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Right-wing, Anti-National Park Interests Misled Sonoma City Council Resolution
by EAC of West Marin
Tuesday Jun 4th, 2013 2:14 PM
The facts don't matter as Drakes Bay Oyster Company seeks to privatize Point Reyes National Seashore.
Supporters of the Interior Department’s decision to protect the Point Reyes National Seashore’s ecological heart, Drakes Estero, as the West Coast’s first marine wilderness area today charged that opponents of the Obama Administration’s decision presented “inaccurate and misleading” information to the Sonoma City Council to win approval of a resolution riddled with factual inaccuracies that run counter to established state and federal law.

“This resolution is a work of fiction,” said Amy Trainer, Executive Director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin. “It disregards well-established federal and state law and policy, as well as the expert scientific conclusions that Drakes Estero marine wilderness area is much better off without commercial oyster operations. We trust our state and federal legislators from this region will protect the public interest from right-wing-funded attacks based on cherry-picked information,” she said.

The resolution asks Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) and Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) to intervene on behalf of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company in direct conflict with the well-established legal opinions of state agencies. “Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s relentless pursuit to privatize Drakes Estero while conveniently ignoring its expired lease contract and policy, National Park Service Management Policies, and the California Coastal Act, is undeniably part of a larger right-wing campaign to open our most protected and treasured public lands to commercial exploitation," said Trainer.

The Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s partners to exploit protected public lands include Koch Brothers-funded organizations Americans For Prosperity and the Pacific Legal Foundation, pro-Keystone Pipeline Senator David Vitter (R-LA), and arch-conservative chair of the House Natural Resources Committee Congressman Doc Hastings (R-WA). Drakes Bay Oyster Company and the conservative legal group Cause of Action, which provided pro bono legal services, continue to refuse to reveal the funders of their legal and PR efforts.

The State of California and Congressman Huffman have already rejected the intended goals of last night’s resolution. Congressman Huffman, one of six California Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee, previously stated that Rep. Hastings’ engagement in the oyster company case was “a political witch-hunt to embarrass the administration,” and that, “if the GOP leadership is interested in science this would be a first.” The California Fish & Game Commission’s attorney has stated that the, "Drakes Bay leases were contingent on continuing approval by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) of a right of the company to operate on land at the shore of the Estero. That permission having been withdrawn by DOI, the leases no longer are valid and cannot be relied upon by the Company as authority to operate their aquaculture endeavor in the Estero." (emphasis added).

The Sonoma City Council completely disregarded the company’s repeated violations of the Coastal Act and multiple cease and desist orders issued for its unlawful behavior, including the thousands of pieces of the company’s plastic pollution collected all over the Point Reyes National Seashore, in calling the company “sustainable.” The resolution also claims that the Drakes Bay Oyster Company produces 40% of California’s oysters, a falsehood repeatedly perpetuated by the company. Industry data shows that the company produces less than 20% of California’s oysters, and less than 4% of West Coast oysters.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Murray Suid
Tuesday Jun 4th, 2013 11:18 PM
Yes. I'm one. Moreover, I can name many other DBOC supporters who identify themselves as liberals, leftists, and progressives. Many of these folks are environmentalists, and some of them are trained in the sciences.

Why make it seem as if this is a fight between rightists and leftists? It isn't. I haven't done the research, but I'm guessing that the great majority of those who want DBOC to continue in operation are on the left.

But in fact political orientation isn't relevant. Rather than label those on one side or the other, we'll come closer to the truth by focusing only on the facts. Presumably, this is what the court will do. I predict that the judges won't bring up the political orientation of anyone in the case. Rather--and properly--they will try to sort out the relevant information. By doing likewise, we can perhaps avoid further dividing our community.

by Yannick Phillips
Wednesday Jun 5th, 2013 6:21 PM
Someone here is asking, "Do any left-wingers support the farm?" Absolutely and of course!! Many do. First of all, absolutely NO right-wing anti-national park interests misled the Sonoma City council. How do I know? I am the one who asked the City council to support the resolution and I am a liberal-winger, a Democrat with no political leaning to the right-wing side.The resolution was supported with back-up information and documents. It is an INSULT to the well educated city council members, one of them being an attorney for over 20 yrs., to insinuate that they were misled. How insulting and disrespectful!

Liberals supporting: Famed Alice Waters, the liberal organization fighting GMOS- 'Food Democracy Now!' , famed author and professor Michael Pollan and many more. Ask'll see most of your liberal, conservative, non-political leaning friends, sustainable farmers and business owners most likely support the farm!! Take the challenge! Ask around!

