Guest: Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47); Also: More on media failure to take the rise of Trump/GOP autocracy with the gravity deserved; Callers...
By Brad Friedman on 10/11/2021, 6:46pm PT  

The good news is that one of the Southern California beaches hit hardest by last week's toxic oil spill reopened today. The bad news comprises the rest of today's BradCast.

The beach at the SoCal town known as Huntington Beach --- in the heart of "Surf City USA" --- was reopened on Monday, after last week's oil spill of anywhere from 25,000 to 144,000 gallons of crude. It leaked from a fractured, 17.5 mile pipeline terminating in Long Beach from a complex of platforms about 5 miles offshore in federal waters. It took anywhere from 10 hours to several days --- we still don't know --- to shut the pipeline down after it cracked, perhaps due to being dragged by a ship anchor along the ocean floor.

But, by the weekend, earlier than expected, there were no longer toxins associated with petroleum at detectable levels in the water off of Huntington Beach, according to officials, even as crews continued to remove tarballs from the sand onshore. That beach, at least for now, has been reopened. Neighboring beaches remain closed to the south, including those at Newport Beach and Laguna Beach. The Orange County Oil Spill was just the latest in a long series of disastrous oil spills that have fowled the CA coastline going back decades, and it has renewed calls to ban offshore drilling in the state.

We're joined today by REP. ALAN LOWENTHAL (D-CA), a member of the House Progressive Caucus whose 47th Congressional District includes Long Beach in Orange County and parts of western L.A. County. Last week, appearing at a news conference with Gov. Gavin Newsom in Huntington Beach just after the spill, Lowenthal called for "a plan to not only stop new drilling, but to figure out how do we stop all drilling that's going on in California." The Congressman joins us today to discuss just that. Long story short, but none of it is easy and for many reasons.

"In California, there have not been any new offshore pipelines in forty years, so there is no new technology. It's all old technology, it's all corroding, it's all waiting for the next disaster to occur," he tells me, before we dive into the murky waters of what would be required to end both leasing and drilling permits at the federal level --- in federal waters, 3 or more miles offshore --- as well as in California waters. Here, the Governor argued last week, it's easy to block new leases (the state hasn't issued any in decades), but shutting down existing platforms and pipelines, and replacing those jobs, is far more difficult.

Lowenthal, who has served in the House since 2013, after many years as a CA Assemblyman and then Senator, is calling for a Congressional probe into the OC Spill and fighting to keep language banning new offshore federal drilling leases in the Democrats' Build Back Better Act. But those provisions could be targeted by West Virginia's fossil fuel friendly Senator Joe Manchin, as Democrats battle with Manchin and Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema to pass Biden's agenda into law. In a best case scenario, the BBB Act would only ban new drilling leases off shore, while permitting existing leases to be developed. Back in the state, on the other hand, a bit more can and should be done, he argues. As we discuss, even the progressive Newsom Administration's oil and gas regulators have approved thousands of new drilling permits on existing leases since the Governor took office in 2019.

"There are two things that California can do," says Lowenthal. "One is to stop the pipelines that come from the federal waters. And the second is not to provide permitting. It's one thing when you say 'no new leases,' but once you already have an existing lease that's developing, there are permits to change the flow, to change the direction and California doesn't have to issue those permits. They can stop it."

There was much more from the Congressman, both enlightening and frustrating at various times. I'll urge you to tune in for the full discussion.

Then, we've been discussing on several recent shows how the media are failing to adequately sound the alarm bells about the terrifying and dangerous rise of rightwing authoritarianism in the U.S., as Trump threatens to run again in 2024 after blatantly trying, but failing, to steal the 2020 election. This time, according to a lengthy and very disturbing monologue from Bill Maher this weekend, he is laying the groundwork to avoid the mistakes he made last time. "He's like a shark that's not gone. Just gone out to sea," Maher warns of the "slow moving coup", before explaining why "we're gonna need a bigger boat," as the GOP is now playing along with his long con. That, as the media begin to repeat many of the very same mistakes they made before his 2016 election.

How can we, in the media, avoid those mistakes and do a better job of informing the nation about the unprecedented assault on democracy itself that we all now face? I really don't know. But we discuss that and open up the phone lines to listeners at the end of today's show to at least begin that critical, much-needed conversation...

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