This is another victory against the California Coastal Commission and their agenda to close recreational areas to vehicular traffic without first complying with state law.
A San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge has rules that the California Coastal Commission must pay $252,726 to the Friends of the Oceano Dunes, an amount comprising of legal and attorney fees tied to a case FOD won against the CCC back in February.Embed from Getty Images
Back in 2017, the California Coastal Commission tried and failed to approve an expansion of their dust control problem surrounding the Oceano Dunes, a plan that had no boundaries set and instead, “Control measures would be allowed in any areas found to be highly emissive.”
In a blog post by the Sierra Club around the time this plan was being pushed through, SC called this dust control program for the Ocean Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area to be “the strongest version of the proposed dust control program.”
This plan, when put in place, superseded any plan put forth by State Parks, calling anything they put forth as “weak beer.”
It’s noteworthy that both CCC and the FOD are both highly upset at the lack of leadership and concrete action from State Parks regarding dust control in this area, more or less saying that this is their job to spearhead.
The more than $250,000 in fees stems from, “counsel’s in person attendance at a November 18, 2019 readiness conference, November 21, 2019 case management conference and February 26, 2020 hearing on the judgment.”
That judgement in February ruled that the CCC overstepped their bounds with such a sweeping dust control program, violating the California Environmental Quality Act which, “requires state and local government agencies to inform decision makers and the public about the potential environmental impacts of proposed projects, and to reduce those environmental impacts to the extent feasible.”
The CCC did not do their due diligence in setting up, carrying out, and submitting some kind of Environmental Impact Report on the sweeping changes their dust control program would have on the environment and to residents in the area.
Regarding monies owed, the CCC further pushed that this February ruling was “technical,” it was unnecessary to seek private counsel and spend so much time and effort to fix what amounts to a “clarification” and, most importantly, that FOD’s findings did not result in any significant benefit to the public, a technical point necessary for FOD to recoup legal fees from the CCC.
The CCC also states the amount FOD was seeking is “unreasonable.”
In the court ruling, the court found that
“The Commission is compelled to comply with CEQA and conduct a proper assessment of the environmental impacts of the dust control project it approves.
The Courts finds that the action vindicated important rights and conferred a substantive, significant benefit to the public and to a large group of persons.”
According to a KMPH report on the legal ruling victory, they note that the CCC already has a smaller dust control project in the works that aims to achieve similar goals to this failed dust project proposal on top of four other ongoing lawsuits.
Considering this recent loss from the CCC, I’m curious to see what strategy they pull out of their hat with this smaller dust control project.