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Interior Dept. Supreme Court Brief Concludes Oyster Company Presents No Credible Argument
by EAC of West Marin
Wednesday May 28th, 2014 1:56 PM
Today, the Department of the Interior filed its opposition brief against the Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s petition for review to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Interior Department’s opposition brief handily rejected the oyster company’s desperate attempt to continue operating more than a year after former Interior Secretary Salazar decided to let the 40-year lease expire on its own terms as planned. The Federal District Court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the legality of Salazar’s decision, including that the oyster company was well aware of the lease’s 2012 expiration date.

“The Interior Department’s brief strongly articulates the many reasons why the Obama Administration’s decision to let the 40-year commercial oyster lease expire and allow Drakes Estero to be restored to wilderness is definitively supported by federal court decisions, as well as federal law and policy,” said Amy Trainer, executive director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin. “The Interior Department’s brief handily rejects the oyster company’s misguided and erroneous legal arguments, and seamlessly shows why the Supreme Court should pass on reviewing this case.”

“Three federal court rulings have rejected the oyster company’s assault on taxpayer purchased lands, bringing Americans one step closer to enjoying their national park wilderness as planned decades ago,” said Neal Desai, pacific region field director of the National Parks Conservation Association.

Highlights from the Interior Department’s brief include:

-- The court of appeals accordingly considered on the merits (and rejected) every objection that petitioners [Drakes Bay Oyster Co.] raised against the Secretary’s decision. Pg. 11

-- The petition does not identify any particular, specific, reviewable arguments that were presented to, but disregarded by, the court of appeals. Pg. 14

-- Because the court of appeals did not conclude that there was “no law to apply” in this case, the decision below does not implicate any of the circuit conflicts alleged by petitioners. Pg. 15

-- The decision in this case did not alter the legal status quo. This is not a circumstance in which an agency is required by statute or regulation to act on a permit application. Rather it is a circumstance in which rights reserved in a contract conveying land to the United States were set to expire on their own terms, and the agency did nothing to change that situation. Allowing such rights to expire is not naturally characterized as “major agency action.”And none of the circuit decisions relied on by petitioner suggests that NEPA would apply in a circumstance like this. Pg. 23