Friday, May 6, 2011

On the Path to a Police State

When the government formulates laws and regulations targeting a minority, everyone’s liberties are in jeopardy. Here’s the background story.

Suction dredging for gold is a mainstream (pun intended) activity for small mining operations. It is the goal of radical environmentalists to terminate all suction dredging. To that end, suction dredging is currently halted in California pending new regulations following a recently released environmental impact report conducted by the Department of Fish & Game.

The public comment period on the report and proposed regulations ends 5/10/11. Enclosed below is my public comment addressing the proposed regulations, which provide draconian police tools to target law abiding citizens.


Mr. Mark Stopher
California Department of Fish and Game
601 Locust St.
Redding, CA 96001

Comments Regarding: Suction Dredge Permitting Program
Draft Subsequent Environmental Impact Report
California Department of Fish and Game

Dear Mr. Mark Stopher,

When I read California’s newly proposed suction dredge regulations, I immediately began to see red flags. My law enforcement background and sense of justice is sounding a red alert.

Although I’m not a suction dredge miner, I am a miner and these proposed regulations are just plain wrong — and unjust. As a former law enforcement officer, I easily recognize the threats contained in these proposed regulations to suction dredge miners specifically and to the public in general.

The Department of Fish and Game intends to impose on suction dredge miners a class of permit requirements and restrictions that it does not impose on hunters and fishermen. There are four notable areas of unique requirements:

1. a maximum of 4,000 suction permits are to be provided

2. dredging equipment must be itemized, “A list of all suction dredge equipment that will be used under the permit, including nozzle size, constrictor ring size (if needed), engine manufacturer and model number, and horsepower;”

3. a maximum of six dredging locations are allowed per license and a list must be provided with an exact geographical location for each site

4. an approximate date for dredging must be provided for each location

Historically, there has been no limit to the maximum number of suction dredge permits that can be issued. According to DFG, the previous number of annual permits issued is in the area of 3,000 or so.

The current plan to limit the maximum number of permits to 4,000 is unsupported by data indicating the necessity of the requirement. Whether or not it is an intended consequence by the DFG or not, the plan presents the possibility that environmental activists may purchase permits with the expressed purpose of locking out suction dredge miners from exercising their federal statutory rights to mine. Buying up most of the suction dredging permits is far cheaper for the environmental activists than filing lawsuits. The State is, therefore, aiding and abetting a radical environmental agenda.

There are only three dredging equipment specifications in the regulations:
1. the diameter of the suction nozzle;
2. the intake hose diameter;
3. and pump intake screen specifications.

Why is it necessary for the state to force the miner to disclose a list of all unregulated equipment used to include engine manufacturer, model number and horsepower? Changing any of the equipment without the onerous modification of the permit is impermissible and citable. Clearly, the listing of all equipment, for which there are no State permit requirements, is a selective enforcement tool for DFG law enforcement, a polite way to say harassment.

The requirements of location and dates reveal another State agenda, which will impede and make difficult the lawful activity of suction dredging.

The proposed regulations would make it unlawful to dredge anywhere other than the maximum six locations listed on the dredging permit. The limitation to number of dredging locations, without justification of supporting data, clearly limits the opportunities to suction dredge.

Why does the State need to know the whereabouts of suction dredging locations? And, why does the State need to know the “approximate” dates that each location is intended to be dredged? These requirements are clearly designed to assist law enforcement to easily locate a suction dredging operation.

Civil law enforcement operates in two modes, reactive and proactive.

Reactive enforcement is when law enforcement learns of a potential violation of law and responds to address the specific violation by specific violators.

Proactive enforcement is when law enforcement targets a class of suspected violators of law with specific actions. Unlike reactive enforcement, proactive enforcement presumes violations by a class of violator.

These regulations clearly announce that suction dredgers are a specific class of potential law violators that requires that law enforcement be provided the proactive tools to deal with the violators. Therein lays the rationale for the location and approximate date requirements for permitted suction dredging. These regulations provide no data to support a de facto assertion that suction dredgers are a specific classification of law violators justifying the specific proactive targeting of them by law enforcement.

Unintended consequences of the requirements of location and dates are even more ominous. DFG license data is public information and thus discoverable via a public records information request. The data will be extremely beneficial to anyone desiring to locate a dredging operation for purposes of robbery, theft or vandalism. In addition, it tells criminals when the suction dredger’s residence may be vacant and more vulnerable for burglary and/or home invasion robbery.

Characterizing suction dredgers as potential criminals, these regulations provide law enforcement with specific and unique proactive tools to target the miners. By formulating unjustified regulations, the State is deliberately limiting freedoms and creating an environment ripe for the encouragement of law enforcement excesses. Incentivizing police abuse of citizens, whether intended or unintended, is a step forward on the road toward a police state.

Paul Coambs