County official admits to manipulating air quality forecasts

August 1, 2011


Manipulations of air quality forecasts in a south San Luis Obispo County region caused as many as 100 days to be given “yellow,” moderate alert, rather than “green,” safe air quality, status.

An official at a San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District board meeting last week admitted the air quality status in Nipomo and Oceano had been tweaked to project moderate alerts—requiring caution in asthmatics—on at least 100 days when they should have been green, or safe.

The Air Quality Index (AQI), a federal standard, simplifies pollution levels on any given day to a color code for public health notices: “green” is good; “yellow” signifies a moderate alert; “orange” is unhealthy for sensitive groups; “red” represents unhealthy for everyone; and “purple” means the air is very unhealthy to breathe.

At a July 27 district board meeting, Air Pollution Control Officer Larry Allen confirmed they have been adding five points to the daily air quality index forecast for the Nipomo and Oceano region.

Offsetting the index has frequently resulted in wrong predictions, issuing “yellow,” or moderate alerts, when in actuality at least 100 of those alerts were “green” safe air days.

The fact was disclosed during the public comment session of the meeting, where Kevin Rice, an advocate for off-road recreation at the dunes, presented an analysis of air quality forecasts compared to final daily actual indexes over the last 10 months.

Rice found the air quality predictions appeared to be artificially fixed, in some cases making people believe they were breathing bad air.

In the Nipomo West region, nearly one-third of the time the district was informing the public pollution levels would be moderate, coded as a “yellow” health alert, when in fact it turned out to be a “green,” healthy air day. At that rate, 100 days a year are miscoded to a higher level, Rice explained noting that this is the only area of the county where the numbers are increased.

Allen confirmed Rice’s findings but defended the strategy as “playing it safe” to protect children and sensitive members of the public.

“We have gone on the side of conservatism, and gone slightly down below, so that we can forecast a violation of the state standard using the AQI system,” Allen said. “I actually kind of like the results that he [Rice] showed because you know, we’re pretty darn close in our forecast. So that explains the difference.”

However, the district uses the federal AQI color system rather than a state program to communicate air pollution levels.

In addition, within the last year more than 90 percent of the “yellow” health alert days for the Nipomo West region were caused because of  PM 2.5 (particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) pollution levels.  And the state does not have a daily standard for this pollutant. The Nipomo West region includes Nipomo, west of U.S. Highway 101, Nipomo Mesa, Oceano and the Oceano State Park.

Through nine stations around the county, the district constantly monitors levels of pollutants in the air including ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and carbon monoxide.

A moderate forecast means the air quality is acceptable, but for people who are unusually sensitive to ozone, such as those with severe asthma, they may experience respiratory symptoms. These people may opt to stay indoors and limit physical activity on these code “yellow” days, as opposed to code “green” forecasts where air pollution is expected to pose little or no risk.

Critics, like Rice, contend the public is being misinformed and that forecasts should be distributed as true and actual, not inflated, predictions.

Some county schools participate in the pollution control district’s “Clean Air Kids” marketing program and are regularly alerted of the forecasted air quality color code. Some schools post colored flags to inform students and parents of whether it is safe to be outside and breathe the air.

Daily air quality forecasts are also distributed to residents through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Air Now website and email subscriber system, in addition to other media when unsafe air conditions are anticipated.

Distributed through Air Now, a recent forecast that predicted code “yellow” and windy conditions warned: “Very sensitive individuals such as infants, as well as children and adults with existing respiratory or heart conditions may experience adverse health effects during blowing dust periods. If blowing dust and sand is visible in the air, county officials recommend all adults and children avoid strenuous outdoor activity, remain indoors as much as possible, and set any heating/air conditioning/ventilation systems to recirculation.”

“The public relies on these forecasts and largely does not see the actual AQI reported at the end of the day, resulting in misconception, alarm and misinformation about our local air quality,” Rice said.

Rice has complained to the EPA and informed some local school districts of the bias in forecasting.



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The SLO APCD is a cell of environmental activists with their political influence and enormous power into far more than the Oceano Dunes.

