Oceano Dunes dust suit can go to trial
March 5, 2015
A group of Nipomo Mesa residents upset over air pollution have brought forward a lawsuit against the state and county that is worthy of trial, a local judge has ruled.
The Mesa Community Alliance is suing California State Parks and San Luis Obispo County, alleging that they have not done enough to curb dust blowing onto the mesa from the Oceano Dunes off-road riding area. San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Martin Tangeman found that Mesa alliance raised a credible argument, according to a news release issued by the group.
In 2011, the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District adopted the dust rule, which required state parks to reduce the amount of particulate matter blowing from the dunes to the Nipomo Mesa or face $1,000 daily fines. The regulation prompted California Attorney General Kamala Harris to sue the air district on behalf of state parks, but the two sides eventually reached a settlement outside of court.
State Parks has since spent $1 million on efforts to reduce dust blowing onto the Mesa. The project included creating fencing and wind barriers at the dunes.
Mesa Community Alliance contends that the residents it represents are still suffering from respiratory problem and other ailments, including heart disease.
But, critics of the APCD say that regulating activity on the dunes does not make a difference on the level of pollution at the Nipomo Mesa. Opponents of the dust rule, including APCD board member Ed Waage, argue that the air district conducted a scientifically flawed study that incorrectly linked off-roading to pollution on the Mesa.
Many APCD critics also suggest that the intention of regulating activity at the dunes was not to protect residents from dust, but rather to increase revenue for the air district. Most of the employees of the air district receive more than $100,000 in total pay, and about 75 percent of the agency’s budget goes to salaries and benefits.
The Mesa alliance case is expected to return to court on March 30.