The Corner

Raw Deal, Part II

In December, I wrote for NRO about how the federal government was killing a small, environmentally friendly oyster farm in California.

It was a sad tale of government abuse: The Lunny family had invested everything they had in the farm, and they’d been successful with it. But the Interior Department, the National Park Service, and several environmental groups wanted to see the land the oyster farm was leasing turned into a wilderness area. They were willing to do whatever it took: They used deceptive science to justify the land grab. When the law became inconvenient, they simply ignored it.

And they’ve gotten away with it.

Yesterday, a federal judge ruled against Drakes Bay Oyster Co. It also denied an injunction that would have let the Lunny family continue to operate until they exhausted their appeal options.

It was never really a fair fight. The federal government threw millions of taxpayer dollars into its legal assault on the oyster farm. The Lunny family, which was simply trying not to go bankrupt, couldn’t afford to fight back. They were represented pro bono by Cause of Action, a government-accountability group that stepped up when it heard about their plight.

It was David fighting Goliath, and this time, Goliath won. The ruling essentially ruins the Lunny family. They’ll have to kill off their inventory of baby oysters, valued at nearly $5 million. They’ll  be left with a $300,000 loan and no way to repay it. They’ll almost certainly have to declare bankruptcy. And they’ll lose their multi-generational cattle farm, which they used as collateral to clean and restore the land for the oyster company.

The ruling is also bad news for their 31 full-time employees, who will all lose their jobs. Fifteen had homes on the farm. Like the Lunny family, they now have less than a month to find a new place to live.

Kevin Lunny, the patriarch and owner, said it best in December: “It will completely destroy us.” That’s your federal government at work.

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