Air pollution control board approves Oceano dunes rule
November 17, 2011
The San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District voted 7-4 with one abstention to approve a new regulation that requires state parks to reduce particulate matter blowing from the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area or face fines of $1,000 per day.
The APCD contends evidence from a scientific study it produced show that off-road vehicles at the dunes are causing an increase in particulate matter downwind on the Nipomo Mesa.
Numerous residents of the Nipomo Mesa, air quality district administrator Larry Allen and county public health officials said at the board meeting that the dunes are causing health problems for people downwind.
“There is a definite increase in heart attacks associated with PM 10,” said Penny Bornstein, County Public Health Department. “In fact, premature death is associated with exposure to particulate matter.”
The air quality district relies on fines and fees to cover the expense of its employee payroll. Of the 21 employees at the air quality district, 19 have salaries and benefits that exceed $100,000 a year. The air quality district has been criticized by those who say its focus is raising fees and fines.
Allen argued that talk of fines without warnings was used as distraction from health problems he claims are created by vehicles on the dunes.
“There’s been a lot of comment about the fines. I think in my mind it’s kind of a red herring,” Allen said. “We work very closely with all facilities that are under regulation by us. We typically provide warnings.”
Numerous local and state officials allege that the district’s Phase II study includes numerous flaws because of poor methodology and the manipulation of data.
Air quality district board member and Pismo Beach Councilman Ed Waage said the study is flawed and he wanted the inaccuracies corrected before approval.
In 2008, state parks’ staff and officials also said they thought the study the air quality district created was flawed because of several errors in the district’s methodology.
The state has said in letters to the district that the rule must first be legally and scientifically justified before the air quality district can impose fines on state parks. State Parks officials are discussing mounting a legal challenge against the air quality district for passing a regulation based on a flawed study.