APCD board split over Oceano dunes dust rule

May 28, 2015


The San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District is attempting to rehabilitate its Oceano Dunes dust rule, but in the aftermath of an appellate court ruling against the regulation, some members of the APCD board are calling for the district to find a less litigious plan for dealing with wind-blown sand.

In November 2011, the APCD adopted the dust rule which requires the California Department of Parks and Recreation to reduce the amount of particulate matter blowing from the Ocenao Dunes off-road vehicle area or face fines of $1,000 per day. The rule is based on a contested study that concluded off-road activity on the dunes has caused an increase in pollution on the Nipomo Mesa.

Last month, the 2nd Appellate Court in Ventura ruled that the APCD does not have the authority to regulate air emissions at state parks through the permit process. The dust rule, as adopted, required state parks to obtain a permit from the APCD in order to operate the dunes riding area.

Some observers say the appellate court ruling voided the entire dust rule. But, air district chief Larry Allen says the APCD can keep the dust rule in place, so long as the board amends it by removing the permit requirement provision before heading back to court.

At an APCD board meeting Wednesday, Allen requested that the board make the change and keep the dust rule intact. San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Bruce Gibson, a board member and lead proponent of the dust rule, argued in favor of Allen’s position.

While making the case for keeping the dust rule, Gibson said several times that he was attempting to appeal to the reasonable members of the board.

But, some board members, particularly Arroyo Grande Councilwoman Barbara Harmon, argued the APCD should pursue a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with state parks, rather than fighting to preserve the dust rule. Board members calling for an MOU point to the Hollister Hills and Ocotillo Wells state off-road riding areas, for which state parks has MOUs with the local air districts.

Proponents of an MOU also noted that air pollution on the Nipomo Mesa has not exceeded federal limits on any day thus far in 2015. Park management put in place a massive plastic fence that appear to have somewhat mitigated dust levels.

In addition, Oceano Dunes Superintendent Brent Marshall continues to direct State Parks to plant greenery to help trap blowing sand, though because of the drought those efforts have been reduced.

“We clearly heard the board is interested in options,” Marshall said. “We can work with the APCD director to educate him. We are going to work with the APCD to look at all options. MOUs are very successful and less litigious.”

APCD Director Allen did not agree. He argued that an MOU would not provide the APCD with enough enforcement authority. Allen also said he does not have enough time to draft an MOU.

The MOU supporters argued that the appellate ruling voided the dust rule. They also said the county and air district still face a combined total of three costly lawsuits that have already cost the district over a $1 million.

San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx, who sided with Gibson and Allen, said the district should move ahead with amending the dust rule and not take into account the cost of the lawsuits.

Gibson’s motions to amend the dust rule failed. In the past, the districts legal counsel has argued the dust rule and the permit are inseparable. However, the appellate court disagreed with attorney Ray Biering.

Ultimately, the board voted Wednesday to table the discussion until its June 17 meeting. The board also directed APCD staff to explore the possibility of creating an MOU with state parks.

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Larry Allen runs an extortion clinic for he and his cronie’s lifestyle. Please, someone explain to me why Larry gets paid more than our governor? All the Neanderthals like the witch Ms. Marx should just drive off a cliff. Larry, take your aped and shove it.


Would this be a extortion clinic supported and approved by the Board of Supervisors?


The APCD should never have been granted largely autonomous status apart from County government. It should, as other departments like roads, building and health operate under the “supervision” of our Board of Supervisors, their staff, and legal counsel to comply with state mandates, any additional County mandates as directed by the board, but nothing else.


You can put the blame on that decision squarely where it belongs, B. Gibson, A. Hole and Jim Patterson.

Mike Byrd

If they had only listened to Debbie Peterson instead of demonizing her for pointing out the truth. We’d have saved all that money and been years ahead with the mitigation efforts that are starting to work. I’m looking forward to Debbie returning to the APCD when she’s elected Supervisor. Her intelligence, insight and common sense are needed like never before.

Mr. Holly

How are they going to penalize the wind that blows the sand onto the plaza during the week when the off road vehicles aren’t there? I’ve seen as much wind/dust during the week as on weekends. I’m sure they will find a way to fee and or tax us-again.


Are these people trying to take away EVERY industry there is here? If people cannot drive on the dunes, ride their quads, etc, then WHY would people want to come to GROVER or OCEANO? I know, Grover Beach Streets are soooo smooth, that is reward in and of itself. Oceano, well, LOL.

Let’s just kill ALL industry, so when the “working class” move, the old folks up on the Mesa at their Golf Course can have no one to tend their grounds, no one to answer their life alert bracelets, and they will STILL have blowing sand!!


It might be they are more interested in collecting fees than solving problems. The fact that their salaries are paid by the fees they collect seems a conflict of purpose. In a perfect world they would solve the problems and work themselves out of a job. Not likely to happen.


Could it be that Mr Allen doesn’t have enough time to draft a MOU because he’s spending so much time trying to sue?


I believe that it is due to the [over sixty days] time off that Larry Allen receives every year.

Jorge Estrada

I would like to know what the environmental impacts are for repeatedly driving to meetings that create mis-management of public time and generate stress on those with common sense. If the APCD were a volunteer organization, like the many Commissions and Advisory bodies in this county, the funding could be used to buy more open space instead of building houses withing the natural wind blown sands and a water shortages.

Kevin Rice

SLO Mayor Jan Marx said, “…the district should…not take into account the cost of the lawsuits.”

Sure, it’s not her money. Public service at its finest.


Gotta love Gibson appealing to the “reasonable” members of the board.

Obviously anyone who disagrees is unreasonable.

Kevin Rice

A timeless fallacious argument… “I’m reasonable, therefore, Gibson must be correct.”


Like sands through an hourglass, these are the days of their lives.