Examining the Record

Jerry Brown, who is 80 years old, served as Governor of California twice, once as the 34th governor, serving two terms after the end of Ronald Regan’s term, from 1975 to 1983 and then again 28 years later, as the 39th governor, again with two terms lasting from 2011 to the present.  From 1971 to 1975, he served as California’s 23rd Secretary of State. From 1989 to 1991, he served as Chair of the California Democratic Party.  Between 1999 and 2007, he served two terms as the Mayor of Oakland.  Following that, he served as California’s Attorney General from 2007 to 2011 under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Brown is now widely expected to retire to his 2700 acre ranch called Rancho Venada outside of Williams, California.  While he is mostly thought of as a climate hero, the actual record is not as clear.  We are trying to research the data and news reports to figure out whether Brown is a climate hero or climate villain, because we really are not sure.

[If you have any information about Brown’s dealings as they impact the climate that are not reported on this page, please contact us to share it.]

Did Jerry Brown abuse his power as Governor?

Questions were raised about whether Brown misused public resources by asking the state’s top oil and gas regulator, Steve Bohlen, for help researching his family’s land. The Associated Press reported that Brown asked for the information in a phone call to Steve Bohlen, in June 2014, shortly after he was appointed by the governor. Bohlen then wrote his staff to follow up on the request:  “The Governor requested information about the geology, past oil and gas activity, potential for future oil and gas activity in the vicinity of his long-time family ranch. I would like this by noon tomorrow so I can review and take this to a meeting with the Governor.”  He added in a later email, “[Please] do not forget some info on the geology” and any mining activity in the area.  This is bad enough, but the issue of the governor’s request came to light as part of a lawsuit against the state by farmers who accuse the state of doing an inadequate job of preventing water pollution from oil and gas drilling, after Brown fired two state regulators when they balked at making it easier for oil companies to drill in California. “The governor treated [the state oil and gas agency] as if he totally controlled it,” said Rex Parris, another lawyer for farmers. “That is not how a regulatory agency is supposed to perform.”  The governor has faced criticism for declining to ban fracking, despite pressure from environmental activists and fellow Democrats.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, $10,000,000 Land Deal Discovered on Governor Brown Colusa Ranch Property, by deacon303, November 20, 2015

What is known about Jerry Brown’s Ranch?

Jerry Brown’s ranch, Rancho Venada, consists of 2,700 acres of land outside of Williams, California, in Colusa County, located 75 minutes northwest of Sacramento that have been in the family since Governor Brown’s great grandfather August Schuckman purchased the land after arriving in Central California during the gold rush.

It has been held as a private trust, Rancho Venada Inc., since 1962 with Ann Gust Brown listed as the primary trustee. The company lists only one officer, a Chris B. Brown and an operating address of 2355 Broadway #407 Oakland, CA. 94612 (this adress is also registered to Brown for Governor, We the People Foundation Inc., The Brown Family Foundation for Education and the Arts, the Corona-Norco Democrat Central Committee and several temporary ballot organizations).

It is believed the Rancho Venada Trust is comprised of beneficiaries Jerry Brown as 27% share holder, another 27% Brown family share member, believed to be Kathleen Brown (former treasurer of the State of California who has ties to Royal Dutch Shell Oil through her father “Pat” Brown) and an as yet still elusive 46% minority shareholder.

Colusa County records show that the 2,700 acre family ranch is divided into 6 separate parcels. 2 of the parcels (016-100-002, 016-100-003) show recent monetary activity. Parcel# 016-100-002 listed as 40 acres with an assessed tax value of $3,412.00 was transferred to a secondary entity in 2005 for $5,078,000.00. Parcel# 016-100-003 listed as 640 acres with an assessed tax value of $54,597 as well shows transfer in 2005 for $5,078,000.00. Both transfers are filed to 37760 Borel Rd. Murrieta, CA 92653 according to Colusa County Sale Document #2005R3402. 37760 Borel Rd. Murrieta, CA. comes back as the address of Agriscape, Inc. a self stated Organic Soils, Landscape Supplier & Green Waste Recycling. At this time, Agriscape won’t comment on what they purchased from Governor Browns ranch for $10,156,000.00. It is believed these sales were for top soil from the Brown owned agricultural reserve.

What is known about the oil wells on Jerry Brown’s Ranch?

Governor Brown has continually denied the existence of oil or gas wells on the Rancho Venada property, however according to maps from the California Department of Conservation (see map top right) three wells do exist on the Governor’s property and have for decades. The first well (from top to bottom) is listed as Smith & Vickers Well#1 a plugged production gas well, API: 01100287. The second well is listed as E. & G. Products Well#1 an idle production gas well, API: 01100286 . Well 3 is listed as Mountain House Oil Company Well#5 an idle production Dry Gas Well, API: 01100288.

