Current Post: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/09/28/18660163.php
Schwarzenegger Removes Commissioner to Greenwash His Legacy
by Dan Bacher
In the secrecy and corrupt politics that have characterized the administration of Governor Arnold Schwarnenegger, the lame-duck Governor on Monday removed Michael Sutsos, a member of the California Fish and Game Commission who had just been recently appointed, and selected a new Commissioner.
Members of fishing groups, California Indian Tribes and grassroots environmentalists believe that Sutsos was removed to make sure that the Commission votes down a request to extend the public comment period for the South Coast Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIR) for the Governor Schwarzenegger’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative in a special Fish and Game Commission meeting to be held in McClellan, CA. on Wednesday, September 29 from noon to 5 pm.
In his first and only Commission meeting during his 18 days as a commissioner, Sutsos was one of three Commissioners to vote favorably for holding the meeting to consider the comment period extension.
Jack Baylis, a public member of the Coastal Conservancy, will be sworn in tomorrow as a Fish and Game Commissioner, Then, in a gross miscarriage of justice, he will go straight to the Commission meeting at McClellan to vote on the extension! He will resign as a Coastal Conservancy member.
Baylis, 52, is apparently a corporate Schwarzenegger stooge appointed to greenwash the Governor’s ocean and other environmental policies before he leaves office.
Baylis has worked as AECOM Technology Corporation since 2006 and currently serves as the US group executive for strategic development. Prior to that, Baylis worked for CH2M Hill, where he served in a variety of positions including senior vice president and vice president from 2000 to 2006. From 1996 to 2000, he served as the president and chief operating officer for Linabond and, from 1994 to 1995, Baylis was the vice president and corporate officer for Brown and Caldwell Engineers.
He serves as vice chair of the Heal the Bay Board of Directors – a group that adamantly supports Schwarzenegger’s fast-track MLPA Initiative – and is a founding member and strategic planning committee chair of the Clean Water America Alliance. Baylis is also a member of the California State Parks and Recreation Commission. Baylis is a Republican.
“Sutsos’ dismissal is no surprise,” said Vern Goehring of the California Fisheries Coalition. “The Governor doesn’t want to sit idly and watch his MLPA process be delayed over to the next administration. The MLPA proponents are trying to shut down down the public comment period to keep important information off the official record. If the project was warranted, it could withstand the change of Administrations.”
“An extension of the DEIR is completely warranted and necessary given the importance and complexity of this report,” said Paul Lebowitz, director of the Kayak Fishing Association of California and member of the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans (PSO). “Mr. Sutsos felt that all of the issues and controversy surrounding the DEIR were worthy of further consideration. Obviously that did not jive with Governor Schwarzenegger’s agenda to railroad the process through before he leaves office, so the Governor now will appoint a more politically compliant commissioner.”
“From the outset, the MLPA process has been plagued by a rush to meet arbitrary deadlines while science, data and transparency have been lacking,” noted Steve Fukuto, president of United Anglers of Southern California, also a PSO member. “Unfortunately we have seen these concerns consistently pushed aside in an effort to meet politically-based deadlines. The termination of Mr. Sutsos’ appointment is further proof of the Governor’s true intentions.”
Sutsos’ removal was confirmed today by Ed Zieralski of the San Diego Union-Tribune in an interview that he conducted with Dan Richards, Fish and Game Commmissioner (http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/sep/28/fish-and-game-commissioners-removal-raises-doubts).
Richards told Zieralski that he received a call about Sutsos removal on Monday. Ironically, Sutsos was appointed after the California Senate refused to confirm the appointment of Don Benninghoven, a Schwarzenegger stooge, after a flood of letters and phone calls in opposition to his confirmation by fishermen and environmental justice advocates.
Last August Schwarzenegger appointed Benninghoven days before a key Commission meeting in Woodland to impose so-called “marine protected areas” on the North Central Coast, in spite of massive opposition by fishermen, Indian Tribes, seaweed harvesters and North Coast environmentalists. In an egregious example of racism and elitism, the new closures removed the Kashia Pomo Tribe and other Indian Tribes from their traditional ceremonial and subsistence fishing and gathering areas.
Fortunately, an historic “blessing ceremony” held by the Kashia Pomo elders at Stewarts Point in protest of the closures and pressure by tribal leaders and lawyers led to an exemption for tribal members and recreational users on a small section of the reserve. However, the Commission and the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force have yet to fully recognize tribes as sovereign nations and respect tribal fishing and gathering rights that they have no jurisdiction over.
In the interview, Richards, who has consistently stood up for fishermen and tribes with fellow Commissioner Jim Kellogg in votes on the MLPA Initiative, had very harsh words for Schwarzenegger and the MLPA fiasco.
“This just shows how corrupt this process is,” Richards said. “This process, the Marine Life Protection Act, is so corrupt, so offensive it’s unimaginable. Gov. Schwarzenegger is a forked-tongue devil.”
“The reason I have such a problem with (Sutsos) getting taken off the Commission is that this denigrates and disrespects every person who worked on the MLPA process,” Richards told Zieralski. “Many of the people who worked on the stakeholder groups weren’t paid, certainly weren’t hired guns. That’s why this is so offensive to me. These people don’t care about what the science says, what the reality is, or how what waters they close will affect people’s livelihoods.”
Well-funded corporate environmental NGOs including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Ocean Conservancy and California League of Conservation Voters are pushing the Commission to reject the proposed extension in order to greenwash Schwarzenegger’s abysmal environmental legacy before he leaves office.
In over 27 years of covering California environmental and water issues, the MLPA initiative is the most corrupt process I have ever researched. The Initiative, funded by the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, has taken water pollution, oil drilling, wave energy projects, military testing, habitat destruction and all other human uses of the ocean off the table in its perverse conception of “marine protected areas.”
The Blue Ribbon Task Forces that oversee the MLPA Initiative are dominated by oil industry, marina development, real estate and other corporate interests that have many conflicts of interest in the implementation process. Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, was the chair of the South Coast MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force and now serves on the North Coast panel.
The MLPA and the removal of Sutsos must be seen in the context of the worst-ever administration for fish, the environment, tribes and fishermen in California history. Schwarzenegger and his collaborators including Resources Secretary Lester Snow have presided over the unprecedented collapse of Delta smelt, longfin smelt, Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, green sturgeon, Sacramento splittail and other fish populations, spurred by record water exports out of the California Delta.
Rather than address these problems, the Governor and his collaborators have gone out of their way to aggravate the collapse by campaigning to build a peripheral canal and new dams to facilitate increased water exports to corporate agribusiness and southern California water agencies. In addition, the Governor has allowed agribusiness on the Scott and Shasta River valleys to de-water these Klamath River tributaries every year at tremendous peril to endangered and threatened coho salmon, chinook salmon and steelhead populations.
I agree entirely with Richards that Schwarzenegger is “a forked-tongue devil.” While Schwarzenegger has grandstanded at endless photo opportunities and press conferences about “green energy” and “climate change,” he has waged a relentless war against fishermen, Tribes and the state’s fish populations. There is nothing “green” about Schwarzenegger other than the toxic “green” of corporate money that he and his collaborators worship.