Google their manager, Aeron Arlin Genet and read up on her exploits. She has been one of the 5 members of the SLO Subdivision Review Board for years. The SRB is another county review board established to lighten the case load of the Planning Commission for review of county subdivision applications. The SRB is supposed to provide the same type of nonbiased review of each application basing their decision to approve or deny on the merits of each application.

Not so with decisions made by Arlin Genet. If any application is outside of a Village or Urban Reserve LIne (in other word within the county, the only area that the SRB has jursidiction over) she states “My department’s policy is to deny all applications not within an Urban or Village Reserve Line”.

So what happened to the unbiased SRB review process promised to each citizen of their project? It went out the window with the SLO APCD’s (read Larry Allen’s) department policy to send Arlin Genet to each SRB meeting with instructions to deny. If you’d like to see for yourself, just watch any of SLO County’s archived SRB meetings, especially any dealing with the Transfer of Development Credit (TDC) Program. To Aeron Arlin Genet’s credit she doesn’t descriminate……she votes to deny them all.

Aeron Arlin Genet, besides being one of the many past county staff romantic interests of Jim Patterson, probably does far more than Larry Allen in the way of abuse of power within SLO government. As much as I would love to see this group of activists shown the door and Air Quality issues turned over to the County’s Health Officer, it will never happen with this board.

Interesting. Aeron Arlin Genet makes $164,000 by the way.

Thanks for being there KR!! Rotten suckers.

So much slander. So few facts.

Such is the beauty of anonymity on the interwebs…

Zuke – Specifically, what facts are you disputing?


I’m anonymous for the same reason that you are.

So few facts? I can only guess that you are somehow aware of many more that weren’t stated.

As far as slander, I don’t see where you’ve taken issue with anything specific that I said.

If I’m wrong or relating something that isn’t true, spell it out. Maybe with some facts of your own.

Kevin Rice is a hero. This man did not lie down. This man did not just take it. This man practically single handedly fought back. The entire off road vehicle community owes him a deep debt of gratitude. Well done sir!

He spent his own money and time, and uncovered a clearly fraudulent scheme on the part of the SLO Air Quality Control District (SLOAQCD) whose Senior Staff are on record that they want the Oceano Dunes closed down to off-road vehicle traffic.

What did the Senior Management do to try to accomplish their personal goal of forcing the Dunes to be closed to off road vehicles because they personally don’t like off road vehicles? First, the Senior Management of the SLOAQCD put together a fake Oceano Dunes Air Quality Study claiming the air was unhealthful and they were caught red handed having faked the report. Now they have been caught faking these latest air quality reports. They informed the local schools, students and parents that the air is unhealthful almost 1/3 of the year when in fact it was actually rated green, safe air.

This is fraud. The Senior Management of the SLOAQCD knew what they were doing was fraud. At what point does the Board of the SLOAQCD take disciplinary action and fire the Senior Management of the SLOAQCD?

I have read about Mr. Rice’s tactics against Dr. Langdon and other opponents of his cause. Heroes have noble qualities. From his actions it is evident Mr. Rice is no hero. Must be nice to be on the public dole and have so much free time to spend pursuing your own interests!

Reading through the comments, I was surprised Mr. Rice would deign to post his own comment on the local “Enviro-Nazi Press” (his description of CalCoast News.) I may have misjudged him since I didn’t realize he was so tolerant.

Who is this Dr. Langdon? I have never heard of him. While asserting yourself to be informed, you don’t even get a name straight. How informed can you possibly be?

Sorry for the typo on Dr. Langford’s name. I hadn’t read the articles in awhile. I was very sorry to read about the Oceano Dunes rider from Canyon Country that died Friday. My prayers go out to his family and friends.

Dr. Langford made things up and lied about the off road vehicles at the Oceano Dunes. Not once, when Dr. Langford has been challenged to prove claims and bring the evidence before the SLO Board of Supervisors and the Board of the San Luis Obispo Air Quality Control District has it happened. I suggest Politik, you look towards Langford’s tactics that lying is okay — the ends justify the means; before getting uppity about Mr. Rice, who is a hero because he used his own money and time to uncover the facts and the truth about sanctioned government lying.

Forecasts in government and business only have to come close. The nature of a forecast means it is not exact. Government-sanctioned lying would be reporting actual data incorrectly and that is not happening. Mr. Rice wants the forecast to be tweaked so it would help win some points for OHV riders, while Mr. Allen is properly forecasting conservatively for the actual residents of the area.

