The Coast needs your help, Part 2
Assembly Member Juan Arambula
Regarding: DOJ Fund Shift Budget Committee
Dear Assembly Member Juan Arambula:
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 efforts to protect our natural heritage.
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