sins of commission


about the film sins of commission


The fate of public lands cannot be decided in contracts negotiated behind closed doors.

Controller John Chiang,  Lands Commission member

I’ve been looking for a way to demonstrate what I call the new eco-industrial complex while raising awareness about whole-scale corruption in the “name of the environment” then I read this little Dusey about a secret agreement between an oil company and a California environmental group, thank-you Calbuzz, and the pieces fit neatly into place.

It seems there is some kind of a secret pact between Huston based oil company PXP and Environmental Defense Center (EDC).

EDC has been prominent in the decades-long fight against offshore drilling in California according to Calbuzz.

Wait a second.

EDC, a prominent environmental group, has been publicly eschewing off-shore drilling but privately endorsing PXP’s application for lease to slant drill into state waters, from an existing platform under federal jurisdiction, more than three miles offshore.

It is shameful that an oil company got an environmental group - in this case Environmental Defense Center to do its bidding for YEARS for a piddly 100k… peanuts compared to the billions PXP is going to make.

PXP and EDC said they recently incorporated amendments to the agreement to address criticisms raised at the initial State Lands Commission hearing by strengthening written assurances that the promised benefits of the agreement will materialize.


In one fell swoop EDC has not only tarnished environmental groups and raises the pay-for-play question, but has trashed the street cred of the State Lands Commission, and all the other agencies under them. This revelation raises some very uncomfortable questions - similar to the ones I raise in SINS OF COMMISSION that demand rigorous investigation and appropriate action.

SINS OF COMMISSION reveals that for decades the California Coastal Commission, an agency of state, engages in environmental degradation in exchange for a dedication of land or an easement of property.

Now it seems this deal-making behind closed doors is “business as usual.” - despite claims of transparency. If recent scandal-ridden history has taught us anything…this is just the tip of theiceberg.

…it is not unusual for environmental groups to keep private the legal agreements or settlements it makes with corporations applying for permits or leases before public agencies.

Linda Krop, chief counsel for the Environmental Defense Center

If it is a private deal that is one thing… but oil leases are not generally considered private….oil leases are a public resource.

If permission is given, this would be the first lease granted by the state since Union Oil’s disastrous 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill - an oil spill that lead to vociferous public outrage- an outrage that needs voice now right here in California.

Read more at Calbuzz:

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  1. Francis Drouillard Says:

    I agree that the secret EDC/PXP deal hangs an albatross around the necks of other environmentalists, even those that adamantly oppose the Tranquillon Ridge project.

    However, to suggest that the State Lands Commission or the California Coastal Commission engage in similar practices is absolutely looney. For one, it was the State Lands Commission that stopped the deal in the first place. Second, a member of the California Coastal Commission organized what little local opposition there was to the deal.

    Asserting that the Coastal Commission “engages in environmental degradation in exchange for [an easement] is way off the mark. That statement only serves to illustrate your complete failure to understand the authority and obligations of the Coastal Commission.

    The Commission’s job is to ensure that development is consistent with the Coastal Act. In large part that means protecting access to the beach and protecting natural resources in the Coastal Zone. If a property owner wants to develop land and that development closes access to the coast, the commission is obligated to act to maintain or restore that access. Obtaining an easement is but one way to maintain or restore that access so you and other Californians can continue to access and enjoy the California Coast.

  2. admin Says:

    Yes, the need for absolute transparency in all things land and resources, and the manner in which things are negotiated - and done - needs monitoring.

    My comment regarding the California Coastal Commission engaging in degradation of the environment still stands. There are many ways to degrade the environment - some have direct impact and are visible, others indirect and apparent years after the fact.

    Yes, the California Coastal Commission’s job is supposed to be to ensure development is consistent with the Coastal Act. But given the inherent dysfunctionality of the commission’s structure and process… coupled with the fact all decisions boil down to one person’s yea or nay - that consistency, I have documented in the film, is more often than not open to interpretation - usually Mr. Douglas’, and to the determent of many people, and the environment in California.

  3. jeane Says:

    To Drouillard,

    Over 86 handwritten (some illustrated), individually written letters to the California Coastal Commission were deep-sixed in a file drawer and deliberately mischaracterized as “form letters” when it suited the CCC to rule in favor of destroying the one accessible recreational resource in a park acquired with public funds by its “sister” agency, the Santa Monica Mts. Conservancy. On the other hand two letters by jealous neighbors “required” the CCC to table and hear their challenge to the placement of a new manufactured house in a trailer park.

    The CCC rules as it wishes, violates the Brown Act that requires transparency, and ignores evidence submitted by citizens before it rules–ignorantly and deliberately on public issues.

    Sorry, but sometimes we just have to admit that Santa Claus does not exist and that our cherished environmental heroes are backstabbers with a corrupt agenda.
    The CCC has no monitor except us, and ignores us with impunity. It is unelected and its tenure lasts longer than that of any governor or elected official.

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