Smith & Vickers Well#1 is reported to have been abandoned on May 12th, 1931. This well is reported to have drilled to a depth 1027′ and never produced oil, however it did strike fresh water at a depth of 302′ to 308′ producing 8 barrels a minute of water. No oil sands were present. The hole was sealed with a 10′ cement plug.

& G. Products Well#1 is reported abandoned May 20th, 1938. Apparently the oil derrick and pumping equipment burned and drilling never resumed. The well is reported to have been drilled to a depth of 148′ where it began to produce a mixture of oil and saltwater amounting to roughly a half gallon of oil a minute. Shale oil, oil sands and blue shale were encountered prior to termination of operations. The hole is currently untapped and idle.

Mountain House Oil Company Well#5 is reported as abandoned on December 31st, 1931. The well was drilled to a depth of 1322′ where it struck sand shell deposits and blue shale. A natural gas deposit “in commercial quantities” was discovered at a depth of 1042′. The hole is currently listed as capped with a small pipe and idle.

Regarding the E. & G. well and the Mountain House well 1930’s drilling technology would not have allowed for viable petroleum production from those sand and shale deposits, however due to new drilling techniques, namely “fracking”, those two wells now stand to be potentially, extremely lucrative if exploited. Fracking however requires vast amounts of water to pump into the wells in conjunction with sand and chemicals to fracture the shale deposits thereby releasing the trapped oil or gas deposits. Rancho Venada is a notably parched section of land in a historically dry region and would be hard pressed to accommodate the needed hydro-flow capacity to begin a fracking project.

Mercury News, Jerry Brown’s investments belie monastic image, by Thomas Peele, published October 18, 2014, UPDATED: August 12, 2016

What is known about Jerry Brown’s finances?

In recent years, Brown has quietly built a small fortune in real estate and stock holdings, in part by going into business with prominent Oakland developers whom he once regulated as that city’s mayor, a Bay Area News Group analysis of Brown’s personal investments shows. In 2012, he invested in an $11 million office building near Oakland International Airport in an area that is being considered for a massive “Coliseum City” redevelopment project that could include new baseball and football stadiums. In 2014, Brown and partners broke ground on a 100-unit apartment building on prime real estate they bought in 2007 on the Oakland-Emeryville border. Brown has stakes in millions of dollars of East Bay real estate with developers Phil Tagami — who did a lot of business with Oakland when Brown was mayor — and John Protopappas, who was Brown’s landlord. He also drew up to $100,000 in income last year from a Beverly Hills investment firm, is part-owner of his family’s sprawling Colusa County ranch and owns up to $1 million worth of stock in a medical office software firm, while his wife owns more than $1 million in Jack in the Box stock.  Read the article to learn more.

Brown’s Last Chance, formed in early 2018 with backing from over 800 environmental and social justice groups including 350 Bay Area, 350 Silicon Valey, 350.org, Acterra, Alameda County Interfaith Climate Action Network, Alliance for Climate Education, Amazon Watch, American Environmental Health Studies Project, Asian Pacific Evironmental Network, Bard Center for Environmental Policy, Bay Rising, Berkeley Action Committee, Berkeley Citizens Action, Beyond Extreme Energy, Bold Alliance, California Coast Protection Network, California Communities Against Toxics, California Environmental Justice Alliance, California Federation of Teachers,

[Partial Listing continued] California for Progress, Californians Against Fracking, Californians for Western Wilderness, Carbon Market Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Environmental Health, Central California Asthma Collaborative, Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Clean Water Action, Climate 911, Climate Action Now!, Climate Hawks Vote, Climate Reality Project, ClimateMama, Consumer Watchdog, Corporate Accountability, Courage Campaign, CREDO Action, Daily KOS, Defenders of Wildlife, Earth Day Network, Earth Island Institute, Earthjustice, East Bay Young Democrats, EcoAmerica, Elders Climate Action, Energy Watch Group, Environment California, Food & Water Watch, Fossil Free California, and hundreds more.

Who’s unhappy with Jerry Brown’s Climate Policies?

In early 2018, more than 800 environmental, health and consumer groups gave Governor Jerry Brown one last chance to rein in his state’s fossil fuel production. They called their alliance “Brown’s Last Chance” and warned that if he didn’t step up, his climate swan song—the Global Climate Action Summit—would be ringed with protests.  He didn’t listen.

On Sept. 13 hundreds of activists led by the Indigenous and frontline communities harmed by California’s oil and gas industry surrounded the climate summit to make their voices heard. Their message was clear: We cannot and will not celebrate politicians like Jerry Brown who turn a blind eye to dirty and dangerous drilling.

