The California Assembly passed legislation on May 30 by Assembly Majority Leader
Toni Atkinsthat enables the California Coastal Commission to levy penalties against those who disregard orders to stop violating the California Coastal Act.
AB 976will bring Coastal Commission authority in line with most other state agencies tasked with enforcing environmental laws.
“California’s coastline is the iconic symbol of the Golden State and is integral to our economy and our lifestyle,” said Atkins, in a statement. “My bill will ensure that the agency tasked with its protection has the tools to perform its mission, while avoiding costly litigation and ensuring the fair treatment of all. I am grateful to my Assembly colleagues for their support.”
Violations of the Coastal Act can include blocking public access to beaches, damaging environmentally sensitive habitats, or unauthorized development. Currently, the Commission can issue cease and desist orders to violators, but must pursue litigation through the California Attorney General’s office in order to enforce those orders if they are ignored, a costly and time-consuming process. The Coastal Commission currently has over 1800 open enforcement cases and new violations are reported to them more quickly than they can close existing ones. AB 976 will allow the Coastal Commission to fine violators in much the same way as other environmental agencies, such as the State Water Board and the Department of Fish and Wildlife. AB 976 will also ensure opportunities to challenge fines and provides rigorous due process protections.
The California Coastal Commission was created by California voters in 1972, through their approval of Proposition 20, and later made permanent by the California Coastal Act of 1976. The Coastal Act protects beaches, wetlands, water quality, and wildlife in an area of land and water larger than the State of Rhode Island.
AB 976 will now move to the State Senate for consideration.