Governor Meeting Today with Water, Environmental, and Agribusiness Leaders About the Drought

Governor Jerry Brown will be holding a meeting today at the State Capitol with “water, environmental and agricultural leaders” regarding the drought. The meeting is believed to be a response to widespread and scathing criticism in local and national media about the governor’s mandate that cities and counties slash water use by 25 percent, and that agribusinesses face no new restrictions on water use, even though they consume 80 percent of the state’s water while contributing only 2 percent of the state’s annual economy.

I called the governor’s office to find out what groups and leaders would be meeting with the Governor and I’m waiting for a response. The governor also appears to be excluding tribal leaders and fishermen — who are among those hardest hit by the record drought — from the meeting.

The media advisory states, “On the heels of the lowest snowpack measurement ever recorded last week and the first ever statewide mandatory water reduction order, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. will meet with top agricultural, environmental and urban water agency leaders from across California today in Sacramento.”

“As Californians, we have to save water in every way we possibly can and we have to pull together,” said Brown at last week’s snowpack measurement. “We have to become more resilient, more efficient, and more innovative, and that’s exactly what we are going to do.”

The media is also excluded from the meeting, except for the final few minutes.

“The final few minutes of the meeting will be open to coverage by credentialed media at approx. 2:15 p.m. Reporters must check in at 2:00 p.m.,” according to the advisory.

The media advisory states, “For more than two years, the state’s experts have been managing water resources to deal with the effects of the drought and prepare for the next one. Last week, Governor Brown announced the first ever 25 percent statewide mandatory water reductions and a series of actions to help save water, increase enforcement to prevent wasteful water use, streamline the state’s drought response and invest in new technologies that will make California more drought resilient.

“Last year, the governor proclaimed a drought state of emergency. The state has also taken steps to make sure that water is available for human health and safety, growing food, fighting fires, and protecting fish and wildlife. Millions have been spent helping thousands of California families most impacted by the drought pay their bills, put food on their tables and have water to drink.”

There was no mention in the media advisory or the governor’s executive order issued last week about the alarming fact that the oil industry annually use three times as much water as the entire city of San Francisco each year, and that Big Oil pollutes precious aquifers with fracking wastewater.

After the State Water Resources Control Board announced that some California communities must cut water use by 35 percent or face fines of $10,000 a day, Ash Lauth of the Center for Biological Diversity, who will speak at the water board’s meeting today, issued a statement on behalf of Californians Against Fracking.

“California communities have been ordered to make huge water cuts to fight drought, but the state’s plan lets the oil industry completely off the hook,” said Lauth. “Even as Gov. Brown and state officials vow to leave no stone unturned, oil companies that use and contaminate huge amounts of water are getting a free pass. In one year, the oil industry uses three times as much water as the entire city of San Francisco.”

Fracking and other unconventional extraction methods permanently poison and remove fresh water from our water cycle every day. It is indefensible that our governor is allowing the oil industry to continue with business as usual,” Lauth added.

“Gov. Brown must also stop oil companies from contaminating California’s underground water. Hundreds of oil industry disposal wells are dumping toxic oil waste into scores of protected aquifers across the state, but the Brown administration has shut down just 23 of these illegal wells,” Lauth noted.

Lauth revealed that these illegal disposal wells dump an average total of 27 million gallons of oil waste into protected aquifers. “Gov. Brown must stop the oil industry from polluting our precious water supplies, or California will bitterly regret his inaction in the dry decades ahead,” Lauth concluded.

Meanwhile, as agribusiness and the oil industry continue to use water during a record drought without the mandatory restrictions, the governor continues to push the construction of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels, which is potentially the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history.

In the latest episode of the long saga of the BDCP, the Brown administration has chosen to drop the Habitat Conservation Plan section of the project. 

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