4/30/15 E&E Daily INTERIOR: ‘We’re terrified,’ rancher tells lawmakers about Park Service

Kevin Lunny, co-owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Co., described his dispute with the National Park Service in harrowing detail. The rancher and business owner claimed that the agency had undertaken a “taxpayer-funded enterprise of corruption to run a small business out of” Point Reyes, Calif.
“Let me be clear: We did not fail as a business. This was not bad luck,” Lunny said. “Our family experienced the worst of what a motivated federal agency can do to a small business.”
E&E Daily
INTERIOR:
‘We’re terrified,’ rancher tells lawmakers about Park Service
Kevin Bogardus, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, April 30, 2015
House lawmakers yesterday chewed on the years-long battle over the fate of a former California oyster farm as they delved into the alleged abuse of government-funded science.
Kevin Lunny, co-owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Co., described his dispute with the National Park Service in harrowing detail. The rancher and business owner claimed that the agency had undertaken a “taxpayer-funded enterprise of corruption to run a small business out of” Point Reyes, Calif.
“Let me be clear: We did not fail as a business. This was not bad luck,” Lunny said. “Our family experienced the worst of what a motivated federal agency can do to a small business.”
Lunny was testifying before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. The hearing was called to examine allegations of federal agencies using “politically driven science,” according to the subpanel’s notice.
Under a settlement agreement announced last year with the Interior Department, Lunny had to close down his oyster farm after losing a protracted legal fight over its operation in a potential wilderness area (E&ENews PM, Oct. 6, 2014). The farm had harvested oysters for decades in Drakes Bay. Lunny bought the farm in 2005.
At yesterday’s hearing, Lunny said he was subject to misrepresentations and attacks by the Park Service during his fight to renew his oyster farm lease, which had expired in 2012. He described a federal environmental impact statement on the oyster farm as “weaponized.”
Lunny still operates a ranch in the area and claimed that the Park Service now has been isolating ranchers. Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) asked Lunny if there would be “negative consequences” for him from testifying before the subcommittee.
“We’re terrified. Ranchers that are sitting behind me are terrified because we are challenging the Park Service very seriously. They did lie. They did falsify science,” Lunny said.
The Park Service has tried to repair its ties with ranchers in the area after the bitter fight over the oyster farm (Greenwire, June 4, 2014).
The Interior inspector general in 2008 found that a scientist employed by Point Reyes National Seashore misstated data on the environmental impacts of mariculture to hurt the oyster farm (Greenwire, July 23, 2008).
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) said he has known Lunny for years and that he is “a good and decent guy.” The congressman noted that the battle over Drakes Bay, which is based in his congressional district, has “strained relationships that we are still working very hard to put back together.”
“Re-litigating these old accusations from a matter that has been closed at a time when this community is really trying to move on is not helpful or productive,” Huffman said.  [the case was never litigated, the Lunny’s asked for an injunction to remain open while a lawsuit could be pursued]
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), chairman of the subcommittee, said the hearing was an examination of science manipulated by agencies for their own purposes.
“This will be an honest assessment of how the system has failed,” Gohmert said.
Lawmakers also heard from witnesses on how the Fish and Wildlife Service’s faulty counting of whooping cranes led to drawn-out litigation for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. In addition, the panel heard that recovery efforts in Bastrop County, Texas, from a wildfire were delayed because of protections for the Houston toad, an endangered species.
Democrats sought to pivot the hearing toward discussion of attacks on science, including on those researching climate change.
“In a hearing about politically driven science, climate denial is the ultimate case study,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee.
At one point, Gohmert responded forcefully to suggestions that the hearing was unfairly going after science.
“The purpose of the hearing was to hear from real people, mammals called human beings that have been harmed by the federal government,” said the subcommittee chairman.
Toward the close of yesterday’s hearing, Gohmert said his subpanel would continue to look into alleged wrongdoing by federal agencies.
“You can expect more hearings to get to the bottom of what our government has been doing to our people,” Gohmert said.
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1 Comment

  1. Remick

     /  April 30, 2015

    A consistent position by the Park Service, Environmental Action Committee and other environmental groups namely local The Audibon Society is to and did lie about the facts. I and my family were always a strong support of environmental groups and activities. NO LONGER. As the groups do not support the community.

    Reply

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