Agencies use global warming anxiety to strangle property rights

December 06, 2013 | By JONATHAN WILLIAMS

As Coastal Land Rights Week concludes, it is important to recognize that a tremendous amount of work remains to be done. Governments around the country seem set on taking property along the coast at no cost. Currently the greatest publicity tool these governments have is the prospect of climate change and global warming. In a recent report, the Little Hoover Commission went so far as to call for paramilitary tactics. Just as agencies use global warming fears to justify policies in areas as diverse as food processing, bullet trains, and defense they also threaten to use the fear of sea level rise to increase coastal regulation.

The California Coastal Commission’s draft guidance on sea level rise exemplifies these changes. Under these proposals, large sections of property will be taken from owners as public access and conservation easements. And not only if those owners live at the beach, but also if they are located as much as five miles inland. These policies would also prevent property owners from maintaining and protecting their land from erosion, forcing them to essentially abandon their properties to the forces of nature. The Commission would even, under certain circumstances, require people to abandon or remove their homes entirely! This would occur if or when the home faced erosion.

Agencies in other parts of the country are pursuing similar policies to take property and return it to the ocean. In fact, recent EPA guidance encourages governments throughout the country to take beach property. Here at Pacific Legal Foundation we have successfully fought efforts to stop property owners from protecting their homes in both North Carolina and Texas.

In addition to using novel legal theories to defend unconstitutional takings, several other coastal agencies are engaged in outright power grabs. In California for example, the Coastal Commission recently spent the legislative session lobbying for the power to not only determine that someone had violated the law but also to enforce monetary penalties without having to go to court. This drive for power is present not only in California but in other states. For example, in New Jersey, where the state wants easements to build a 50 mile sand dune, government officials, including the governor, have applied pressure on landowners to cede their rights to the government. In these cases the government has encouraged individuals and businesses to harass those who do not kowtow to its demands. In the face of these threats, PLF remains committed to protecting coastal property rights.