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North Bay / Marin | U.S. | Environment & Forest Defense

Ill-Informed Republican Inquiry Undermines Oyster Company's Legal Case
by Environmental Action Committee of West Marin
Friday Apr 5th, 2013 3:39 PM
The Environmental Action Committee of West Marin today assailed a new inquiry by Congressional Republicans into the decision by the U.S. Department of the Interior to not issue a new permit to the Drakes Bay Oyster Company that has operated for seven years in protected marine waters.
U.S. Representative Doc Hastings (R-Washington State) today issued a press release requesting copies of documents surrounding the decision by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to halt the oyster operations and allow Drakes Estero to become the first marine wilderness on the West Coast as long-intended. The Washington State Republican’s move comes after an attempt by another Congressional Republican, U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana), to allow the operation to continue for another decade. Senator Vitter tried unsuccessfully to tuck the amendment into a budget resolution offered in the Senate three weeks ago.

“Apparently right-wing politicians and industry lobbyists on Capitol Hill have made this policy-based decision about protecting our most special waters into a national cause celebre of conservatives,” says Amy Trainer of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin. “It appears that the corporation’s deep-dive into special interest, right-wing politics has backfired, as the company’s conduits can’t keep their story straight in the rabid attempt to attack national parks, and are in fact making statements that inadvertently undermine the corporation’s own arguments before the court.”

Both Hastings’ and Vitter’s actions come in the wake of multiple investigative news reports in the preceding months that the Company is being provided free legal services by Washington, D.C.-based conservative group, Cause for Action funded by the ultra-conservative oil billionaires David and Charles Koch. Cause of Action is active in fighting for the privatization of public lands throughout the United States.

Trainer said that Rep. Hasting’s letter notes that Secretary Salazar was not bound by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when considering the permit – even though the central part of the Drake’s Bay corporation’s lawsuit is that the NEPA was needed. In addition, says Trainer, Hastings inflated the corporation’s share of the oyster market and number of employees working at the oyster plant.

“It’s unfortunate that right-wing politicians have ignored Secretary Salazar’s legally sound reasoning for his decision, and instead rely on a discredited scientist to deny American taxpayers the marine wilderness they purchased in 1972,” said Trainer. “We remain confident that Secretary Salazar’s decision will stand, despite the ill-informed political pressure from special interests and ultra-conservative politicians.”

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Murray Suid
Friday Apr 5th, 2013 5:58 PM
EAC certainly has access to factual material that supports its position on the Oyster company. Why then does the organization rely on name-calling and character assassination. Such tactics further divided our community.

Consider, for example, the following sentence from EAC's latest public relations piece: “It’s unfortunate that right-wing politicians have ignored Secretary Salazar’s legally sound reasoning for his decision, and instead rely on a discredited scientist..."

It is one thing to disagree with a scientist's theories and evidence. It's something else to assert that a scientist has been "discredited." I very much doubt that EAC can provide any proof that any scientist supporting DBOC has been discredited.

Such name calling only provokes people on both sides of the issue.

How much better it would be if those for and against DBOC focus only on the facts and reject personal attacks. What good is wilderness if we can't maintain a civil society?

I look forward to reading EAC's next contribution to this discussion, hoping that it will be more informational. We don't need to "assail" those who disagree with us. We need to listen to each other and respond with respect and good information.
by Name
Friday Apr 5th, 2013 6:16 PM
Didn't sound like name calling to me, it sounds like the "scientist" referenced is more of an advocate than an impartial party...when corrupt business interests such as the Koch brothers "buy" a scientist, to support their corporate agenda, it discredits the scientist.
Quote "U.S. Representative Doc Hastings (R-Washington State) today issued a press release requesting copies of documents surrounding the decision by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to halt the oyster operations" ....

I ask you, is this a Right Wing stance, to demand government transparency in decision making regarding multi-use Public Lands?