I looked for articles where Mr. Rice reported to news stations that their weather forecasts for the local area were wrong, but didn’t find any. I looked for articles where he reported that the various economic forecasts by the SLO government, its departments, and various businesses were wrong, but didn’t find any. Mr. Rice appears to be a one-trick pony. His only apparent interest in the public good is lobbying for OHV, especially at the Dunes. I note your unspoken contention he is not paid in any form to do his lobbying?

You make the argument that “Ends justify the means” plus “Lying” equals bad. Doesn’t sound like hero qualities. I found some actual facts about the feud between Dr. Langford and Mr. Rice:

Mr. Rice’s take-no-prisoners approach to advocating does a big disservice to the OHV crowd. He seems to be taking the approach that the end justifies his means and many claim he is prevaricating. I wouldn’t want him to represent me for anything, including my right to ride my rice burner.

First, no one is reading an article this old.

Second, prior to making flawed assertions you need to read my post (below) where I wrote, ‘I enthusiastically agree that forecasts cannot possibly be 100% “accurate”’.

Forecasts are a “best guess”. The weatherman doesn’t add 5 degrees to his forecast. He reports his true best guess.

Indeed, the air district is LYING and committing FRAUD. This is true because they are making a best guess, then adding 5 points (you call this ‘tweaking’). You incredulously assert reporting the true best guess would be ‘tweaking’, when the current practice is the dishonest one.

The subject cannot be explained any simpler. I cannot help you further if you are not able to understand such simplicity.

Third, if you feel citing an editorial is akin to “facts” your judgment is off. Cuddy is an opinion writer.

Forth: “Ad hominem (also called personal abuse or personal attacks) usually involves insulting or belittling one’s opponent in order to attack his claim or invalidate his argument, but can also involve pointing out factual but apparent character flaws or actions that are irrelevant to the opponent’s argument. This tactic is logically fallacious because insults and negative facts about the opponent’s personal character have nothing to do with the logical merits of the opponent’s arguments or assertions.”

FINALLY– Nothing you have stated explains away the fact that our air pollution control officer admitted in open public session that he is adding a bias to the forecasts. Attacking me is entertaining, but this manipulation is his free admission–not mine.

Good day.

I have to laugh at you Politik. Can you imagine what you and your friends, who want the dunes closed, would be saying and doing if Larry Allen was pro ORV riding on the Dunes, and was caught “tweaking”, as you say, the air quality forecasts 5 points in the other direction, i.e., forecasting 10 points higher quality air everyday compared to what has been getting forecast?

You and your friends would be demanding criminal prosecutions, but when it is for a cause you believe in, lying and cheating is just part of your modus operandi because your are in fact liars and cheaters. You justify it as your cause is noble; therefore, the ends justify the means and if you don’t have facts, then you and your friends just “lie for the cause”.

Just got back from a ride up North and noticed your comment, Whatisup. Give it a rest . Repeating lies over and over does not make them true. Do you work for Fox News or just watch it all the time?

You make the classical extremist mistake of assuming other people are motivated, and act like you. You also make the mistake of assuming I have taken a position on the Dunes and that I am aligned with your mortal enemies, which says a lot about how shallow your life must be.

I and my friends who ride with me don’t generally demand criminal prosecutions for minor errors. While some of my friends might consider you a project because of your insults, I am considering the the source.

Ride safe.

Mr. Rice, before throwing around terms like lying and fraud in print against someone you might want to look up the legal definitions and be careful how you express yourself so you aren’t sued someday. Lucky for you Mr. Allen may be considered a public figure.

Call it an editorial if you like; however, Mr. Cuddy’s facts are all verifiable and a matter of public record. For instance the website you instigated is still up and advising people not to rent from Dr. Langford. I notice a proxy out of AZ is being used for the registration of the website. Is some organization other than you paying the bills on that?

Referencing an article (or an editorial if you prefer) of facts about you should not be construed as a personal attack. You are the author of “your” facts.

The facts indicate your opinion of Mr. Allen’s bias may be biased. You might want to offer some proof that what he is doing is not exactly what he says he is doing in developing his forecast.

I reaffirm: LIES and FRAUD.

