<b>Effort to bankrupt newspaper fails</b>
Two months ago, we published a column by Dan Morain of the Sacramento Bee highlighting the trials of a Glenn County newspaper publisher and editor who was battling for the survival of his paper. In a dispute with a local school district, a judge inexplicably found that a California Public Records Act lawsuit by Tim Crews, publisher of the Sacramento Valley Mirror, was frivolous and he ordered him to pay $56,595 in attorneys' fees and costs.
The judgment would not only have put Crews, who makes roughly $20,000 a year, out of business, but also would have set a dangerous precedent. Allowing public agency to threaten requesters with liability for attorneys' fees would have had a chilling effect on the public's right to access government information under the Public Records Act.
Fortunately, that threat was put to rest on Wednesday by state appellate court which struck down the lower court order, noting that Crews' petition for school records — emails in this case — "was not utterly devoid of merit or taken for an improper motive. Consequently, his action was not frivolous, and he should not have been ordered to pay attorney fees and costs." Another important win for openness.
<b>That sinking feeling</b>
One of the primary arguments made by the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. in its battle to stay open in a section of the Point Reyes National Seashore that has been designated as a federal wilderness is that an oyster farm is an environmentally friendly business.
So wouldn't it make sense to scrupulously follow state environmental laws while the battle over the oyster farm's permit plays out in Congress and the federal courts?
On Thursday, a Marin County judge ordered the oyster farm to comply with California Coastal Commission cease-and-desist orders directing it to stop cultivating non-native species, to remove debris from the estuary and to resolve other long-standing issues.
Supporters of the oyster farm challenged the Coastal Commission orders, then, in a head-spinning twist, claimed victory after losing in court. That's quite a fish tale.
<b>Petaluma's energy plan</b>
Petaluma's new wastewater treatment plant wasn't designed to handle the sludgy waste from food and beer producers. Those businesses haul their waste to a faciility in Oakland.
The plant's limitations weren't a design oversight, but businesses such as Lagunitas Brewery, Petaluma Poultry, Clover Stornetta and the Petaluma Creamery would like to save some money and take some trucks off the road, in turn saving some wear-and-tear off those roads. They're working with the city on a plan to turn wastewater into electricity, according to a report in the Petaluma Argus-Courier. A feasibility study is getting started. City officials say any plant expansion costs would be paid for by the industrial users that would benefit. Sounds like a win-win.