THE COAST NEEDS YOUR HELP
The Coast is under attack and this time, if the proposal to require the Coastal Commission to pay for all legal services previously supplied by the Attorney General is approved, it will leave the Commission with very limited ability to defend itself in a lawsuit or enforce the Coastal Act. This is one of the most serious threats to the continued viability of California’s coastal protection program since the attack on the constitutionality of the Commission in the Marine Forest caseThe commission may be unable to initiate lawsuits to protect public access or other coastal resources. This also effectively means that the Commission would be unable to deny any applicant or to impose any conditions on any proposal that the applicant opposes, based on whether the Commission could afford the cost of litigation. It means that coastal protection as we have known it is over. Please read the full discussion below and then take action immediately, since this proposal is supported by Jerry Brown’s Office, the Department of Finance, the LAO and the Committee staff. This proposal is currently being considered in the Budget sub-committee and will be acted on shortly.
Thanks for your help
PLEASE HELP BY SENDING A FAX OR CALLING ASAP
Please contact Attorney General, Jerry Brown, and Senator Mark DeSaulnier, Chair of Budget Subcommittee 4, and tell them to EXEMPT THE PUBLIC RIGHTS DIVISION OF DOJ, AND SPECIFICALLY THE COASTAL COMMISSION FROM THE PROPOSED INSIDIOUS LEGAL SERVICES FUNDING SHIFT. Tell them that departments, such as the Commission, whose function is to protect the public’s rights, need to be certain they have legal representation to do so.
Senator DeSulnier : 916-445-2527 (fax); 916-651-4077 (phone)
Attorney General Brown: fax: 916-445-6749; 916-324-5437-phone
Senator Mark DeSaulnier
Chair, Senate Budget Subcommittee 4
Re4 DOJ Fund Swap
Dear Senator DeSaulnier:
You have always been one of the Legislature’s strongest champions of environmental protection and public rights. Today I am writing to express my extreme opposition to the Department of Justice (DOJ) proposal to “bill” departments that protect our coast and environment for litigation that defends our natural resources. The Coastal Commission, State Lands Commission, Water Board and other public agencies that protect the public’s rights to clean beaches, clean water and access to public lands should not have to base their decisions on whether or not these rights deserve to be upheld based on case-by-case budget decisions made by the Department of Finance. Funding these legal costs currently comes from the General Fund and are written into the DOJ budget. This has worked extremely well for nearly forty years. Why change it now and seriously harm coastal and environmental protection?
The State Lands and the Coastal Commission do not control who initiates legal challenges to its actions, whether oil companies, developers, or environmentalists. They do have discretion over legal actions the bring to enforce the law, and penalties and fines it pursues to deter law breakers and seek compensation for lost public resources. Under threat of possible legal action, the Commission may have to choose whether or not to deny a project or to impose conditions to bring the project into compliance with the Coastal Act. By shifting legal costs directly to these Commissions, protection of coastal resources will inevitably be sacrificed. This funding shift will abandon coastal protection to well-healed anti-protection ideologues and deep-pocket developers who would be encouraged to sue more often knowing the Commission will run out of money and consequently elect to save its operations rather than protection of public rights and resources.
The State will be setting aside 48 million dollars to cover attorney’s fees for all agencies currently being served by the AG’s office. This is about 60% of what has been needed in the past. To obtain funds the Commission will have to petition for funds and compete with every other agency, including the Department of Corrections, etc. The Department of Finance (i.e. the Governor) will decide who gets the money while there are still funds left. This shift, if approved, will also give unprecedented control over the Commission’s enforcement of coastal protection policies and pursuit of Coastal Act violators to the Governor. Consider the devastating consequences of an anti-coastal protection Governor having such control.
Please reject this proposal and confine any DOJ billing reform to the Department of Corrections, where the real problem exists.
Thank you for your continued efforts to protect our natural heritage.
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