California has positioned itself as a global leader on climate change and promotes itself as a model for the rest of the world. Yet even as Governor Brown purports to lead the world’s environmental movement as host of the Global Climate Summit this September, he continues to aggressively drill for oil. Few people realize that California drills vast quantities of the world’s most climate-polluting fuel. Our state extracts about 200 million barrels of oil per year. 1. Under Governor Brown’s administration, state oil regulators have issued more than 20,000 drilling permits for dirty oil and gas wells. 2 Kern County, America’s largest oil-producing county, has projected the development of 2,697 new wells per year for the next 20 years and beyond.

Articles about Jerry Brown

So which is he? A global leader in combat against climate change? Or a fraud whose fear of big oil has exacerbated the crisis?

“What he is saying he is doing and what he is actually doing do not align,” she told me afterward, referring to Brown’s reputation — undeserved, in her view — as an environmental hero. “The moment Jerry Brown spoke up, we spoke up. The moment we started calling him into awareness about how much of a liar he is, security was already there.”

“While Jerry Brown has done some good things,” said Pennie Opal Plant, a founder of Idle No More San Francisco and neighbor to the Bay Area’s string of oil refineries, “when it comes to the critical things that need to happen to ensure survivability of all of life under Mother Earth’s belly, he has failed.”

The crux of activists’ complaints — and the thrust of the “Brown’s Last Chance” campaign — has been the governor’s reticence to also take supply-side action and limit the considerable oil and gas drilling in the state. Indeed, Brown has done the opposite, approving over 21,000 new permits for oil and gas drilling since he took office in 2011. Sixty-seven of those new permits are for operations in communities of color, and 77 percent are in communities with higher than average poverty rates for the state.

“A report produced by the Stockholm Environment Institute, or SEI, found that each barrel of oil left undeveloped in California would reduce global oil consumption by anywhere from 0.2 to 0.6 barrels. What’s more, the supply chain of California crude oil is more carbon intensive than that from other major oil producers like Alaska, Saudi Arabia, or Ecuador, so oil substituted from elsewhere would still likely represent a net savings in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. By extension, if the state were to cut its oil production in half — to around 100 million barrels per year — the net carbon savings could range from 8 million to 24 million tons of CO2 annually. To put that in perspective, that’s the equivalent of taking between 1.6 million and 4.7 million cars off the road every year.”

“Brown relies on a combination of sophistry and slur. He somehow transforms the request for a gradual, managed phase-out of new oil-drilling permits into a demand that he “snap my fingers and eliminate all gasoline in all California gasoline stations.” And if he did that, he continues, “what would happen? Revolution? Killings? Shootings?” The absurdity of this straw-man scenario only proves his unwillingness to lift a finger against the oil companies that have poured millions into his campaigns.

Brown also adopts a favorite talking point of the Canadian tar-sands industry: Stop the flow of our filthy oil and we’ll just end up buying it elsewhere. But the most thorough study of phasing out California’s oil fields found that, even if it slightly raised the demand for foreign oil, the net result would be to cut total world emissions—in fact, at a rate on par with all of California’s other energy innovations.”

California’s environmental “horrors add up to a compelling truth: The steps that first-generation leaders like Brown have taken are too small to meet the demands of the moment. Yes, Brown is standing up to President Trump, and yes, he’s done more than other governors have. But when it comes to climate change, it’s physics that we must measure ourselves against—and by that standard, we’re losing.”

Environmental Progress, Jerry Brown’s Secret War on Clean Energy, by Michael Shellenberger, January 11, 2018

A new, two-year investigation by Environmental Progress concludes that no American politician has killed more clean energy than Gov. Jerry Brown — and in ways that often benefited his own family financially.  We publish this story on the day the Brown-controlled California Public Utilities Commission has voted to kill Diablo Canyon, California’s largest single source of clean energy, and the state’s last nuclear plant. They did so despite being under federal and state criminal investigation relating to the closure of yet another nuclear plant, San Onofre, in 2013.

Had Brown’s policies resulted in lower emissions and cheaper energy, this would just be the story of yet another crooked political family. But they didn’t: Brown’s policies have increased California’s carbon emissions and increased electricity prices. Between 2011 and 2016, Gov. Brown’s time in office, electricity prices rose nearly four times more (16.7 percent) in California than they did nationally (3.7 percent).

What makes EP’s investigation even more significant is the crucial role Brown played in legitimizing anti-scientific anti-nuclear ideology, and creating the anti-nuclear movement — one which has replaced nuclear plants with fossil fuels (under the guise of renewable energy promotion) in Germany, Vermont, Japan, Taiwan, and other nations around the world. We are not suggesting that financial motives alone explain the anti-nuclear movement. But the heavy and sustained involvement of Gov. Brown and others with a direct financial interest in killing the main competitor to petroleum and natural gas can no longer be ignored as a key factor to its rise and continuing power.