Watchdog submits oyster grievances to Congress

03/07/2013

A watchdog group participating in the legal defense for Drake’s Bay Oyster Company this week issued a report accusing the Department of the Interior of relying on flawed science in its decision to deny a new permit to the oyster farm.

Cause of Action is currently helping oysterman Kevin Lunny wage a lawsuit against that decision on the grounds that it violated law, policy and the public interest. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will consider in May whether to grant an injunction that would allow Drake’s Bay to stay in business until the lawsuit is
resolved.

The Interior Department has declined to comment while the lawsuit is pending.

Since Secretary Ken Salazar’s November decision the legal battle has continued on parallel tracks to the longstanding debate of the legitimacy of government science that found some negative impacts of continued oyster farming in Drakes Estero.

“You have, even now in litigation, the government defending a position which is at its core based on faulty data,” said Cause of Action executive director Dan Epstein in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

The report, titled Keeping Entrepreneurship at Bay: How the Department of the Interior Uses Flawed Science to Foreclose the American Dream, says a government environmental impact statement falsely attributed harbor seal disturbances to Drake’s Bay boats and advocates the installation of an inspector general at the Marine Mammal Commission (MMC), a federal agency that certified the seal-disturbance data in a peer review.

Mr. Epstein said he was not trying to sway the court. “This report should send a wake-up call to Congress.”

The report, relying on information that is already public, said government science on the cannery was “misrepresented” and subsequent investigations into misconduct were inadequate and not independent. By subverting science to politics and refusing to correct its errors, the report argues, the National Park Service (NPS) and other federal agencies are negatively impacting other oyster farms and businesses around the world.

In a separate letter Corey Goodman, who participated in Cause of Action’s research, called on the White House to start an investigation into what he labeled scientific misconduct by the NPS, United States Geological Survey and the MMC.

“This issue, first brought to your attention in spring 2009, has lingered too long,” Dr. Goodman wrote in a letter to John Holdren, the senior advisor on science issues to President Obama. “It is no longer a local issue in West Marin, California. It involves three federal agencies, two Inspector Generals, and three Scientific Integrity Officers.” Dr. Goodman said the White House’s Office of Science and Technology should examine the issues because “no other federal agency is empowered, capable, or willing to address scientific misconduct at NPS.”

Rick Weiss, a spokesman for Dr. Holdren, said in an email “we do intend to respond.”