By DEREK MOORE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Sonoma City Council, which two weeks ago took a controversial stand in support of an embattled oyster company in Marin County, is diving head first
again into a national debate that extends well outside city limits.
Mayor Ken Brown will seek council support Monday to send an official letter to President Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asking them to deny permits for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would convey oil products from Canada southward to the Gulf of Mexico.
Brown’s draft letter states that the 2,000-mile pipeline represents a potential threat to “pristine wildland areas” and could have a “devastating effect on the global climate” from increased carbon dioxide emissions.
“I think it’s an environmental disaster waiting to happen,” Brown said Friday.
Brown two weeks ago gained unanimous council support for a resolution backing the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. in its legal battle to continue operating in a federally protected wetland in Marin County.
Environmental groups that were angered by that decision now accuse Brown of hypocrisy with his stance against the pipeline. Councilman Steve Barbose, who agreed to co-sponsor putting the mayor’s proposed letter on Monday’s agenda, did not return a message Friday seeking comment.
“If the reason they’re supporting these resolutions is to protect the environment, they failed with the oyster resolution,” said Neal Desai with the National Parks Conservation Association. “It sets a bad policy precedent for national parks, and facilitates the kind of environmental degradation they’re concerned with with the Keystone project.”
Under the Energy Production and Project Delivery Act of 2013 proposed by Congressional Republicans, permits for the Keystone XL pipeline would be expedited, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska would be opened to gas and oil development and the oyster company’s lease would be extended for at least 10 years.
Desai said the legislation is an attempt to circumvent policies governing commercial uses in national parks and in protected wildland areas.
“That is exactly why an oyster permit extension is in a massive energy bill. Oysters don’t produce energy,” Desai said.
Brown, however, said he had not considered whether he was advocating contradictory positions with regard to the oyster company and oil pipeline.
“I’m not a complicated person,” he said.
Two weeks ago, he and council members mainly cited the oyster company as a producer of locally sourced food and as a jobs creator in their support of the resolution backing the company.
Daniel Kessler, a spokesman for 350.org, an environmental group focused on climate concerns, said Friday he considers the oyster company and pipeline to be separate issues.
He said it is “wonderful” that Sonoma is considering taking a stand against the pipeline, calling it an example of “real leadership at the local level.”
Some on the Sonoma council have not favored the city tackling such issues, including Councilman David Cook, who at the June 3 meeting said he came around to supporting the oyster company resolution only after he was convinced it represented a local issue.
Brown on Friday said he considers such issues to be part of the council’s “job” in a city he called a “bedrock of democracy.”
You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @deadlinederek.