Phillips 66 favors two San Diego Democrats

Bill-gutting beneficiaries kick in for Gonzalez Fletcher, Atkins

Valero refinery
  • Valero refinery
  • Cal EPA

As a bitterly fought primary campaign for county supervisor finally grinds to an end, a pair of high-ranking San Diego legislative Democrats have been loading up on last-minute campaign cash from two of America’s mightiest oil companies.

The latest local Big Oil beneficiary is the re-election kitty of Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, which has routed at least $355,000 to the local Democratic party, which in turn has dumped more than $680,000 into its controversial bid to get Gonzalez Fletcher's husband Nathan Fletcher elected county supervisor.

California state disclosure filings show that Gonzalez Fletcher's reelection fund collected $3000 from Houston, Texas-based Phillips 66 on May 31.

Phillips, proprietor of a chronically troubled petrochemical refinery on San Francisco Bay, emerged at the center of legislative intrigue earlier this year when it contributed $6300 on March 23 to the 2020 re-election committee of California Senate leader Toni Atkins, who has transferred at least $16,000 to the local Democratic Party, per a May 30 tally by public broadcaster KPBS.

Less than two weeks later on April 4, a previously-touted bill sponsored by state Senate Democrat Bill Dodd of Napa that would have tripled air pollution penalties on offending refineries, including that of Phillips, was unceremoniously yanked from committee consideration and quietly gutted five days later.

Said Dodd's website before the legislation was pulled, "Dodd’s bill would set the new fine at $30,000, and if refineries are found negligent, the amount would go up to $75,000 per day. In instances where a refinery fails to correct a known violation or intentionally violates standards, the violations would be even greater. For serial offenders with multiple serious violations within 36 months, the fines could be as much as $500,000 per day.”

Dodd subsequently contended that oil industry opposition had nothing to do with the decision to kill the bill.

"I don't think the refineries being against it caused this to happen," he maintained in an interview with San Francisco's' KQED April 12. "It was the fact that there was nobody else, no significant support, on the other side."

Other out-of-state oil industry money accruing to the benefit of Nathan Fletcher's supervisorial campaign has included a $35,000 contribution on May 18 to San Diegans Opposed to Hypocrisy & Lori Saldaña for Supervisor 2018, an independent committee running negative advertising about Saldaña, a former Democratic Assemblywoman also in the race.

The anti-Saldaña cash came from a political committee calling itself the Coalition to Restore California's Middle Class, funded by Texas petroleum outfits, including Valero Energy of San Antonio, which has given $2 million, and Tesoro Companies, also San Antonio-based, with $1 million.

The same group has also targeted San Benito county supervisor Robert Rivas, leader of an anti-fracking campaign, for defeat in his current race for the state Assembly.

In league with Phillips 66, Valero has faced criticism of its Benicia refinery following an incident in May 2017, during which flames, acrid smoke, and more than 74,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide spewed from the facility following an emergency shutdown.

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