The law, but not the lawsuits

The flurry of excitement over California’s new, Governor-signed legislation is just that - a flurry. A thing that is only briefly present. Now comes the really interesting part, the What does this mean in practice, in law, access to records and research, in the ability for a state (or any unit of the commons) to regulate the use of private property.

Here’s some of Matt Weiser’s recent work on the subject.

In this sense, the newly signed legislation anticipates its own future. A future of haranguing, lawsuits, and political hyperbole. This future is well-understood by people like U.C. Davis’s Richard Frank. “By the time this process cranks up in five, 10 or 20 years, the damage may long have been done,” Frank is quoted as saying in Weiser’s article.

By the time the legislation actually kicks in - if it ever does, that is - there may not be any fresh groundwater left to regulate. And that’s just within the timeline of the law, without the lawsuits. And since those are inevitable, why not put some deadline pressure on everyone - property owners, the courts, environmental advocates, politicians - to get it sorted out?

On a no less important point, Frank notes that the new laws shield even more from public scrutiny basic information about groundwater use - information that is essential for groundwater monitoring. Further, that (now, even more private) data would have been critical to developing legally defensible, quantifiable laws for groundwater management and pumping, basin recharge, correlations to subsidence and infrastructure damage, seismic activity, etc. This giveaway of basic data is entirely unacceptable, and needs to be amended.

So yes, I am profoundly underwhelmed by this bit of political theatre, manipulative optics and “I’m shocked” propaganda. Prove to me in 10 years that this has proceeded toward accomplishing anything other than providing political cover for the governor, the agricultural lobby, and the pro-BDCP constituency, and I’ll do a mea culpa at the lowest point of the one-time bed of Tulare Lake - which will likely be several yards lower than it is today.

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Posted by John Bass on 18 Sep 2014 | Comments (0)

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