BY TODD MCCUNE BRAY
The outcome of Whole Energy Fuels' Coastal Act violation of illegally starting construction without a completed permit amounts to little more than a slap on the wrist. A letter to Whole Energy Fuels from Coastal Commission staff asserts, “It was reported to us that Whole Energy Fuels began construction on trenches for utility lines at the subject site, prior to satisfying all the requirements of the Permit. This constitutes a violation of the Permit, and, thus, of the Coastal Act.” But no punitive action has been taken or recommended by commission staff.
The commission staff's letter dated April 28, 2009, addressed to Martin Wahl of Whole Energy Fuels, says the commission's Enforcement Unit has instructed Whole Energy Fuels on the Coastal Act Violation No. V-7-09-001 as follows: “To resolve the alleged Coastal Act violation Whole Energy should refrain from any additional development of the site, and should continue to work with Commission permitting staff to satisfy all special conditions of the permit.” Of concern is the wording that WEF “should” refrain from any further site development, not “shall” refrain.
Commission staff further instructs Whole Energy Fuels: “Once Commission staff has indicated to you that all special conditions have been met, construction may begin on the site, and the existing Coastal Act violation will be considered to be resolved.”
While no officer or employee of Whole Energy Fuels has been named by the City of Pacifica or commission staff as the person responsible for the violation, most indicators point to a former city employee currently working for Whole Energy Fuels as the person responsible for the Coastal Act violation. But there is no verifiable source to corroborate this theory at this time.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has recently stated concerning the biodiesel refinery’s wildlife compliance: “The Service is still working with Whole Energy and a few species experts to resolve any outstanding issues with respect to Federal Endangered Species Act compliance. We have not issued a permit or letter of any kind to Whole Energy to date.”
Whole Energy Fuels and its officers and employees have seemingly dodged a Coastal Act violation bullet, but as readers and contributors to Riptide continue to learn more, it is quite evident Whole Energy Fuels is being given great leeway by city, state, and federal staff. The only thing between Whole Energy Fuels and a completed project appears to be Whole Energy Fuels itself.