 relief and priorities could have been influential this year. However, for both 2019 and 2020, the problem appeared more so in the Assembly, to gain enough Aye votes for a 41 vote majority to pass. Below are the vote tallies for both 2019 and 2020, for both Bills, and in both houses, taken from the Legislature Bill Search link:

In 2019, SB 54 had passed out of the Senate on 5/29 by 28-8-2, and subsequently was sent to the Assembly where it failed on 9/06, by 38-16-25 (Ayes-Noes-NVR).
In 2019, AB 1080 had passed the Assembly Floor on 5/30 by 44-19-17, and presumably was sent to the Senate, but never came up for a vote by 9/01.

In 2020, SB 54 did not come up for a vote in the Senate (having already passed in 2019?). However SB 54 failed in the Assembly on 8/31 by 37-18-24.
In 2020, AB 1080 had passed the Senate on Sunday 8/30 by 23-12-5, but was never sent to the Assembly with amendments to allow for any vote by 8/31 midnight.

It is noteworthy that when SB 54 was up for a vote at the end of the year for 2019 and 2020, a significant number in the Assembly had chosen to not be recorded for a vote, and were listed as NVR (No Vote Recorded), 25 in 2019 and 24 in 2020. Of these, there were 14 (names underlined) who were listed as NVR for both 2019 and 2020. Of the 14 total, 13 were Democrats and 1 (Waldron) was Republican (in italics). The vote results below were also assembled from the CA Legislature:

In 2019, SB 54 in Assembly, NVR: 22 Democrats, 3 Republicans, 25 Total
Aguiar-Curry, Arambula, Bloom, Burke, Calderon, Cervantes, Cooper, Daly, Diep, Eggman, Gipson, Grayson, Irwin, Limón, Low, Maienschein, Melendez, Petrie-Norris, Quirk-Silva, Ramos, Rodriguez, Blanca Rubio, Salas, Smith, Waldron

In 2020, SB 54 in Assembly, NVR: 18 Dems, 5 Republicans, 1 Independent, 24 Total
Aguiar-Curry, Arambula, Brough, Burke, Cervantes, Cunningham, Daly, Diep, Eggman, Frazier, Gallagher, Cristina Garcia, Eduardo Garcia, Gipson, Grayson, Holden, Irwin, Low, Mayes (I), Petrie-Norris, Quirk, Rodriguez, Voepel, Waldron

It is also noteworthy that on 8/28/20, the attached 54-1080 Coalition New Opposition Floor Alert apparently was circulated, which simply stated: “Vote No on AB 1080 and SB 54” (Available is a “MS Word” version). The two pages listed the logos and names of 87 organizations, seeming as an implied ultimatum. Among them were “presumably” campaign contributors, familiar to state legislators. The timing for the release of the Floor Alert on the last Friday appeared to be strategic, as it left little time for supporters to react with any counter campaign before the Monday midnight deadline.

Was such a Floor Alert also used in 2019? Was it the intention to forewarn legislators that their recorded vote would matter during funding of their next election campaign cycle? Being on record with an AYE vote would be disqualifying for them, whereas a NO vote would be upsetting to their constituents. So it should be safer to abstain from a vote, which would effectively serve the same purpose of avoiding an AYE for their potential contributors.

Had the unfavorable outcomes for SB 54 been predestined, with enough Noes and NVRs already pocketed, prior to the Assembly Floor votes? The fate of SB 54 had been nearly identical in both 2019 and 2020. It leads to speculation that maybe the fix already had been in place. In the case of AB 1080, which had just passed the Senate on 8/28/20, what reportedly remained was for the Senate Pro Tem to return the Bill to the Assembly Floor for a vote, before midnight 8/31. However curiously that was not done. Again, could this outcome likewise have been baked into the cake, so to speak? If anyone has a more accurate accounting, please do share. 66 signatories, 66 signatories,

What can be said of the so called “Moderate Democrats”, or better “Industry Compliant Democrats” who chose the “safe” NVR option? Perhaps there are more descriptive monikers, maybe such as NVR = Not Very Reliable, at least to their constituents. But to their lobbyists, maybe NVR = Nearly Valuable Republican. Choose or make up your own, and make them wear it.

California Legislators Report Card

As a side note, the Sierra Club California annually scores the performance of legislators on environmental issues. For 2019, 34 Assembly Members and 9 Senators earned 100% scores.

