It's On

The entry of Das Williams into the Democratic primary race for the seat being vacated by termed-out Assemblyman Pedro Nava will push the bitter feelings over the scuttled Trainquillon Ridge agreement front and center.

In confirming in an interview today that he will face off in the 35th District contest against environmental attorney Susan Jordan, who is married to Nava, Williams told me that the opposition to the agreement by she and Nava was crucial in his decision to run.

Williams' decision to make his candidacy pubic immediately raised the importance of the issue, ensuring it will become Topic A as the Assembly campaign begins. A few hours after Williams told me he was running, I received the following letter from Paul Mason, deputy director of the Sierra Club of California, in which he comes to Jordan's defense on the issue:

"In the rush to assign blame for the failure of the deal between some local environmental groups and the PXP oil company, some good people are being scapegoated, and some critical facts are being left by the wayside.

"Like many groups, the Sierra Club was initially supportive of the broad goals of the proposal. However, our support was contingent upon the deal, primarily the end dates for offshore oil production, being enforceable by the relevant state agencies. Enforceability is critical: it would be foolish to approve new oil drilling leases without iron-clad enforceability.

"Unfortunately, when the Attorney General's office and the State Lands Commission (SLC) reviewed the deal, they concluded that it was not enforceable. Further, when the Minerals Management Service testified at the SLC hearing, they noted that shutting down oil production before all the economically accessible oil was fully extracted was in direct conflict with federal law.

"Within this context of serious legal problems with the proposal, it's quite sad and frustrating to see Susan Jordan, one of the most well-respected coastal protection advocates in the state, come under attack for not supporting the deal.

"Rather than just accepting the popular slogans that this deal would end oil production along this part of the coast, Susan dug into the details, where she found serious problems problems that were confirmed many months later by the Attorney General and State Lands legal counsel. While it would have been easier politically to ignore the problems and go along with popular opinion, that also would have been a tremendous failure in leadership.

"We should expect and encourage our civic and elected leaders to pay attention to details and facts, and make decisions on that basis. It's certainly easier to just go with the flow, but that abdication of critical analysis and independent assessment can lead to rubber-stamping bad ideas.

If some members of the local environmental community still want the PXP deal, and think the benefits that could be provided are worth approving the first new oil lease in California state waters in forty years, they should direct their focus on how to fix the flaws in the original proposal. They should not attack or criticize the people who had the courage to point them out beforehand."



Paul Mason

Deputy Director

Sierra Club California

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