[env-trinity] CC Times 1 12 10

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Wed Jan 13 10:43:07 PST 2010


Top lawyer moved by Schwarzenegger administration; key lawmaker wants to
know why

Contra Costa Times-1/12/10

By Mike Taugher 

 

A key lawmaker wants to know why Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration
moved a top lawyer out of the agency charged with making sure the state's
water policies adhere to environmental laws.

 

Assemblyman Jared Huffman, chairman of the water, parks and wildlife
committee, said it looks like the administration may have simply wanted to
remove an obstacle to its ambitious plans to reshape California water
policies.

 

So far, Huffman said, he has been unable to get answers to why Ann Malcolm
was removed as general counsel to the Department of Fish in Game to an
unspecified position at the state's Natural Resources Agency. 

 

"Someone in that critical role is sent to the bureaucratic equivalent of
Siberia. It's a big concern," said Huffman, D-San Rafael.

 

Malcolm, a Democrat with a reputation for taking a strong view on how
environmental protection laws are enforced, had worked in the department's
legal office since 1989 and served as general counsel for most of
Schwarzenegger's term as governor. She was appointed general counsel in 2005
and was acting general counsel before that.

 

The move comes as the administration enters its final year in which new
water policies will be crafted under laws passed last year and the
administration continues to press to build a new aqueduct to move water
around the Delta.

 

The Department of Fish and Game will ultimately decide whether the plans for
the aqueduct meet environmental protection laws.

 

"This couldn't come at a worse time," said Barry Nelson, a water policy
analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The Delta environment and
our salmon fisheries are in a state of crisis."

 

"The new state water legislation gives Fish and Game new and important
responsibilities," Nelson added. "What they need are experienced personnel
and strong and independent legal advice."

 

Thomas Gibson, a staff attorney, was promoted to acting chief counsel.
Gibson is well regarded but does not have the same experience within the
department, according to one environmental lawyer.

 

Huffman said he was concerned that with Malcolm out, the Department of Fish
and Game would be weakened as a regulator, which would make it easier for
the administration to pursue plans to increase water deliveries from the
Delta at the expense of environmental protection.

 

The decision to remove Malcolm came from the administration and not from the
agency's new director, John McCamman, Huffman said. He said he asked
McCamman last week about the move and was told the decision came from higher
ups in the administration.

 

In an email to Fish and Game staff, McCamman said Malcolm "has been asked to
continue her public service" at the resources agency.

 

Resources Agency spokesman Sandy Cooney said the move coincided with several
other personnel changes - including new heads at the Resources Agency, the
Department of Water Resources and the Department of Fish and Game.

 

"You're not going to see any changes in Fish and Game upholding its
mission," Cooney said.

 

Malcolm, reached at home Friday, declined to comment.

 

The Department of Fish and Game and the Department of Water Resources are
both housed in the state's Natural Resources Agency, but the water
department has traditionally been seen as much stronger and better funded
than the agency that is supposed to regulate it.

 

"History has been that when Fish and Game and DWR clash on these
environmental legal issues, DWR wins," Huffman said.

 

For example, the State Water Project, one of the biggest water delivery
projects in the world, operated until last year without a permit required by
the state's endangered species law. 

 

In 2007, the Times detailed how state water officials knew years earlier
that they needed the permit but never applied for one, while Fish and Game
biologists complained in internal emails about being shut out of the
permitting process.

 

Because of a series of court rulings forced its hand, the water agency now
has the permits needed to comply with state and federal endangered species
laws.

 

Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land/fax (call first to fax)

415 519 4810 mobile

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
(secondary)

 <http://fotr.org/> http://www.fotr.org 

 

 

 

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