You ask for proof Larry Allen is not doing exactly what he says? You continue to demonstrate a core lack of understanding.

I AGREE and AFFIRM Larry Allen’s admission! Are you now asking me to disagree with him?

No, I believe and agree that Larry Allen is doing precisely what he says: adding five points to the expected forecast.

Larry Allen admitted in his own words he is manipulating forecasts by artificially adding five points. Watch the video.

Without disclosure. Under the table. That constitutes LIES and FRAUD.

Far more bicycle riders get killed or maimed each year than OHV riders at Oceano Dunes. They just don’t get the same press from the “Trib” and other like minded publications.

Each picks his/her own poison. This thread started out talking about air quality and already you’ve taken it to the real issue….stop all OHV use on the Oceano Dunes by any means possible.

If you people would just be honest and upfront about your wishes, the rest of us probebly wouldn’t take the time to post here. Your attempt at deception and deflection puts so much sport into all of this.

Live and let live!

Far more bicycle riders get killed or maimed each year than OHV riders at Oceano Dunes. in SLO County? [not]

It’s pretty easy to type an ignorant ‘not’, MUCH HARDER to back that up.

I couldn’t find bicycle fatality statistics by county, but I did find pedestrian statistics for 2005:

54 pedestrian fatalities in SLO county in 2005.

Wow! I had no idea it was that high.

14 deaths at Yosemite so far this year. CLOSE YOSEMITE NOW!

Really, though, these arguments bore me. They are irrelevant. Not to mention, off topic.

Kevin, you should run for office…you have my vote and my Polaris Scrambler thanks you as well!

TQ…I have now agreed with your EVERY post on this subject. Almost like typing it all myself. YOU ROCK!

Smartmouth: This is not about Kevin Rice…this is about our government agencies creating untruths to cast light more favorably to their own means to and end…which oddly points to their very own paychecks. This crying wolf over the air quality based on known and acknowledged lies must stop.

We need to demand investigation and resolution on this matter.

Winedude: do you own more than one moving vehicle? Because owning of two vehicles is also a blatant waste of a valuable resource (oil) for no reason other than for some sort of unexplained gratification in having two vehicles at your disposal. Why own a vehicle at all? Why not bicycle or walk? Utilize the mode of transportation the good Lord gave you…feet and a thumb! No oil needed there…

danika (and others):

I hope you will write the air board (emails already posted a couple comments down), and write a quick letter to the editor. Change requires voices.

I already did, the moment after I posted the above. It is urgent that we all speak our voice to initiate change. Please, everyone, write a letter.

Thanks again, Kevin. Your diligence and care for this cause is not un-noticed. We appreciate you. I will continue to voice my concerns to anyone who has ears and eyes to read my comments and LTEs.

Personally, I always thought their reports were a joke, and now here’s the proof.

The sad thing in all of this is that with more and more ‘scientists’ presenting questionable data for wither some personal or political reason, the public will lose trust in that organization and government in general. This is not a debate… this is a scandal.

“Honesty is not so much a credit as an absolute prerequisite to efficient service to the public. Unless a man is honest, we have no right to keep him in public life; it matters not how brilliant his capacity”

Theodore Roosevelt

PS. Looking for an agency to close… here’s one. If it can’t be closed then our local government entities should publicly censor them… and ban them from public meetings, other than as citizens. There must be a price for manipulation of the public and elected officials.

The APCD can’t be closed (Health & Safety Code), HOWEVER, in some counties the air pollution control officer position is assigned to the county Health Officer. Why does SLO county need an entirely separate $4 million agency, sucking $3 million of that into salaries?

Your Supervisors and city council members gave away the farm last December allowing the APCD to separate from under county control. Now, the APCD is the domain of King Larry Allen, but the board still directs—so… WRITE YOUR SUPERVISORS AND COUNCILS!

The APCD board are:,,,,,,,,,,,,

Kevin Rice strikes again..

Way to go Kev, we need you in public office.

Upon writing the California Air Polution Control Officer’s Association (CAPCOA), I received this email from one of California’s 35 air pollution control officers (APCOs):

“Mr. Rice – There is no such thing as a “true and actual forecast.” It’s a forecast, an educated guess, a prediction. When made in the effort to protect public health, it should err on the side of actually protecting the public health. That is the APCD’s job.”

