There’s some upheaval in the California Coastal Commission – the governing body that controls land use on California’s 840 miles of coastline. Today (February 10) the Commisssion is meeting to decide whether Charles Lester, the man who is currently the executive director of the Commission, will stay – or if he will be fired.

How does this all relate to SeaWorld?

In October 2015, the Commission heard SeaWorld’s case regarding their proposed Blue World Project, a project that would double the area SeaWorld San Diego’s orcas currently live in. After hours of debate and testimony, the CCC issued the permit – with the stipulation that SeaWorld no longer breed orcas, ensuring that if SeaWorld moved ahead with the project, they would not have orcas in captivity in fifty or so years. SeaWorld has since sued.

Dayna Bochco was the commissioner who suggested that breeding ban.

Now that the Commission is considering firing Lester, some anti-SeaWorld activists are suggesting that SeaWorld is partly behind the move, despite no evidence to support the claim. It’s true that some developers and corporations want Lester fired, but SeaWorld is not known to be one of them.

So what happens if Lester is let go?

Environmentalists are afraid that the CCC will become more developer-friendly, rather than environmentally-friendly. But there is another possible outcome.

Remember Dayna Bochco, the commissioner who suggested the orca breeding ban? A recent LA Times article informs us of her connection with those who are more developer-friendly – as well as being more friendly to her own opinions.

On Nov. 18, commission Vice Chairwoman Dayna Bochco and Susan McCabe — a consultant who has clients with business before the panel — co-hosted a reception and fundraiser for then-Assemblyman Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), who last month was elected speaker of the chamber and will have the power to appoint as many as four coastal commissioners.

Two other coastal commissioners, as well as consultants and companies with business before the commission, attended the event. Days later, some gave donations of $1,000 to $2,500 to Rendon, according to campaign disclosure statements.
Among them was Poseidon Resources, which plans the desalination plant in Huntington Beach, and D.B. Neish Inc., an Orange County consulting firm that represents Newport Banning Ranch and other major projects before the commission.

Anthony Rendon was the chairman of the Water, Parks, and Wildlife committee of the California assembly when AB-2140, a bill that would ban orca captivity in California, was introduced.

Did he have anything to say about his thoughts on orca captivity during that hearing?

Chairman Rendon stated, on the record, that it didn’t matter to him whether Blackfish was full of inaccuracies because he is simply fundamentally opposed to captivity as a moral and ethical issue. [x]

Who knows what will happen today? But one thing is clear – orcas are very likely to be effected.

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