Resistance to the state's bulldozing of public's access to documents and environmnetal law and regulation

The Fresno Bee editors voiced strong opposition to a plan by Gov. Jerry Brown and local governments to weaken the state Pulbic Records Act, which insures the public's right of access to public documents in the control of local governments. The PRA is an important tool for journalists and members of the public with an interest in a project that may impact their environment or property values. 
Now that the filing deadline has past, the lawsuits against the state's Delta water plan are out there for all to see and the Stockton Record describes tyhem and provides links to them for our study. 
Fresno Bee
EDITORIAL: Tell Jerry Brown to veto attack on Public Records Act
The unbridled arrogance of government is on full display, here in California and across our great land. In the name of security and the war on terror, the federal government is prying ever deeper into the lives of law-abiding Americans, eroding civil liberties and owning up to the deeds only after a whistle-blower calls them to the public's attention.
Meanwhile, in California, a Legislature controlled by a Democrat supermajority and in concert with Gov. Jerry Brown, wants citizens to know as little as possible about the workings of local government.
On Friday, lawmakers approved a pair of budget trailer bills (SB 71 and AB 76) that would free local governments of the obligation to comply with certain aspects of the California Public Records Act. The bills zipped through the Legislature with little or no committee review. Lawmakers clearly wanted to rubber stamp potentially embarrassing legislation under cover from prying eyes.
The supposed justification for the bills is to free the state of the obligation to pay local governments for complying with state open records mandates. Under Proposition 1A of 2004, the state must either suspend the mandates or reimburse local governments for complying.
That's the ostensible reason. The real reason is that Gov. Brown and legislative leaders have a weak commitment to transparent governance. Collectively, they've received scrutiny over pay raises, use of state funds, the Bay Bridge debacle and other embarrassments. Collectively, they're the foundation of a Secrecy Lobby that wants to keep Californians in the dark.
Only one Democrat -- Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco -- had the courage to buck the party line and and join Republicans in voting no. Said Yee: "It's not about saving money. It's all about curtailing an open, transparent government that can be held accountable."
If these bills become law, local governments and their representatives say they will continue to grant open records requests. Perhaps many would, but if they didn't, the public would have little legal recourse if a city or county decided to keep public documents secret.
In the hands of reporters and ordinary citizens, the California Public Records Act is the hammer that makes public agencies reveal the salaries and pensions of government workers and officials. The Act forces the disclosure of legal fees, project overruns and the recordings of 911 calls. Take away that hammer, and the wall around government becomes thicker and taller.
This is just the latest assault on sunshine. Last year, to avoid paying reimbursements, lawmakers and the governor suspended notice mandates for public meetings. This year, lawmakers considered imposing a $10-per-file fee on the public to look at court records. Fortunately, a conference committee killed that bill.
Public pressure can make a difference again. Urge the governor to reject SB 71 and AB 76 by contacting him at:
Stockton Record
Some argued the plan went too far. Others argued it didn't go far enough.
Both sides found reason to sue over the state's broad new plan governing the Delta through the end of this century.
By the end of a Monday deadline, at least seven lawsuits had been filed in three separate courts, seeking to block the plan approved last month by the Delta Stewardship Council.
The plan was supposed to shift California away from long-standing conflict in the Delta, and toward more comprehensive solutions. But the flurry of litigation shows how elusive that goal might be.
Groups that normally have little in common are united in their apparent distaste for the plan. Delta farmers sued, as did the south Valley farmers with whom they often do battle. Environmentalists sued, along with a coalition of urban water users from the Bay Area to Southern California.
Stockton sued, too, worried that the plan could disrupt the city's future growth.
The disparate groups have very different motives.
"(But) we all recognize the incomplete nature of the work done by the Delta Stewardship Council," said Michael Jackson, an attorney who sued on behalf of an environmental coalition including two Stockton-based groups, Restore the Delta and the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.
"I think it's relatively clear that in a courtroom, judges are going to comment on the fact that (we) seem to agree they should go back to square one and start over. And I think that's the truth," Jackson said.
The Delta council was formed by the Legislature in 2009, in an effort to fix the declining Delta.
The council's plan is separate from Gov. Jerry Brown's much-publicized twin tunnels project, but some of those filing lawsuits were quick to link them.
Under the 2009 law, the Delta plan will eventually include the tunnels if they're approved by fish agencies. And yet, the plan did not consider the wide-ranging impacts of that huge project.
In that sense, the council "has utterly fallen down on its mission" and has painted itself as little more than an "innocent but impotent bystander" when it comes to the future of the Delta, wrote Capitola attorney Michael Brodsky, who sued Monday on behalf of the Save the California Delta Alliance, based in Discovery Bay.
The council's plan "blindly promotes" the tunnels, according to another lawsuit filed Monday by the Stockton-based Central Delta and South Delta water agencies.
Attorney Dante Nomellini, who represents the central Delta farmers, put it this way: "The game plan these guys are following is to degrade water quality in the Delta, take a lot of our land out of production, strangle us with regulations and shove the tunnels down our throats."
Those who stand to benefit from the tunnels are critical of the plan, but for a different reason. They're leery of a requirement in the plan that the state reduce its reliance on the Delta for water.
Such a requirement could defeat the purpose of the $14.5 billion tunnels, the groups say, and would amount to a "significant reduction" in water supply.
Terry Erlewine, general manager of the State Water Contractors, said in a prepared statement that agencies are committed to conserving water developing local supplies. "But," he added, "as it currently stands, the (council's) plan goes well beyond its intended scope."
The plan also gives the council limited authority over future development and land use within the estuary, which the city of Stockton has warned could thwart its ability to determine how and where it grows, and could "chill" economic development.
The city's own lawsuit, filed by attorney Steve Herum last week, warns the Delta Plan will "negatively impact residents, taxpayers and property owners in the city" with a "disproportionate and unjust economic and environmental burden."
The council late Monday issued a statement expressing disappointment that "so many" have turned to the courts.
"Environmental groups want us to be more restrictive; water agencies believe we're too restrictive," Executive Officer Chris Knopp said. "The plan, however, actually walks the very careful line" required by the 2009 legislation.
Lawsuits, Knopp said, will neither improve the state's water supply nor increase the health of the Delta.
Lawsuit-Palooza…Alex Breitler
By my count, seven lawsuits have been filed targeting the recently approved Delta Plan.
Here are all seven complaints. Happy reading.
San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority/Westlands Water District (May 24, Sacramento County Superior Court)
City of Stockton (June 13, San Joaquin County Superior Court)
State Water Contractors, Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, Santa Clara Valley Water District, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency, Mojave Water Agency, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (June 14, Sacramento County Superior Court)
North Coast Rivers Alliance, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association, Winnemem Wintu Tribe (June 14, Sacramento County Superior Court)
California Water Impact Network, Friends of the River, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, AquAlliance, Restore the Delta, Center for Biological Diversity (June 14, San Francisco County Superior Court)
Save the California Delta Alliance (June 17, San Francisco County Superior Court)
Central Delta Water Agency, South Delta Water Agency, Local Agencies of the North Delta, Lafayette Ranch Inc., Cindy Charles (June 17, San Francisco County Superior Court)