California Attorney General files lawsuit against local air district

November 16, 2012

California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris

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.

CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND RECREATION’S OPENING BRIEF


  1. Jorge Estrada says:

    Does this business model have anything to do with the fiscal cliff or just a bad sniff?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  2. R.Hodin says:

    Wondering out loud how many posters here actually voted for Harris . . .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  3. Myself says:

    Here is a little eye opener, I’m tired,sick and tired of these people that are non producers telling us that work and pay taxes and their wages how to function, these self promoting public employees that have no idea of what it takes to do much of anything coming out to farms and telling the farmer that his tractor is to old to use so he has to buy another one to satisify the smog nazis, that is about 200,000 $, or they come out to a rock quarry and tell the operator that his 3 yr old generator is too old so he has to buy another, @ about 200,000 $, or the truck owner that his less than a 100,000 mile truck doesn’t meet smog rule so they take away his lively hood and the taxes he pays, this also to the tune of 150 to 200,000 $, where do these people think we get that kind of money, we don’t have the public funds to raid like they do, nor is there any money to pay them any longer, shut them down.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 4

    • justme says:

      This is the third guy to list APCD extortion costs potentially in the millions to biz around our county alone. Dump the wasteful APCD down to size. Eliminating whole powerplants because of ridiculously high standards set by who? Those who stand to gain the most, that’s Larry Allen types all the way up to some Catipillar, Cummins, Corp. donation recieving Congressman pimp.
      Keep the pressure on Allen’s scam, KSBY, KCOY?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  4. inmyopinion says:

    Can you say “APCD = Extortionists ?” Is this our legal mob? If it looks like a duck? JMO

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 3

  5. lakerhater says:

    APCD=JOB KILLERS

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 4

  6. obispan says:

    “The agency needs to make up for about $300,000 in yearly permit fees from the Morro Bay plant”, what has this to do with the dunes? The Morro Bay plant is closing (go solar!), so why do they need $300,000/yr to police the plant that is no longer there? I’m no Tea Party fanatic, but if Kamala Harris is telling you you’re a bit too off-topic you might be. At the most, State Parks could restrict off-road activity during high winds, I don’t think anybody would complain. If you want to make the argument that you want to eliminate the weekend San Joaquin Valley migration to a sand dune skate-park for off-road vehicles, say so. There is plenty of regulation, services, and fees. And once again; what does the closing of the Morro Bay power plant have to do with this?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6

    • Kevin Rice says:

      APCD has 23.5 employees which drain over 75% of their revenue, and Larry Allen just got a $5,000 raise as well. When Morro Bay closes they need to come up with the money to keep up their fat salaries.

      Closing the dunes in high winds does nothing. It’s the winds that cause dust, not vehicles. Most vehicles don’t even go out in high winds because it’s too miserable for most tastes.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 3

  7. shelworth says:

    It should be obvious in this case at least, that the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District started the results they wanted then did the “research” to prove those results. What really bothers me is that the people involved will have no repercussions at all, the Control District will pay the fines by raising the fees of the innocent.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 2

  8. SLOBIRD says:

    Anyone catch The Tribune story breaking on a Friday night about Mr. Bruce Gibson having an affair with his legislative assistant and he’s leaving his wife. I knew he had a lot in common with Mr. Hill, but to leave his wife onf many years (2 grown sons together) is disguesting. Should be interesting news for the County Board water cooler talk!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 8

  9. justme says:

    I noticed every bulldozer, loader, semi truck, all heavy equpt. involved in building the Los Osos sewer was brand new or near new so I asked the guys working why. They’re required to have the newer updated diesel engines which emit fewer emissions to get any State supported jobs. Some local contractors couldn’t bid on their own sewer because their stuff is older.
    Larry Allen and his employees have established standards that they have calculated (after reviewing what’s out there) will bring ex amount of fines to cover their $100k plus salaries. Duh.
    Enviros are becoming more and more jaded.
    The APCD can come to your business, require you replace say a stationary diesel for 25k dollars OR pay them a continuous fine and keep the old diesel.
    This is old news concerning the Allen & the APCD, so where’s the changes?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 36 Thumb down 5

    • doggin says:

      Require you to replace your stationary generator for $25K? Try $250K +++ in most cases along with anything diesel powered over 50 Horse power. Every dump truck, diesel type pickup/work truck, backhoe, loader etc,etc that does not meet their reg’s needs to be taken out of service or have its engine replaced with a unreasonably priced electronically controlled unit. Every stand by generator at every sewage plant,sewage pump station,water booster stations,water well (think fires people) hospital, fire department, police dept, are now limited to such a small amount of test/maint run minutes per month you cannot guarantee their preparedness in a emergency.
      These idiots have openly told municipalities they DO NOT care if equipment fails and a disaster results from their reg’s,its not our problem, just don’t exceed the allowable run time limits or we’ll fine you. Where is the logic in a law that forces a municipality to trade in 20 mpg diesel work trucks for 6 mph gas V10 powered pigs or disallow what diesel vehicles you have to 1000 miles a year, to ban from use costly specialized heavy equipment ? Who’s screwing who here? Is Allen and company getting kick backs from local truck and heavy equipment dealers in SLO county or what?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 2

      • justme says:

        Plus, the equipt. that’s replaced continues to run, someplace, they sell it out of state and/or the country depending on regulation.
        The poor people in Osos are paying big bucks to be the lucky chosen pioneers of clean air. They forgot to ask us if we wanted the honor or wanted to PAY for the honor. Actually the “honor” went to some Catipillar board contributing to some dickhead politician. Then guys like Allen make it worse.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

    • The Gimlet Eye says:

      Where are the changes?

      Where is all that “good” that supposedly comes from gooberment?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5