The assembly members who earned perfect scores on the 2019 Legislative Report Card are:
Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (Assembly District 16), Marc Berman (AD 24), Richard Bloom (AD 50), Rob Bonta (AD 18), Ian Calderon (AD 57), Wendy Carrillo (AD 51), Sabrina Cervantes (AD 60), Ed Chau (AD 49), David Chiu (AD 17), Kansen Chu (AD 25), Jesse Gabriel (AD 45), Cristina Garcia (AD 58), Todd Gloria (AD 78), Lorena Gonzalez (AD 80), Chris Holden (AD 41), Reggie Jones-Sawyer (AD 59), Ash Kalra (AD 27), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (AD 54), Marc Levine (AD 10), Monique Limón (AD 37), Evan Low (AD 28), Kevin Mullin (AD 22), Al Muratsuchi (AD 66), Bill Quirk (AD 20), Anthony Rendon (AD 63), Eloise Gómez Reyes (AD 47), Luz Rivas (AD 39), Miguel Santiago (AD 53), Christy Smith (AD 38), Mark Stone (AD 29), Phil Ting (AD 19), Shirley Weber (AD 79), Buffy Wicks (AD 15) and Jim Wood (AD 2).
Is there any expectation that two-time NVR Democrats Cervantes and Low will score 100% for 2020?

SB 246 and AB 345 Post Mortems

SB 246 (Wieckowski) Oil and Gas Severance Tax, would have brought California in line with all other 34 major oil producing states in the nation, by imposing a 10% oil and gas severance tax. SB 246 would have raised approximately $900 million per year for the general fund. See a sample support letter. In 2019, the two-year Bill had garnered the support of at least 37 grassroots non profit organizations. However on January 8, 2020, an opposition SB 246 Coalition Letter with a long list of 66 signatories, including customary campaign contributors, had been submitted to Senator Wieckowski. The copy distribution included Chair Senator Mike McGuire, Vice-Chair, and Members of the Senate Governance & Finance Committee, where the Bill resided.

Curiously, the 1/15/20 hearing on SB 246 was postponed, and removed from the agenda, effectively killing the Bill for failure to advance out of the Governance & Finance Committee before the 1/31/20 deadline. SB 246 had been the latest in a long series of failed attempts to pass a state severance tax. In all, at least 7 bills have been introduced in both the Senate and Assembly since 1990. And in 2006, a ballot measure was put to the voters to establish a tax on oil and gas being extracted in California, but was defeated after opponents spent almost $100 million in opposition. During the 2017-2018 legislative session, Western States Petroleum Association and Chevron had spent nearly $16 million and $14 million respectively, persuading legislators to vote their way.

AB 345 (Muratsuchi) would have created health and safety buffer zones, up to 2,500 feet, between communities and oil extraction activities. In 2019, Lorena Gonzalez, chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, had tabled AB 345 until the 2020 Session. Near the end of the 2019 legislative session, Gonzalez had received campaign contributions from among Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Western States Petroleum Association, totaling at least $16,100.

By 2020, AB 345 had garnered the support of over 270 environmental, labor, racial justice, public health, and faith organizations, as well as 79% of Californians, according to a then recent poll. However the Bill was defeated in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water, in a 5-4 vote on 8/05. Democratic Senators Hertzberg, Hueso and Caballero joined two Republicans to oppose the bill. Senators Hertzberg and Hueso had each received $28,100 and $21,500 respectively in campaign contributions from companies that lobbied against AB 345. Hueso also has behested at least $81,000 from the fossil fuel industry throughout his political career. Senator Anna Caballero has received $15,000 from the oil and gas industry.

“The lobbying and influence campaign efforts waged by the oil industry and labor against AB 345 illustrates the difficulty in crafting climate policy and environmental protections, even in a state with a supermajority Democratic Party legislature that bills itself as a global leader on fighting climate change. A big part of the difficulty is the contradiction at the center of it all: California is the sixth biggest oil producer nationwide and the largest West Coast oil refiner.”

“Big Oil’s tentacles extend far and wide in California politics. Lobbying is just one of the methods that Big Oil uses in California to exercise inordinate influence over California regulators. Western States Petroleum Association and Big Oil wield their power in 6 major ways: through (1) lobbying; (2) campaign spending; (3) serving on and putting shills on regulatory panels; (4) creating Astroturf groups: (5) working in collaboration with media; and (6) contributing to non profit organizations.” CA Regulators Issue 6 New Fracking Permits As Record Fires And A Pandemic Continue. Dan Bacher, Daily Kos, 10/12/20 […]

Looking back through the legislature graveyard, what other recent or past Bills have been dispatched by unbridled Lobby spending and tacit persuasion? Yes, California is one of 15 trifecta states with a majority Democratic legislature and governorship. Given that Democrats traditionally are far more amenable to environmental concerns, and Republicans are staunchly pro business, how can these anomalies keep happening?

