February 3rd, 2017
Sometimes the hypocrisy in Washington can surprise even the most jaded among us. Here’s an example that shocked me recently: less than one month back in office and Congressman Steve Knight has already completely backtracked on one of his main campaign claims. When arguing for his political life, Knight claimed he spent his time in office fighting for the people harmed by the Aliso Canyon Gas Leak and bragged about requesting new regulations to protect against future leaks. Then, less than 48 hours into his new term, and once he figured voters weren’t looking, Rep. Knight voted to halt those exact same protections.
Let’s take a step back: shortly before the November election (and while taking heat for his slow response to the Aliso Canyon Gas Leak) Rep. Steve Knight attempted to sell voters that he was fighting for the local community and working to prevent future gas leaks.
For example, Rep. Knight routinely discussed a bill he authored and claimed that it would help protect against future leaks. On October 18, 2016, just three weeks before the election, Rep. Knight issued a press release in which he stated:
Earlier this year Rep. Knight introduced H.R. 4429, the Natural Gas Leak Prevention Act, which would require the Secretary of Transportation to issue safety standards for underground natural gas storage facilities to prevent gas leaks similar to the one that occurred in Porter Ranch last October.
That’s something we need, even though I didn’t believe Rep. Knight’s plan went far enough. But the about face he pulled was shocking. In his first week back in office, he voted to block the exact same protections his own bill required the Secretary of Transportation to issue. You read that right: with his reelection behind him, Rep. Knight completely disregarded the health and safety of our community and once again sided with the same big oil companies who donated tens of thousands of dollars to his reelection campaign.
Here are the facts:
On January 4, 2017, Rep. Knight co-sponsored the REINS Act (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act), which prevents a federal Agency from issuing any “major rule” unless Congress allows it. That would stop agencies from creating the exact protections he told his constituents he asked for.
On January 5, 2017, California Congressman Jerry McNerney gave Rep. Knight another chance and proposed House Amendment 11 to the REINS Act. That amendment would have protected rules intended to ensure the safety of natural gas or hazardous materials pipelines.
Rather than stand up for safety protections that affect Aliso Canyon, however, Congressman Knight voted against the amendment, standing with dirty oil companies and against his constituents.
It’s one thing to own your positions; to say you’re ok with reducing safety protections on oil and gas companies even if that puts Southern Californians at risk. It’s quite another to tell voters who just got their ballots in the mail that you’re standing up for the local community and fighting for a safer environment, and then immediately sell the community down the river in your first week back in office. Not only does that represent the absolute worst in politics, it really makes me wonder what else Steve Knight will sell out to his contributors now that he thinks no one is watching him in Washington.
As Sempra Energy moves to reopen the Aliso Canyon facility, and with the Honor Rancho natural gas storage facility located right here in Valencia, it’s more critical than ever that our elected officials prioritize the health and safety of our children and families over campaign contributions from dirty oil companies.
Bryan Caforio is an attorney who lives in Valencia. He was the Democratic candidate for the 25th Congressional District in 2016.
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