Hardly, this is a Moderate to Liberal position and a responsible Act since we TAXPAYERS all deserve to know how the Big Government in Washington makes decisions which devastate the local sustainable, food producing and job creating businesses.

It seems to me that only an extremist flake would object!
by MurraySuid
Friday Apr 5th, 2013 7:19 PM
Dear Name,

The scientist in question was involved in the oyster issue years before the matter was brought to court. The chronology thus would make it impossible for anyone to "buy" the scientist. Moreover, at a lecture given to the West Marin community, the scientist presented his findings in a measured and scientific manner, not at all like an advocate. Were you there? Did you hear the facts? Did you see the graphics? Did you ask questions? What do you really know about this scientist and his methods?

The same scientist has published his data and analysis in documents that strike me as being scientific and professional.

When you assert that this scientist was bought, do you literally mean that the scientist was paid money or given another form of compensation to say and write certain things that support DBOC? If that's what you mean, you should have evidence that supports such a serious charge. Your comment goes way beyond simply expressing your attitude regarding the case. You are talking about a person's reputation. You can't hide behind those quotation marks that you used to punctuate "buy."

I hope you will clarify your statement.
by Name
Friday Apr 5th, 2013 8:50 PM
You haven't given any facts yet, only your opinion....
by Name
Friday Apr 5th, 2013 9:00 PM
....and if you want my opinion, this "Oyster" company couldn't be shut down fast enough.

It's poor form, Drakes Bay, for not abiding by the agreement made by your company to exit that parkland!
by Name Games
Saturday Apr 6th, 2013 1:50 PM
So, Is some right wing backed paralegal spamming pro-environmental articles with false information?


Drakes Bay Oyster Company Turns to Koch Brothers-Linked Group
Robert Gammon — Dec 5, 2012

Drakes Bay Oyster Company, which has portrayed itself as a progressive and environmentally sustainable business and has been supported heavily by Democratic US Senator Dianne Feinstein, has joined forces with a secretive group that has ties to the ultra-conservative Koch Brothers and the Republican Party. The secretive group, which calls itself Cause of Action, is leading the legal fight for the oyster company against the Obama administration’s decision late last week to close the oyster farm at Point Reyes National Seashore and create the first marine wilderness on the West Coast.


Dan Epstein
Cause of Action is run by Dan Epstein, a former staffer for the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Epstein also was the lead Republican attorney for the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform — which is headed by California GOP Congressman Darrell Issa.
Charles Koch and his brother, David, made billions in the oil and natural gas industries and spent hundreds of millions of dollars this year attempting to defeat President Obama. The Koch Brothers also are the primary financiers of the Tea Party, and have heavily backed ultra-right-wing Republican candidates in recent years.

As for Issa, as head of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, he has led a series of investigations into the Obama administration since Republicans regained control of the House in 2010. Issa’s probes, viewed by Democrats as being overly partisan, have included the Fast and Furious scandal, have dominated Republican talking points, and have provided regular fodder for Fox News.

Despite the ties to the Koch brothers and the Republican Party, Mary Beth Hutchins, a spokeswoman for Epstein’s group Cause of Action, maintained in an interview with the Express that the group is a “nonpartisan” charity. Hutchins, however, declined to reveal the identity of the group’s donors. Cause of Action has yet to file a federal tax return with the IRS, so it’s finances are not yet public; Hutchins said the group formed in 2011 and received its 501 (c)(3) status earlier this year.

In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Hutchins said Cause of Action was helping Drakes Bay Oyster Company, owned by rancher Kevin Lunny, free of charge.

This is also not the first time that Lunny has received help from Issa. Last year, Issa strongly criticized the National Park Service for its contention that the oyster company’s lease at Point Reyes should not be renewed. Issa also instructed his Oversight Committee to launch an investigation. Issa and his committee’s actions were viewed by many Democrats, including North Bay Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, as just another attempt by Republicans to embarrass the Obama administration. The oyster company’s fight against the park service also has been taken up by Fox News.

