The U.S. government should not be in the business of choosing winners and losers based on special interests. Unfortunately, government agencies often lack the oversight necessary to prevent agency officials from making choices that are free from corruption.
Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) is a small oyster farm operated by the Lunny family, located on the Point Reyes National Seashore in northern California. For four generations, this family has taken great care to farm the land in this area in a sustainable way, in accordance with practices that have been in place in the area for centuries. The oyster farm, owned by the Lunny family since 2007, employs about 30 people, and is the kind of small business that should be celebrated by a government that has a stagnant economy on its hands.
Unfortunately, the Lunny family is currently fighting for the survival of their business because the federal agencies purposefully manipulated and misrepresented scientific data in an attempt to force the company to close its doors. In November 2012, then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar chose not to renew DBOC’s use permit for the National Park Service (NPS) land on which the farm operates. This move was a direct appeasement to environmental activists who would like to see the area currently occupied by the Lunnys’ farm become wilderness.
DBOC filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Northern California where a request for injunction to keep the farm open during the lawsuit is currently pending appeal in the Ninth Circuit. The hearing to decide the fate of the company is on May 14, 2013 in San Francisco.
This family’s business is in jeopardy due to faulty science and lack of government oversight. Instead of looking at all facts available to them, NPS and the Department of the Interior (DOI) chose to rely on flawed science and poorly prepared reports. Throughout the Lunnys’ ordeal, scientific studies that contradict the findings of the ones presented by the federal agencies involved have been available yet ignored.
Dan Epstein is Executive Director of Cause of Action, a non-partisan organization that uses public advocacy and legal reform tools to ensure greater transparency in government, protect taxpayer interests and promote economic freedom.
Prior to joining Cause of Action, Epstein served at the U.S. House of Representatives for several years as a Counsel for Oversight and Investigations at the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He was the lead counsel on tax, labor, nonprofit and federal grant spending investigations and oversight and his prominent investigations concerned the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, the Service Employees International Union, the National Labor Relations Board, and the National Mediation Board.
Before his Hill experience, Epstein worked on legal reform issues in the private sector. He graduated with honors from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where he was Editor-in-Chief of The Kenyon Observer, a Felix Morley National Journalism Finalist, and a Walter Judd Scholar at the Institute on Political Journalism, Georgetown University. Epstein received his law degree from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and is a member of the Maryland State Bar Association and the Federal Bar Association. He is an Eagle Scout and President’s Volunteer Service Award winner.