Secretary John Laird, Ocean 'Protector'

Posted on 17 April 2014

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By Dan Bacher

On Monday John Laird, Secretary for Natural Resources and Chair of the California Ocean Protection Council, sent a memo to the "California Ocean and Coastal Community" discussing recent letters on the federal FY15 budget that he sent to three Congressional appropriation committees.

"Please find attached my letters to three Congressional appropriation subcommittees regarding funding for key ocean initiatives in the federal FY15 budget," Laird wrote. "Of particular note for the ocean and coastal community, my letter to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies includes support for coastal management grants, regional ocean partnerships, ocean observation systems, ocean acidification research, and marine debris, among several other items. Similar letters were sent to the respective appropriation subcommittees in the Senate."

"In addition, please also find attached a letter from members of the California legislature, including OPC members Senator Pavley and Speaker Atkins, stating their support for increased funding for ocean acidification research," concluded Laird.

Joey Racano of the Ocean Outfall Group wasn't impressed by Laird's memo and letters.

Racano also questioned the presence of Senator Fran Pavley, the author of the green light to fracking bill, Senate Bill 4, on a committee designed to "protect the ocean."

There is no doubt that the oceans are in deep trouble with folks like Secretary John Laird and Senator Fran Pavley in charge of "ocean protection" in California.

Laird is one of the worst Natural Resources Secretaries for fish, oceans and the environment in California history.

He presided over record exports of water to corporate agribusiness interests in 2011, resulting in the massacre of millions of Sacramento splittail in the Delta water export pumps. Nearly 9 million Sacramento splittail, a native fish species, were "salvaged" in the death pumps, a new record. The actual number of fish lost in the pumps is estimated by scientists to be 5 to 10 times the "salvage" numbers.

Laird and federal officials also presided over the systematic draining of northern California reservoirs during a drought in 2013 to fill the Kern Water Bank and Southern California reservoirs, resulting in enormous damage to salmon and steelhead populations and endangered Delta and longfin smelt, as well as imperiling the water supplies of Sacramento, Folsom and other cities.

He has relentlessly pushed the most environmentally destructive project in California history, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels. The project will hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt and green sturgeon and other species, as well imperil Trinity and Klamath River salmon and steelhead. The project will devastate the Bay-Delta Estuary, the most significant estuary on the West Coast, resulting in tremendous damage to coastal halibut, striped bass, leopard shark, anchovy, sardine, herring, halibut, leopard, rockfish, lingcod and other fish populations.

Laird also oversaw the completion of a network of a network of so-called "marine protected areas" under the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative. In a extreme case of greenwashing, these "marine protected areas" fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture and other human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

Senator Fran Pavley has also been a strong supporter of the oil industry lobbyist-overseen MLPA Initiative, as well as the author of the bill that clears the path to expanded fracking in California.

In one of the biggest environmental scandals in California history, Laird and Pavley strongly backed the leadership of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association. Meanwhile, the oil industry was conducting highly polluting fracking operations in Southern California marine waters.

With environmental guardians like Laird and Pavley, California is in deep, deep trouble.

This article was originally published at Indybay.