Cause of Action, meanwhile, has been criticized by progressives for sending threatening letters to nonprofits that fight against obesity and tobacco-use. According to a report in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the letters were viewed as attempts to intimidate and quash liberal causes.

Cause of Action’s fight on behalf of Drakes Bay Oyster Company also is viewed in the environmental community as part of a right-wing effort to privatize public land. In a federal lawsuit filed against Obama’s Interior Secretary Ken Salazar earlier this week on behalf of the oyster company, Cause of Action argued that Salazar’s decision to not renew oyster farm’s lease amounted to “an illegal taking” of private property — even though the oyster farm was operating on public land and its owner Lunny knew when he bought the farm in 2005 that the park service had no intention of re-upping his lease after its November 30, 2012 expiration date.

Cause of Action also argues in its suit that Salazar was required by law to conduct a comprehensive environmental review of the oyster farm’s impacts on Point Reyes before deciding to not extend Lunny’s lease. Although the park service did conduct such a review, Cause of Action contends that it was inadequate. Salazar, however, said that his decision to not renew the oyster farm’s lease was not based on the environmental impacts of the oyster farm and instead was based on existing law and policy concerning commercial enterprises on land that had been designated by Congress to become federally protected wilderness — as was the case with Drakes Estero in Point Reyes. Salazar also contends that a full environmental review is not required when making a decision on whether to renew such a lease.

However, if Cause of Action wins its fight, it could force the federal government to complete full environmental reviews every time a private company wants to renew its lease on national parkland designated to become wilderness. Ironically, for Republicans, such an outcome could prove to be quite expensive for taxpayers. The environmental review conducted for Drakes Bay Oyster Company has already cost the federal government more than $3 million, according to Amy Trainer, executive director of The Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, a group that has strongly opposed renewing the oyster farm’s lease.

In fact, the prohibitively high costs associated with completing such environmental reviews could prompt cash-strapped public agencies to renew leases for private companies on public land rather than spend the money. “What we’re talking about is defacto privatization,” Trainer said.

Indeed, Cause of Action’s co-counsel, the Southern California law firm Stoel Rives, argued in a letter last month to Salazar that it believed it would be legally okay for him to renew Lunny’s lease at Drakes Estero without a full environmental review — but not okay for him to let the lease expire without such a review.

http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2012/12/05/drakes-bay-oyster-company-turns-to-koch-brothers-linked-group
by Murray Suid
Sunday Apr 7th, 2013 1:08 PM
To Name Games:

I'm not clear whom you're referring to. Is there really a right-wing-backed paralegal contributing to this discussion? If you identified the person, then we could find out if he or she is what you say.

One of the problems with anonymous posting is that paranoia can creep in along with name calling. That's why I prefer that posters use their actual names. I also like knowing something about the poster's background. Is he or she a paralegal or a Tea-party member or....

If you are simply guessing about the poster's job and affiliation, you really aren't contributing knowledge. The discussion deteriorates into name calling.

Regarding the legal team that is working for DBOC: My own position is that what ultimately counts are the facts that are presented in court. Whether or not a lawyer is right-wing or left-wing or middle of the road, a fact is a fact is a fact. I expect lawyers to be partisan, to pick the facts that support their case. I then expect that the court--a judge or jury--will look at all the facts from an impartial perspective, at least a perspective that is less partial than that held by the partisans.

When we focus on the values and motives of the lawyers, we're distracted from the facts of the case. Perhaps the lawyers do indeed have bad (anti-environment) values. But the lawyers are not on trial nor are the Koch brothers.

There are authentic issues here such as "What exactly does the lease require?" and "Do DBOC's activities harm the environment?"
by Name
Sunday Apr 7th, 2013 1:29 PM
Do you have a financial stake in this issue?
by Name
Sunday Apr 7th, 2013 1:32 PM
Not too many people around here want the Koch brothers buying their way into our parklands.