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House GOP bill includes protection for Drakes Bay Oyster Co.

A Republican bill in Congress intended to boost jobs and tax revenue through expanded offshore oil drilling, approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and other measures also would allow Drakes Bay Oyster Co. to stay in business, saving 30 jobs on the Marin County coast.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., who introduced the legislation in the Senate, said in a written statement that it would create 2 million jobs and generate more than $2 trillion in federal taxes over the next 30 years by "increasing access to our domestic resources."

Vitter's measure would open closed areas of the continental shelf to oil and gas leasing, allow energy development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and expedite approval of the $7 billion pipeline carrying Canadian heavy crude oil to Gulf Coast refineries.

Drakes Bay Oyster Company

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The final section of the bill, titled the Energy Production and Project Delivery Act of 2013, would grant the oyster company in the Point Reyes National Seashore a permit for up to 20 years.

It also says that the 2,500-acre estero "shall not be converted to a designated wilderness," apparently reversing the intent established by Congress in 1976.

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, whose district includes Point Reyes, called the bill "an environmental wrecking ball."

Huffman, who sits on the House Natural Resources Committee, noted that the bill also would prohibit California from limiting Central Valley Project water deliveries based on the Endangered Species Act.

Huffman said he found it "pretty surprising" that the oyster company's permit was included in a bill focused on much larger issues.

Kevin Lunny, operator of the embattled oyster farm on Drakes Estero, said Thursday that he did not ask for and was not advised of the bill's reference to his permit, a source of controversy for years in Marin County.

"It's what members of Congress do, I guess," Lunny said. "We didn't know it was coming."


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