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LOCAL News :: Environment & Food : Globalization & Capitalism : Labor & Economics

Coastal Commision Staves off Special Interests

For 3 decades, it has been the duty of the California Coastal Commision to ensure "environmentally sustainable and prudent use" of California's 1100 mile coastline. By upholding it's mandate, the commision has won for itself many enemies among those wealthy enough to own a piece of the shoreline. Recently, it's opponents have prevailed in state courts to declare the commission illegal: but those rulings are on hold pending a decision by the Supreme Court of California.

Marine Forests Society v. Coastal Commission, S113466

The current attack on the California Coastal Commision is based on the fact that only 4 of it's 12 members are appointed by the Governor, and it is the duty of the executive branch to carry out legislation.

In oral arguments the Supreme Court thus far appears to be unconvinced by the plaintiff. Earlier today, David Kravets of The Associated Press reported:

Commission opponents and the lower courts said it's the executive branch's duty to carry out legislation, but a majority of the justices did not appear to agree that the commission violates the so-called separation of powers doctrine. They must issue a ruling within 90 days.
Chief Justice Ronald George said the California Constitution, unlike the U.S. Constitution, gives the Legislature complete authority over appointments, and any appointment power of the governor is at the blessing of lawmakers.
Justice Joyce Kennard added, "This court has consistently upheld the existence of that power."

The lawyer for the commission, Lisa Trankly noted that the Supreme Court has upheld a legislatively appointed board to run the state library as far back as 1889.

According to the Commission's executive director, Peter Douglas: "the stakes extend beyond California's borders, because a 1977 federal certification gave the Coastal Commission veto power over any attempt by the federal government to drill for oil off California's coast -- a power that would dissolve if the commission's structure changed."

"The federal decision would be final, and the state would lose its regulatory voice," Douglas said.

In the energy bill now being prepared by the US congress, an attempt is already being made to allow expanded offshore drilling along the Pacific coast, where a long-standing moratorium has been in effect - originally signed by George H. W. Bush and extended to 2012 by Bill Clinton.

Environmental groups have already posted action alerts: gas and oil interests have been trying to undermine the moratorium through a series of quiet maneuvers since August of 2001, and their efforts will intensify in the coming weeks.

David Roknich,



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