Drakes Bay Oyster Company Still Has Ties With Koch Brothers-Linked Groups

The oyster company may have cut ties with one group linked to the billionaire oil barons, but two others are still fighting on its behalf.
By Robert Gammon
June 5, 2013

Over the years, Drakes Bay Oyster Company has marketed itself as an environmentally sustainable business that Bay Area foodies should embrace. But late last year, the bubble burst on the oyster farm's image when the Express revealed that the company had teamed up with a group that has close ties to the ultra-conservative Koch Brothers in its legal fight against the Obama administration. The right-wing group, Cause of Action, then used the oyster farm's case to push for stronger rights for private businesses operating on public land. This arrangement understandably made some local foodies and environmentalists uneasy. And that uneasiness deepened last month when PBS NewsHour ran a lengthy report on the relationship between the oyster farm and the Koch Brothers-linked group.

The damage to the oyster farm's well-crafted image — along with its increasingly diminished standing in the Bay Area foodie and environmental communities — was apparently too much for it to bear. And so last week, Drakes Bay Oyster Company severed ties with Cause of Action, after the group sent a searing complaint letter to PBS demanding that it turn over video recordings used in its news report and threatening to sue the organization. (The oyster farm's owners wrote a separate letter to PBS, stating that, while they didn't like the NewsHour report, they strongly disagreed with Cause of Action's complaint letter.)

Yet even though Cause of Action is no longer playing a role in the oyster farm's legal battle with the US Department of the Interior, other Koch Brothers-linked groups are still involved in the fight and have rallied to the oyster farm's cause. The Pacific Legal Foundation, a California-based conservative group that has received funding from the Koch Brothers, has publicly declared that it intends to help the oyster farm in its attempt to remain open at Point Reyes National Seashore.

In addition, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) — a group that was founded by the Koch Brothers, has been a been a major funder of the Tea Party, and spent untold millions last year attempting to defeat President Obama — produced a video earlier this year championing the oyster farm's efforts. In the video, AFP portrayed then-US Secretary Ken Salazar's decision last November to allow the oyster farm's lease to expire at Point Reyes as a "federal land grab" — even though the farm operates on public land and had been told repeatedly that its lease would not be renewed.

Conservative Republicans in Congress also are still fighting on behalf of the oyster farm. Senator David Vitter of Louisiana has been attempting to extend the farm's lease through legislation that would also green-light the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, expand offshore oil drilling, and open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration (the Koch Brothers have made billions in oil and natural gas drilling). The oyster farm's owners, Kevin and Nancy Lunny, also have repeatedly appeared on Fox News to promote their campaign. And they're still represented in court by law firms that also have fought for increased development on California's coastline.

In short, the oyster farm may have cut ties with one conservative group, but it's still being backed by plenty of others.

Moreover, Cause of Action, which is run by a former Koch Brothers staffer and refuses to disclose its donors, provided the oyster farm with hundreds of thousands of dollars — perhaps more — in legal services for free. That pro bono legal help included leading the court effort to overturn Salazar's decision. Currently, the case is before the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which could issue a decision at any time. And if the oyster farm wins a favorable ruling, it would be largely the result of Cause of Action's efforts. Such a ruling also could provide a big win for corporate interests operating on public property.

And even if the oyster farm loses at the Ninth Circuit, it will still have to depend on right-wing interests to remain open. The oyster farm is expected to appeal its case all the way to the US Supreme Court, and once it gets there, it likely will only prevail with the help of the court's conservative justices. In other words, the oyster farm's fate is inextricably tied to conservatives and corporations who want to weaken environmental regulations, especially on public land. And the question is: How long will liberal foodies and environmentalists keep their heads in the sand and keep supporting the oyster farm's efforts?

