Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown to take ‘swift legal action’ if Trump allows drilling at national monuments

Wildflowers carpet the fields and hills of the Carrizo Plains National Monument during a super bloom April 10, 2017 in southeastern San Luis Obispo County.
Wildflowers carpet the fields and hills of the Carrizo Plains National Monument during a super bloom April 10, 2017 in southeastern San Luis Obispo County.

Gov. Jerry Brown is ready to sue the federal government if the Trump administration decides to allow drilling, mining or timber harvesting at national monuments in the Golden State.

The response, issued in a tweet by his top aide, isn’t the first time the Governor’s Office has threatened to take legal action against the White House since Donald Trump took office. It also may come as no surprise that the seasoned politician and staunch environmental advocate is choosing to dig in his heels to preserve the state’s majestic sequoias and over a million acres of unspoiled Mojave Desert from private development.

Trump campaigned on calls to allow more drilling and mining on federal land and signed an executive order to review national monument designations in April. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has until today to recommend the White House shrink or eliminate 21 national monuments across the country.

In California, the fates of Berryessa Snow Mountain, Carrizo Plain, Giant Sequoia, Mojave Trails and the San Gabriel Mountains are unknown.

Legal experts question whether Trump has the authority to revoke a monument status granted by previous presidents, while generally agreeing that he can shrink boundaries.

In a letter to Zinke, Brown argued that the economic benefits of some of the monuments outweigh the costs to maintain them and the potential boon from private development.

“But their value is more than economic,” Brown wrote. “Beyond the benefits to local communities, the enhancement of biodiversity and the cultural, aesthetic and even spiritual value of preserving these lands is incalculable.”

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WORTH REPEATING: “It must be the end of session! I can smell CEQA in the air.”

– Andrew Acosta, Sacramento consultant, reacting to another last-minute effort to exempt a planned sports venue (L.A. Clippers’ arena) from California’s signature environmental law.

MUST READ: A transgender prison guard is suing the state, alleging that prison officials have discriminated against her, retaliated against her when she filed internal complaints and subjected her to a hostile work environment.

HOUSING CRISIS: State Treasurer John Chiang is inserting himself into the housing debate at the Capitol with a call to at least double a $3 billion bond proposed under Senate Bill 3. Democrats in both houses are working toward a deal to pass a package of bills that would create more affordable housing and help offset a growing crisis that is driving poor and middle-income Californians out of their homes. The package centers on three Senate bills that would establish an annual source of revenue for affordable housing by establishing a real estate transaction fee, putting a $3 billion housing bond on the 2018 ballot and streamlining the approval and construction process for new homes. Amid his gubernatorial campaign, Chiang and affordable housing advocates are holding a press conference at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in room 317 at the Capitol to urge lawmakers to raise the bond to at least $6 billion. Chiang, the state’s top banker, opened a ballot measure committee earlier this year to pursue a similar idea.

SHOWDOWN IN S.F.: A rally slated for Crissy Field in San Francisco this Saturday has lawmakers and city officials on edge following a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. The leader of the Oregon group organizing the event posted a video on Facebook explaining that he is not a white supremacist and that the rally will promote peace, love and free speech to fight corruption. Several elected officials unsuccessfully called for the National Park Service to rescind the permit, and compared the rally to the protest in Virginia. The park service has banned guns and other weapons on the park grounds. The rally is slated to begin at 2 p.m. Saturday. Sen. Scott Wiener is asking counterprotesters to join him and others at the Civic Center, Harvey Milk Plaza and the Castro to draw people away from Crissy Field.

SB 562 OR BUST: The California Nurses Association says it will never take no for an answer. The nurses were the driving force behind a Senate bill to establish a universal health care system in California this year. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon sidelined the proposal, seeking more concrete policy on how the $400 billion health system would actually work for people in need of care. The nurses attacked the speaker on social media, which included the executive director’s now infamous tweet of a bear with a knife in its back, and called on their members to blow up phone lines in his office. Now their latest plan is to walk Rendon’s Assembly district and two others on Saturday to build support for the bill. The nurses intend to follow with a series of town hall meetings next month.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna