Bipartisan Amendment to Save Drakes Bay Oyster Co Filed in Senate Budget Proposal

Bipartisan Amendment to Save Drakes Bay Oyster Co Filed in Senate Budget Proposal


WASHINGTON – Today, Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) co-sponsored an amendment to the Senate Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2014, which, if passed, would allow Drakes Bay Oyster Company to remain open at least 10 more years. The amendment would “establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to reinstate the reservation of use and occupancy and special use permits to conduct certain commercial operations.”

Dan Epstein, Cause of Action’s executive director commented on the proposal:

“Government accountability is not a partisan issue—neither is saving jobs.  This amendment would save 30 jobs at Drakes Bay Oyster Company and 40 percent of California’s oyster market.  It would also send the message to the Department of Interior that transparency and scientific integrity cannot be casually dismissed for political purposes.”

Cause of Action, Briscoe Ivester & Bazel LLP, Stoel Rives LLP, and SSL Law Firm represent Drakes Bay Oyster Company in their current federal lawsuit against the Department of the Interior, National Park Service and Secretary Ken Salazar.


Statement from Drakes Bay Oyster Company in Response to Denial of Preliminary Injunction

Drakes Bay Oyster Company and Legal Team Respond to Federal Court Decision to Deny Request for Preliminary Injunction


WASHINGTON – Cause of Action (COA), a government accountability group working on behalf of Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) and owner Kevin Lunny, responded to Judge Gonzalez Rogers’s decision to deny an injunction for Drakes Bay Oyster Company, which would have allowed the company to remain open for the duration of the trial, Drakes Bay Oyster Company v. Salazar, et al. Following a November 2012 decision by Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar which will shut down the oyster farm on February 28, DBOC filed a lawsuit against Salazar, the National Park Service, and the Department of the Interior for violating the law and not adhering to sound science.


Amber Abbasi, Cause of Action’s Chief Counsel for Regulatory Affairs, offered this response on behalf of the legal team representing DBOC, which includes pro-bono attorney services from Stoel Rives, LLP; SSL Law Firm, LLP; and Briscoe Ivester & Bazel, LLP:


“We are disappointed in the judge’s decision to deny our request for a preliminary injunction. Without this injunction, not only will a small business close, but families will be forced out of their homes, and the community will lose a sustainable farming resource.  The Lunnys are weighing their options for next steps and will make their decision known in the coming days.”

The judge’s decision can be found here.

About Cause of Action:

Cause of Action is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that uses investigative, legal, and communications tools to educate the public on how government accountability and transparency protects taxpayer interests and economic opportunity. For more information, visit




The Press Democrat: Federal judge to rule on oyster farm’s bid to stay open

Federal judge to rule on oyster farm’s bid to stay open


Published: Friday, January 25, 2013

OAKLAND — A federal judge Friday heard arguments but delayed a decision on a bid by Drakes Bay Oyster Co. to avert a government-ordered shutdown while the company’s legal challenge is resolved.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers conducted the hearing before a packed courtroom while a crowd of more than 50 people was left standing in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Oakland.

Kevin Lunny, operator of the embattled oyster farm in the 2,500-acre Drakes Estero in Point Reyes National Seashore, is fighting Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s decision Nov. 29 denying renewal of the operation’s federal permit.

The judge did not indicate when she would rule on the request for an injunction but seemed to cast doubt on the oyster company’s case when she questioned whether the court has jurisdiction in the matter.

“Now, it’s waiting time,” Lunny said in the federal building courtyard after the hearing.

Drakes Bay Oyster Co. plants and harvests 8 million oysters — worth about $1.5 million a year — from the estero, a five-fingered estuary in the national seashore in Marin County.

The judge did not say when she would issue a decision, said Lunny and his attorney, Amber Abbasi, of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group Cause of Action.

Lunny, who was born and raised on a ranch next to the estero, said he was “absolutely hopeful” of a favorable decision. “This is a matter of law. Our attorneys did a beautiful job.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s legislation in 2009 gave Salazar sole discretion to renew the oyster farm’s permit, issued 40 years ago to a previous owner of the oyster farm, which Lunny acquired in 2004.

Four days after Salazar’s decision, Lunny filed the lawsuit alleging it violated federal environmental rules and was based on faulty science.

But without a stay of the Feb. 28 deadline to shut down, Lunny said his enterprise, which employs 31 full-time workers, will be lost.

If he is forced to lay off the staff, remove their housing and kill 19 million oysters in the estero, “there’s no recovering this business,” he said.

Lunny said he is already scaling back the operation, harvesting oysters but no longer planting oyster larvae in the estero’s clear, cold water.

“It’s hard to look at what could happen here,” Lunny said. “It could devastate a small community.”

The prolonged battle over Drakes Bay Oyster Co. pits supporters of West Marin County agriculture, who fear that Salazar’s decision foretells the loss of permits for onshore ranches in the national seashore, versus wilderness advocates who insist that all human activity must be removed from the estero based on its congressional designation as a wilderness area.

Abbasi said she thought the judge “seemed very interested in the irreparable harm,” referring to Lunny’s claim that an ultimate victory in court would do no good if he has to shut down in a matter of weeks.

Abbasi said Judge Rogers’ decision on Lunny’s request to stay in business could be appealed.

