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Recent CA Coastal Commission Decisions - SeaWorld and San Onofre

In another sweeping decision, the California Coastal Commission has seemingly overstepped its jurisdiction of regulating the use of land and water in the coastal zone by imposing certain breeding restrictions on SeaWorld's orca breeding practices. Specifically, the Coastal Commission approved SeaWorld's replacement and expansion of its existing orca facility subject to several special conditions. One such condition is the discontinuation of SeaWorld's practice of breeding captive orcas, or transporting whales from other facilities. As SeaWorld prepares to challenge this condition, Californians must ask whether, as a public policy, the Coastal Commission should have jurisdiction over the use of land and water within the coastal zone and the animal husbandry practices of trained veterinarian professionals. Although the Coastal Commission's most recent decision appears facially inconsistent with the legislative intent of the Coastal Act and potentially in conflict with the federal law governing such practices, it will certainly be interesting to follow SeaWorld's impending legal challenge.

Ironically, several days before the SeaWorld decision, the Coastal Commission approved another project; namely, the construction of a contentious concrete monolith to bury spent nuclear fuel less than one hundred feet (100') from San Onofre's existing sea wall. As opposed to other methods of disposal, such as moving the fuel to a nuclear power plant in Arizona or a private waste storage facility planned in Texas, both of which were proposed by opponents, the Coastal Commission approved the highly toxic waste to be placed in casks next to the beach in a densely-populated area subject to the chance of earthquakes and severe flooding. On one hand, it's entirely possible that the concrete monolith is the most reasonable solution for the storage of the nuclear waste, but on the other hand, it's possible that the potential contamination caused by the storage of the dangerous nuclear waste should have been more substantially vetted by the Coastal Commission. Since the Coastal Commission already issued its decision on the concrete monolith, only time will tell as to whether that decision was successful in protecting and enhancing the California coast for current and future generations.

Well, there's certainly no denying that the California Coastal Commission has been busy in the month of October, but the timing of the SeaWorld decision (in conjunction with the San Onofre decision) is ironic to say the least. On its face, the Coastal Commission seems less concerned with the protection, conservation, restoration, and enhancement of environmental and human-based resources of the California coast and more interested in scoring politically-expedient victories.

L. Sue Loftin is the Founder and Shareholder of The Loftin Firm. For questions relating to this blog or any other California real estate, corporate governance, land use, or estate planning matter, contact Ms. Loftin at (760) 814-9649. 

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