Three-Dot Roundup

According to a renowned civil engineer, more than six hundred steel rods on the new Bay Bridge were made to be too hard and could be vulnerable to cracking, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Tests showed that the rods rated at hardness levels above industry standards — just like the 32 giant bolts that already snapped. However, John Fisher, a civil engineer and bridge specialist working with Caltrans, said the agency should wait for the results of more testing before deciding to replace the six-hundred-plus rods. Those tests also will help the agency determine whether to delay the planned Labor Day opening of the new $6.4 billion span. ... Oakland Mayor Jean Quan's chances of being reelected improved late last week with the announcement by City Auditor Courtney Ruby that she will not challenge Quan in 2014. The Oakland Tribune reported that Ruby has decided to seek reelection as city auditor and that Port Commissioner Gilda Gonzales also has ruled out a run for mayor. Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan and county Supervisor Nate Miley have both previously said that they will not run for mayor next year. Currently, the only potential challengers for Quan are San Francisco State University professor Joe Tuman, who finished fourth in the 2010 mayor's race and has never won elective office, and Port Commissioner Bryan Parker, who has little name recognition.
by Not a liar
Wednesday Jun 5th, 2013 6:37 PM
What is Yannick Phillips' and Murray Suid's financial stake in this?

Enquiring minds want to know.
Drakes Bay Oyster Company's PR Face Lift Won't Fix Its Koch Brothers Blemishes

By Helen Grieco, June 5, 2013

In January, California Common Cause began questioning the connections between the Drakes Bay Oyster Company and the Koch Brothers, the Oklahoma oil company barons who finance pro-business causes, including nationwide efforts to privatize public park lands.

This week, the oyster company decided that connection was a PR problem in the San Francisco Bay area community. With much uproar, Drakes Bay dumped Cause of Action, the pro-public land development firm with strong links to the Koch Brothers, that had provided pro bono legal services to the company.

This move came after PBS Newshour publicized the connection between the Drakes Bay Oyster Company and the law firm's right-wing backing. The forceful PBS report also emphasized the contract guiding the National Park Service's decision to close the pollution-filled oystering operation when its lease expired. The decision ensured that Americans would maintain control of this property bought by taxpayers 40 years ago for protection as the first marine wilderness on the West Coast.

Apparently the truth hurt.

After the PBS report aired, both Cause of Action and Drake's Bay sent scathing letters to PBS blasting their news report. Cause of Action went further by filing a Freedom of Information Act request for all of the news organization's raw tapes produced during their filming -- an unthinkable attack on the well-respected PBS.

Meanwhile, the oyster company was relishing the favorable coverage from Fox News.

Not surprisingly, the public is seeing through the company's fictitious claims. For example, the oyster company isn't historic -- it was formed in 2005 after buying the lease's remaining seven years from the previous owner, fully aware of the 2012 lease expiration. The lease couldn't be renewed, which is why the company waged an attack campaign on the Park Service.

Additionally, the company's operations are defined as wholly unsustainable; it plants millions of non-native Japanese oysters and Manila clams, and repeatedly committed "intentional and knowing" State Coastal Act violations, including polluting the estuary with plastic debris and operating motorboats in sensitive harbor seal habitat. Californians are realizing that the company's Big Oil-agenda is an attack on the public interest.

Those following this saga understand that firing one law firm cannot shield the company from the evidence before the public that reveals an agenda to commercialize national parks and wilderness areas. You only need to look at the company's legal supporters, its industry lobbyists, and its champions in Congress.

Joining forces with the company is the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), which is funded by the Koch Brothers and believes that our nation's protected public lands should be open to exploitation by commercial and private interests.

Supporters of PLF include members of Congress that rank at the bottom of the environmental scorecard produced by the non-partisan League of Conservation Voters. They include Senator David Vitter (R-LA) and Congressman Doc Hastings (R-WA), who have a 4 percent and 3 percent rating respectively.

Senator Vitter is author of the Republican energy bill, called the Energy Production and Project Delivery Act of 2013, which would expedite permitting for the Keystone XL pipeline, open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for gas and oil development, allow for offshore drilling along the California coast and the rest of the country. Tucked at the very end of a 51-page energy bill is a provision which would provide the oyster company with a new operating permit despite its lease expiring months ago.

Congressman Hastings is heading up a clearly political effort, seeking reams of documents regarding the Interior Secretary's decision with a specific focus on the scientific analysis. In his request Rep. Hastings claims Secretary Salazar's decision "was not based on scientific data" but instead matters of long-established contractual terms and park policy.

Meanwhile, the company and its discredited scientist have taken to Fox News and talk radio to amplify their talking points on allegations of "fraud" -- allegations disproved by the Inspector General.

For the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, it is too little and too late to repair its tarnished image. The public now knows it is working lockstep with pro-corporate lawyers and legislators on an agenda to open up the voters' beloved national parks and wilderness areas to industry and commercialization.

California Common Cause remains concerned about this precedent-setting land-grab that subverts the public interest for special interests. We will continue to monitor and shed light on this issue so our public lands are protected for future generations.