Lawyers for Salazar said in court papers that his decision was not subject to environmental rules and that the “allegations of scientific misconduct are baseless.”

Salazar’s decision was “based on the incompatibility of commercial activities in wilderness and not on … data that was asserted to be flawed.”

Lunny’s loss of business was “a foreseeable consequence” of buying the oyster farm in 2004.

Lunny noted Friday that oysters have been harvested from Drakes Estero since 1934.


The Recorder: Passions Run High in Bivalve Battle

Read the full story here. The Recorder

“Leading the legal fistfight is Cause of Action, a libertarian advocacy group with ties to Tea Party politics. The Washington, D.C., group represents the oyster company pro bono and has also been leading an aggressive public relations campaign.

A preliminary hurdle for the lawyers will be persuading Gonzalez Rogers she can take up the case under the Administrative Procedure Act, which provides an avenue for judicial review of some executive decisions. Also at issue is a provision of the Interior Department’s 2010 appropriations bill, authorizing a new 10-year permit to be issued to Drakes Bay Oyster Co. “notwithstanding any other provision of law.”

The government claims in court filings that since Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar took no action and simply allowed an existing lease to expire, the decision is unreviewable. For the same reason, Justice Department lawyers argue the Interior Department was exempt from compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA.

Amber Abbasi, the company’s lead lawyer at Cause of Action, calls those assertions “ridiculous.” Salazar took action when he denied the oyster farm’s application for a new permit, Abbasi said. What’s more, Abbasi adds, the Interior Department and National Park Service did not follow mandated standards under NEPA, which requires an environmental impact study and public comment prior to federal action.

“Congress doesn’t want the federal agencies to be able to get away with something like this,” Abbasi said. What her group wants is to preserve the status quo so the oyster farm can survive to fight its case in court. If Lunny doesn’t win his injunction, the farm is done, Abbasi said. “That’s the kind of injury that can’t possibly be compensated…”

Washington Free Beacon: Hoping for Relief – Embattled oyster company heads to court hoping for stay on government’s decision to kill it

Read the full story here. The Washington Free Beacon

The Drakes Bay Oyster Company produces about 40 percent of California’s oysters, said Amber Abbasi, chief counsel of Regulatory Affairs for Cause of Action.

Cause of Action, a government watchdog group, is representing Drakes Bay Oyster Company in the lawsuit. Abbasi also noted that the company is the last oyster cannery left in California, which means that the employees who lose their jobs would have difficulty finding employment due to their specialized skill set. The company has provided housing for many employees who would lose not only their jobs but also their homes if the government succeeds in shutting down the business.

“If the judge doesn’t grant this injunction, the business will be lost,” regardless of the outcome, said Abbasi….

DBOC Filings: Reply to Gov’t Opposition to Motion for Preliminary Injunction

Legal Brief:

Reply to Gov’t Opposition to Motion for Preliminary Injunction




Jorge Mata: Manager of DBOC. Lives on the farm with his family.

Dr. Linda Martello, ENVIRON: senior scientist consultant. Expert in ecological risk assessment and marine mammals.

Richard Steffel: Principal at ENVIRON International Corporation, specializing in environmental impact assessments related to air quality and environmental noise

Scott Luchessa, ENVIRON: natural resource consultant

Laura Moran: permitting specialist

Corey Goodman: scientist, member of the National Academy of Science

Kevin Lunny: President, DBOC.



Drakes Bay Oyster Company Pushes Back, 90 Day Deadline Extended

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                    CONTACT:

DECEMBER 18, 2012                                                   Mary Beth Hutchins or Jamie Morris


Movement in Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s Push against the Government: 90 Day Deadline Is Extended

SAN FRANCISCO – The first signs of progress have come for Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) and the Lunny family in their fight against the National Park Service and Department of Interior following Sec. Kenneth Salazar’s November 29 decision that essentially shut down their business.


In a stipulation approved by order of the court, the Department of Justice, which is defending the government in Drakes Bay Oyster Company, et al. v. Kenneth L. Salazar, et al., conceded to requests by the DBOC attorneys as follows:


  1. DBOC may conduct activities involving planting and growing new oysters in the water at Drakes Estero, and will thereby avoid threatened layoffs of one-third of its employees right before the holidays.
  2. DBOC will no longer be required to remove the mobile residential units located on site and currently inhabited by Drakes Bay Oyster Company employees, thereby providing more time for those employees to look for affordable housing.
  3. DBOC now has until March 15, 2013 to complete the removal of all other personal property within the onshore area, instead of the original February 28, 2013 deadline.
  4. A hearing is set for January 25, 2013 on a request for a preliminary injunction.


Under the agreement, DBOC withdraws its request for a temporary restraining order that was submitted to the court last week, and instead will file a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction.


“While this decision brings some temporary relief for the Lunnys and their employees, the attorneys representing the best interests of DBOC know that this is only the first step in fighting against the abuse perpetrated by Secretary Salazar – at the expense of a small, family-owned and environmentally sound business,” said Dan Epstein, executive director of Cause of Action.


Cause of Action, Stoel Rives, Briscoe Ivester & Bazel, and SSL Law represent Drakes Bay Oyster Company.


To schedule an interview with Dan Epstein, Cause of Action’s Executive Director, contact Mary Beth Hutchins,  202-400-2721 or Jamie Morris,, at 202-499-4232.