Despite some intense Republican opposition — see the editorial in this morning’s last Friday’s Sacramento Bee — the Assembly just passed a Senate bill that authorizes a $3.5 million payment (plus interest) to the Environmental Protection Information Center.
The payment clears an earlier settlement between EPIC and the state relating to legal fees from the environmental organization’s suit against certain provisions of the Headwaters Agreement. Shortly after the agreement, in which the Pacific Lumber Co. sold Headwaters Forest to the federal and state governments, EPIC charged that the state’s approval of a “sustained yield plan” which would govern all logging on Pacific Lumber’s remaining land in the future, was contrary to law. The courts agreed with EPIC.
Senate Bill 730, which the Assembly floor passed today by the required 2/3 margin and which now goes to the Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, clears the state’s obligation to pay EPIC’s legal costs. State Attorney General Kamala Harris organized a settlement that removed the need for the state to go to court again over the exact amount owed.
Again, Republicans are not pleased. From the Sac Bee editorial linked above, which was penned by State Senators Doug LaMalfa and Joel Anderson:
While Earth First organizes tree-sittings, sets up roadblocks and conducts other illegal activities, their comrades-in-arms, the lawyers at EPIC, file lawsuit after lawsuit against the state to stopping logging.
In a case that started in the 1990s, the center finally was able to get a friendly judge to issue an order to stop a logging project. That would be bad enough if that was the end of the story.
However, the center also is trying to get “attorney fees” from the taxpayers for all their hard work in putting Californians out of work. The judge in the case told the EPIC lawyers and the attorney general’s attorneys to try to reach a settlement.
Attorneys asked for more than $10 million and Kamala Harris, the attorney general and former district attorney from San Francisco, agreed to pay $3.5 million plus interest, adding up to the $6 million that Kehoe put into SB 730.
So now the taxpayers may be on the hook to pay $6 million to radical environmentalists whose goal is to put hardworking California taxpayers out of work. But not so fast. Claims bills must be passed by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature and signed by the governor before any settlements can be paid.
EPIC’s co-plaintiff in the suit, the United Steelworkers of America, received $2 million plus interest.
UPDATE: See EPIC Executive Director Gary Graham Hughes’ response here.
Now, to this afternoon! That’s when a federal court is scheduled to rule on an EPIC-led coalition’s request for a summary judgment ruling that would halt Caltrans’ Richardson Grove Improvement Project.