California Attorney General files lawsuit against local air district
November 16, 2012
EDITOR’S NOTE: See a brief of the California Attorney General’s lawsuit at the bottom of this story.
By KAREN VELIE
California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris filed a lawsuit in mid-October against the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) over its contentious Oceano Dunes dust rule, focusing on the alleged scientific flaws in the study.
The suit, filed on behalf of the California Department of Parks and Recreation, contends the APCD’s study found no correlation between riding activity and increased particulate matter blowing from the dunes, the study lacked a reliable control site monitor, there is no evidence of dune crust as claimed by the APCD and that vegetation has actually increased in the area since the park opened.
In addition, the state noted numerous alleged procedural errors by APCD staff and consultants in its suit.
The California Geological Survey, “regarded as the primary source of geological and seismological products and services for decision making by California’s government agencies,” also challenged the study calling it “inadequate and unsupported.”
Both Friends of the Dunes and Kevin Rice filed lawsuits in January charging the air quality district with failing to follow California laws when it passed the rule 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.
In Nov. 2011, the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District voted 7-4 with one abstention to approve the new regulation without following several California laws, the suits say.
For months, prior to approval of the rule, APCD Executive Director Larry Allen repeatedly asked the air quality board to approve new fees saying that the agency needs to make up for about $300,000 in yearly permit fees from the Morro Bay Power Plant. The plant is slated to close in the next few years.
District expenditures have grown from $2,438,146 during the 2001-2002 fiscal year to a budget of $4,156,766 for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. Some 75 percent of the agency’s expenditures are for employee costs, according to the district’s expenditure report.
Of the district’s 21 full-time employees, in salaries benefits and “fringes,” 19 ran over $100,000 a year during the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
Without informing the public of the state’s lawsuit, on Wednesday, the APCD board voted to go around state parks and seek help from the Governor’s Cabinet in implementing its Oceano dunes dust rule. District officials have accused State Parks of not cooperating in the implementation of the dust rule which they claim was legally and scientifically justified.
County Supervisor and air district board member Adam Hill compared scientists with state parks and The California Geological Survey to climate change deniers for questioning the science of the APCD studies.
“They’ve denied the science from the beginning, the way the fossil fuel industry has denied climate change,” Hill said.
All three suits requesting that the rule be overturned are scheduled to be heard in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court on Jan. 24.