For insights about this, see this passage below from the Feb. 2020 article Brace for the Deluge: Special interests are Spending Millions to Get the California Legislators They Want. […]

Picking the right “brand” of Democrat
In the most heated (and expensive) battles for California legislative seats, the key question for big outside spenders isn’t whether to back a Republican or a Democrat — but which kind of Democrat.
It’s a reflection of the Democratic Party’s dominance of state politics in California. For businesses that might have once prioritized the election of Republicans, backing a business-inclined Democrat is now often their best bet for ensuring a friendly vote in Sacramento.
“The goal is to get your particular brand of Democrat to emerge in the run off,” said David Townsend, who directs the Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy, a committee that backs moderate Democrats. In races where business interests and organized labor pick different candidates, he said, “it’s an arms race. When one side spends more, you have to spend more.”
Which candidates have been propped up or targeted the most by independent expenditure groups?
The next info graphics show which legislators receive the most and the least financial support from business.

Money and Politics

In her email of 9/01/20 “CA Legislature Results”, Kathryn Phillips, Director with Sierra Club California, concluded with:
“Now the bad news: Only a handful of priority bills even got as far as the floor of the opposite house, and then only some of those passed. This year, when it was essential because of COVID that we work virtually and so couldn’t physically be present in the Capitol to remind legislators what their constituents who vote want and expect, the power of the moneyed special interests was more obvious than ever.

The lesson for me is that elections matter and elected officials need to be held accountable–including in non-election years. We’re about to launch an accountability project. So watch this space.”

Her closing statement has given rise to a number of questions and possibilities. Would such an Accountability Project amount to simply calling out the Democrats who were swayed by lobbyists, or finding more principled candidates to challenge them in the California March 2022 Primaries? If one or both 54/1080 type Bills will be reintroduced in 2021, what else can be done to avoid a repeat scenario, most likely in the Assembly? Would an accountability project be inclusive of a greater comprehensive multifaceted game plan? Foremost, how pervasive is the perceived corruption of money in CA Legislature politics? What other important Bills have been stymied, going back for how long?

If either or both SB 246 and AB 345 had passed, a net effect could have been the slowing or curbing of oil production, at least in California. The plastics industry has long enjoyed an unfair competitive advantage of artificially suppressed oil prices, given the decades of federal subsidies, and the State absence of a severance tax. Unless and until the cost of recycled plastic feedstock falls below the cost of virgin oil, there exists little if any incentive to reprocess into pellets, and to incorporate into the manufacture of new plastic products.

The Next Round – 2021?

What lies ahead for 2021? For the Plastics War, SB 54 and AB 1080 had seen rather fierce battles in California, which “Big Plastic” regards as the essential beachhead. However, with battalions of lobbyists with limitless cash ammunition and proven tactics, they have managed to hold ground in 2019 and 2020. In an analogous military sense, our two Generals, authors Ben Allen and Lorena Gonzalez and their staffs of officers and soldiers, may have been left battle weary. The amount of everyone’s time, sacrifices and distractions from other important obligations must have been inordinate.

There has been scuttlebutt that either or both are disgusted with the entrenched colleagues, and perhaps not up for another round. Would that forebode that the war is finished for now? It seemingly should be a travesty to retreat and to give up the hard fought gains made during the two years. Regardless, commendations are in order for those who fought the Right Fight, and our gratitude will endure.

Perhaps there is resignation to instead leave Recology’s California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act ballot initiative for the November 2022 elections, to take up the fight. However, if history can provide any lesson or insights, it had been Big Oil which had defeated every attempt to pass an oil severance tax in the California legislature since 1990. In 2006, when a ballot initiative was attempted instead, Big Oil had spent nearly $100 million to insure its defeat, amazingly convincing people to vote against their own best interests.

There would be nothing more gratifying to the opponents of plastics reform, than for supporters to be seen as having given up, and accepting defeat. An unintended consequence would be to reinforce and affirm the opposition’s tactics as proven successful, to be used confidently whenever needed again. Another casualty could become the ultimate captivity of the California Legislature itself. When more principled legislators witness other colleagues cashing in big on the Pay-to-Play NVR scheme without any consequences, wouldn’t that increasingly fuel the temptation to also jump in?

