The Latest Bounce

by Matt Jenkins

The tide may be turning in California’s fight to keep drill rigs away from its shores (HCN, 6/23/03: Will offshore be off-limits?). On Aug. 11, the nine members of the California Coastal Commission unanimously rejected the federal government’s attempts to renew 36 oil and gas leases off the Southern California coast. Two days later, a federal judge also blocked the lease-renewal effort, saying that the Interior Department did not adequately analyze the environmental impacts of drilling the leases.

The federal government continues to search for a winning number in Nevada. Last summer, a federal appeals court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency’s 10,000-year standard for radiation exposure at the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump was too short (HCN, 8/16/04: Court says Yucca Mountain design unsafe). In response, the EPA proposed a new, two-stage regulation this August: It will keep its original standard in place for the first 10,000 years, and then, for the next million years, raise the limit to a standard allowing 23 times as much radiation.

Don’t want to play nice? It’s gonna cost you. Last year, developer Irving Okovita sued three U.S. Forest Service employees and an environmentalist under a federal racketeering law after a court stopped his planned development on the shore of Big Bear Lake in Southern California (HCN, 3/7/05: Forest Service employees and activist face racketeering charges). A federal judge tossed out the conspiracy case this spring, and on Aug. 15, he ruled that the two attorneys who represented Okovita owe the defendants’ legal fees and costs, totaling more than a quarter-million dollars.

And if you really don’t play nice, you might just lose the farm … er, ranch. In 2003, Casey Nethercott, an Arizona rancher and member of Ranch Rescue, a citizens’ wannabe border patrol, allegedly pistol-whipped illegal El Salvadoran immigrant Edwin Alfredo Mancía Gonzáles on the Texas-Mexico line. Mancía and another immigrant subsequently sued for civil damages. Now, Nethercott will surrender his 70-acre ranch to the El Salvadorans as part of the judgment against him (HCN, 10/9/00: The hunters and the hunted: The Arizona-Mexico border turns into the 21st century frontier).

© High Country News