My reply follows:

Dear (APCO):

I thank you for your concern and feedback. I enthusiastically agree that forecasts cannot possibly be 100% “accurate” using the scientific definition of the term, which is: The ‘accuracy’ of a measurement system is the degree of closeness of measurements of a quantity to that quantity’s actual (true) value.

Simultaneously, I emphatically assert forecasts can and should be “precise”. Again, I use the scientific definition: The ‘precision’ of a measurement system, also called reproducibility or repeatability, is the degree to which repeated measurements under unchanged conditions show the same results.

Put more generally, a cohort comprised of numerous forecasts can be accurate. The SLO APCD forecast cohort I studied (n=302) revealed underlying accuracy does exist (+0.8 AQI error), but an additional error (+5 AQI) was purposefully introduced (total of +5.8 AQI error).

I strongly disagree that any APCO’s job includes introducing artificial bias into public information. It is the sole purview of a local agency’s legislative body to conceive and create policy or regulation in an informed and open public hearing. It is not the APCO’s purview to create “de facto” policy unilaterally without knowledge of the legislative body or the public.

Further, disseminating manipulated AQI values via the EPA’s infrastructure (AIRNow, EnviroFlash, AQS, etc.) amounts to fraud. These data sources, under EPA jurisdiction, are represented as sources for AQI information (40 CFR Part 58, Appendix G). Detrimental reliance is created when both the public and the EPA are informed and believe the data to be AQI figures, when in fact the data has been falsified.

The EPA AIRNow web site includes an AQI to pollutant concentration calculator which yields a specific pollutant concentration given an AQI value. The public has a right to use this calculator by entering a forecast AQI value which should then yield the true and expected pollutant concentration corresponding to the forecast date. Instead, due to covert manipulation of AQI data by the San Luis Obispo County APCD, the public receives misinformation.

Misinformation does not serve the public good whatsoever. Again, I insist it is not within an APCO’s purview to unilaterally create “de facto” policy without formal knowledge and consensus of the local agency legislative body or the public. CAPCOA should consider training on this point as there are question of culpability that arise.


Kevin P. Rice

His reply:

“Well said. I agree with you. It may be appropriate to adjust the methodology, but the public should be informed of such. It’s not fair to not tell.

An interested and engaged public is a good thing.”

Awesome Kevin.. frankly they should be embarrassed by this kind of thing, but it’s so common in government agencies that no one thinks it strange. Whenever they see more dollar signs, they will do whatever they have to in order to convince people to increase their funding, creating the need for themselves.

The moment that this was not CLEARLY indicated on their reports, it became FRAUD, not a “mistake” or “conservative” adjustment.

Often, when I am out of town on business, I will buy small things like a quick snack with cash, and then forget to get a receipt. So, in order to be more accurate I am going to make an adjustment to my expenses when I file my taxes next year, and deduct more than I can demonstrate with receipts. Do you think that I will get the same leeway when the IRS finds this out?

Just try burning some brush trimmings without a burn permit and see how the air district treats you. They just DOUBLED the backyard burn permit fee. CDF stopped selling permits for the air district because they don’t want the perception to be that CDF is making money. CDF wants nothing to do with this money making scheme. How much $$$ do you think air pollution control officer Larry Allen makes? How many $100K+ employees do they have? How many travel junkets to resorts for “business”? I bet your eyes would pop out of your skull. A money racket operating under the guise of public service. They operate as if they are promoting a rock band.

Larry Allen should be fired. This is the same yahoo who attempted to mandate a Trip Reduction Program for employers in SLO county many years ago to reduce employee commuting while at the same time the Chamber of Commerces were advertising with the theme “Come up for Air”. As for burn permits, my suggestion is to forgo them and burn on Sunday when it is foggy. Government employees are not around on Sundays!

“Larry Allen should be fired.”

Well? I gave all the email addresses for the air board above. Letters to the editor take just minutes. Next air board meeting is Sept 28 9 a.m.

I have e-mailed the board of sups and thank you for all your work!

