Feb 1, 2016
It wasn’t until January 6 that California Democratic Governor Jerry Brown declared a “state of emergency” for the catastrophic natural gas leak in Porter Ranch.
The leak was putting thousands and thousands of tons of methane gas, and other, toxic gases such as benzene and hydrogen sulfide, into the air. The FAA had banned flights over the area, and cell phones and watches were not allowed on the leak site, for fear of an explosion and huge fire. More than ten thousand people had been forced to leave their homes.
And yet, for two and a half months, Governor Brown dismissed calls for the state to intervene. Brown saw no emergency in this raging, enormous human disaster!
Was it perhaps Brown’s own ties to the oil and gas industry, and SoCalGas in particular, that were blurring his vision?
Brown’s sister Kathleen Brown, a former California State Treasurer, sits on the board of Sempra Energy, the parent company of SoCalGas! In fact, Kathleen Brown is a member of Sempra’s health and safety committee, which has oversight responsibilities on issues like the leak.
Jerry Brown himself has received ample funding from the oil and gas industry for his campaigns; and he has been their pet politician for years. In 2011, Brown fired two top state regulators, who pointed out (as had the EPA) that the oil and gas industry’s underground injection activities would contaminate the state’s groundwater. In 2012, Brown himself bragged about speedily giving the industry the permits they had asked for: “The oil rigs are moving in Kern County. We want to use our resources ... It’s not going to be easy.... There’ll be indictments, and there’ll be deaths. But we’re going to keep going.”
In August 2015, Brown once again fired oil and gas regulators, this time because they had not issued drilling permits to Occidental Petroleum fast enough, according to a lawsuit.
Of course, the Browns are not alone. Politicians who run the different levels of government, both Republican and Democrat, all have similar ties to Big Business. Capital pays for politicians’ careers; and it gets the favors it asks for in return.
It’s business. It’s how politics works in the capitalist system.