Most anyone who has viewed the 52-minutes PBS documentary Plastics War is likely of the resolve that defeat is simply not an option. Just as insightful and disturbing is the rather lengthy 2019 article Waste Only How the Plastics Industry Is Fighting to Keep Polluting the World. There is far too much at stake, for the preservation of our lands, the oceans and marine life, our increasing ingestion of micro-plastics and our own well being, and of the planet for generations.

Most anyone who has viewed the 52-minute PBS Frontline documentary Plastics War is likely to resolve that defeat is simply not an option. Just as insightful and disturbing is the rather lengthy July 2019 The Intercept article Waste Only: How the Plastics Industry Is Fighting to Keep Polluting the World by Sharon Lerner. There is far too much at stake, for the preservation of our lands, the oceans and marine life, our increasing ingestion of micro-plastics and our own well being, and of the planet for generations.

Imagine if another dual pronged 54/1080 type set of 2-year Bills were to be launched in January? What might become the outcome this time? Big Plastic’s playbook and tactics have been exposed. Regardless, a new $6 billion Chevron Phillips Chemical plastics factory has been built along the Texas Gulf Coast. Expect that Big Plastic will spare no expense to undermine any laws and regulations which would threaten to curb their anticipated explosion of single use plastics on America and the world. Again, conglomerates can wield their formidable power in 6 major ways: through (1) lobbying; (2) campaign spending; (3) serving on and putting shills on regulatory panels; (4) creating Astroturf groups: (5) working in collaboration with media; and (6) contributing to non profit organizations.” Also, expect brutal misinformation campaigns.

The point is that if there should become a similar 54/1080 undertaking in 2021, then nothing should be left to chance. Beyond hopeful thinking, required would be an early and well planned, broad based, comprehensive strategy, for the long term, including some of the following:

      • During the remainder of 2020, supporters of 54/1080 could reach out to leaders of other failed Bills, including such as Oil Bills, SB 246 and AB 345, to find common cause, to create broader coalitions. “You support us and we will support you”.
      • Develop parallel and common game plans and timelines. Share what various organizations have learned from mistakes and how to avoid repeats.
      • What contemplation and brainstorming might be done to devise new and better strategies and tactics for the next time around?
      • Looking back, at which committee did each prior Bill encounter difficulties or obstructions, and by whom? After the Nov. 3 elections, which previous obstinate committee chairpersons or members would likely still be in place?
      • What strategies of persuasion and dissuasion could be conceived of to minimize risks of 2021 Bills being preemptively tabled until 2022?  Will the path of successive committees and rules be the same?
      • For the Oil Bills, it should be wise to continually seek expanding the numbers of legislators to take or recommit to the “No Fossil Fuel Money” pledge. See the attached list of California candidates and legislators through May 2020
      • A “No Big Plastics Money” pledge for politicians could not be found. What would it take to devise and roll out one, at least initially for California Legislators?
      • What incentives might be considered towards reaffirming and securing the support of Bills from among incumbents and new legislators?
      • What amicable approaches could be considered to reclaim particularly those 13 Democratic Assembly Members who had gotten away with the NVR ruse for the past two consecutive years, and might have the audacity to try for a third time?
      • Alternatively, perhaps a tough-love letter could be devised: Dear Member, Below is a list including you and 13 of your colleagues who chose to abstain (NVR) from voting on SB 54 in August of 2019 and again in 2020. Included are the campaign contribution totals that each received from various Plastics industry opponents, suggesting potential conflicts of interest. In the event that our 2021 Bill does not pass, our coalition members will endeavor to unseat incumbents who had not been supportive, with alternative candidates for the March 2022 California Primaries.”
      •  A likewise letter could be crafted for the attention of problematic Senators.
      • Could there be any possibilities of further refinement of social media tools to deploy with such speed, scope and magnitude, as to rival the overwhelming money advantages of Big Plastic? Imagine the impact of reaching every corner of a problem incumbent’s district with messaging, if necessary, or at least the threat, akin to a nuclear option?
      • Could there be any avenues for dissuading the customary business allies from ongoing support of Big Plastic, maybe a novel business case
      • What effective remedies have other states implemented towards getting their proposed legislation passed? According to the National Caucus of Environmental Legislation (NCEL) and their 2020 Plastic Pollution Legislation Master Sheet, the State of New York has introduced 32 pieces of legislation, compared to 6 in California. Is there anything to be learned how they deal with legislators and lobbyists to get their Bills through?

Much else needs to be planned – now, if intentions are to hit the ground running in 2021.

Thank you your indulgence. Corrections are welcome. Share with others as desired. Use any or all as you wish, and as your own for credibility.

Remember, “It always seems impossible, until it’s done” – N. Mandella