Thank you. I hope you emailed the entire APCD board which includes 7 council members from each city. Their email addresses are above. You may wish to send a note to the Lucia Mar school board who is allowing the APCD to brainwash children in the classroom with lies.

board (at) lmusd (dot) org

I’m sure my eyes would pop out of my head, if they were still in there. Alas I visited the state controller’s website too many times and my eyes are rolling around the floor and they’re spittin’ mad. After all the years I have gone to school, work, suffered poverty when business was bad or I was between work, after all the money that has come out of my checks, all the money I have been fined, and knowing the incredible effort and time (overtime, hahaha what’s that) I’ve put into getting where I am, after all that… looking at those figures and seeing how many of them dwarf what i’ve managed to earn, I’m just plain ticked off.

The Lung Association says SLO County is #1 cleanest in the nation for particulate matter pollution (the “dust problem” claimed to be coming from the dunes).

Here is my evidence:

Meanwhile, ozone in Carrizo and elsewhere in SLO County (not Nipomo) prompted the very same Lung Association to name SLO County as 9th worst ozone in the nation in 2010 and 11th worst ozone in the nation in 2011.

Over the past year 100 “Yellow” (Moderate) days in Nipomo were actually “Green” (Good) days. In ten months there has not been one single “Orange” day which is the category labeled “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups”. NOT ONE TIME in ten months has air quality reached the level of “Unhealthy for sensitive groups” in Nipomo–even including tampered forecasts.

And, by the way, the single highest Nipomo pollution measurement in ten months time WAS NOT particulate matter (“dune dust”), it was ozone pushed west from the central valley by off-shore winds on 9/26 and 9/27 last year.

Or . . . who made it worth Mr. Rice’s questionable reputation to all of a sudden “admit” to tampering with test results and really . . . why the conspiracy in the first place? Fishy. Was he so concerned about the labored gasps of unseen infants and asthmatics floating down from the Mesa that he felt compelled to falsify reports? If so, why did he stop worrying? Why confess? I can’t help but glance toward Sacramento (State Parks) and then over my shoulder to the east . . . His conservatism must have been eating him alive – gnawing at him – keeping him up at nights!

Now Mr. Rice can sleep easy knowing that the “friends” of the Oceano Dunes will continue to pollute our beaches, throw their San Joaquin Valley trash out their windows in the parking lot of 5 Cities liquor stores then speed back to the Dunes — eager to kill each other’s children on Japanese off-road vehicles. Their chains have been broken by the bravery displayed by Mr. Rice . . . once again the solid citizens of Kern and Tulare County can know the joy that only the swilling of beer and the waving of over-sized Confederate flags with bulbous, tattooed arms from the back of ridiculously jacked-up $80,000 trucks can bring — Free at last to once again dangle cigarettes from slack lips, fry the rolls of fat on the back of their necks through the marine layer and look forward, without fear, to that moment late Sunday afternoon, tequila shots burning in their stomachs. when they will be crashing into the back of their best friend’s $120,000 ATV hauler in the Old Juan’s parking lot before heading back to their mom’s house where they will always live because they’d rather spend their cash in Japan than buy American real estate. And all of this placed in jeopardy on account of a few SLO County wheezing children and old geezers . . . Mr. Rice . . . thank you for coming clean – you must be so relieved!

Smartmouth. Mr. Rice is not the culprit. The County Air Quality Board has admitted to jacking up the air pollution by 5 points everyday to show bad air quality when the air quality measured good. You need to reread the article and whoever made the decision to falsify air quality records should be fired.

Smartmouth…read the entire article. Larry Allen manipulated the facts, Kevin Rice only exposed the truth. The inconvenient truth.

Just what we need, yet another county department head (a scientist no less) that is a compulsive liar when it suits their agenda. The end always justifies the means.

Isn’t this the exact type of thing that Mike Brown from COLAB has been trying to tell the board? That county staff is riddled with ideologues and activists unable to make an unbiased decision based on truth? If not, it sure looks like it.

Smartmouth’s rant reveals him/her as the classis intolerant urban elitist who was “celebrating diversity” a decade ago. My how times change.


You certaintly have a MOUTH!

However I question how SMART it is.

Your RANT is much more about your utter HATRED of “San Joaquin Valey trash” than AIR QUALITY.

If you can’t stay even close to the topic why not change your name to BIGMOUTH!