State employee demoted after crossing Gibson

September 26, 2015
Supervisor Bruce Gibson

Supervisor Bruce Gibson

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

Succumbing to pressure from San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Bruce Gibson, the California Geological Survey has demoted a state geologist who is critical of the science behind a contested local air pollution regulation. The demotion has prompted feuding among county officials.

In June, Will Harris, a senior engineering geologist, spoke during public comment at an Air Pollution Control District (APCD) board meeting in which he argued the district’s Oceano Dunes dust rule is pointless. During the meeting, County Supervisor Adam Hill threatened Harris’s job. Three days later, Gibson followed up the threat in a letter to California’s chief geologist.

Now, Harris has lost his office and is working in a school safety position. He was moved to an office on a lower floor of his work building.

In a farewell letter to colleagues who worked with him on off-road vehicle parks, Harris wrote the Geological Survey removed him from the position because of his comments at the June San Luis Obispo County APCD meeting.

In the letter, Harris said that Gibson complained to his bosses.

Don Drysdale, an information officer with the Department of Conservation, confirmed with CalCoastNews that Gibson contacted chief geologist John Parrish about Harris. Drysdale said the conservation department does not consider Harris’s change in role to be a demotion. Rather, it is a reassignment, Drysdale said.

The APCD dust 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. The rule requires state parks to reduce the amount of particulate matter blowing from the off-road vehicle area to natural background levels or face fines of $1,000 per day.

At the June meeting, Harris said natural background levels of dust are actually higher than the current levels because state parks has planted vegetation in the area.

Harris has since distributed aerial images comparing the dunes in the 1930s to the dunes in 2014. The 1930s image displays more sand than the 2014 picture, and the recent image shows that much of what used to be open sand is now covered with vegetation.

One of the areas with considerable vegetation is the location the APCD selected as its control for air quality readings. To test whether the dust blowing from the off-road area of the dunes is exceeding “natural background levels,” the APCD set up a monitoring station downwind of the riding area and a monitoring site downwind of a control location that is further south and is not used for off-roading.

The APCD could levy fines against state parks on days in which there is more pollution at the location downwind of the riding area than at the control site. The APCD is currently facing an approximately $300,000 funding shortfall because of lost fees from the shutdown of the Morro Bay power plant.

In a memo to state parks, Harris wrote the APCD set up the monitoring sites in a way that skews the results so that more violations of the dust rule occur. For instance, the control site is an area with more vegetation and less wind, Harris states.

On Wednesday, the APCD board met for the first time since June. During the meeting, Gibson and Hill chastised other board members who defended Harris and questioned the science of the dust rule.

During approval of the minutes, County Supervisor Debbie Arnold made a motion calling for the minutes of the June meeting to state that Harris was interrupted during his public comment.

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San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx, an ally of Hill and Gibson, said Arnold was making things up and her motion was “creative writing.” Gibson said it was “contrary to reality.”

Hill responded by saying the board could say anything in the minutes.

“We can say a dolphin walked down the aisle,” Hill said.

Paso Robles Councilman John Hamon, who is currently running for District 1 county supervisor, said he was embarrassed by how fellow board members handled the exchange with Harris at the June meeting.

Ultimately, the board voted 6-5 in support of Arnold’s motion.

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A short time later, Supervisor Lynn Compton also questioned the science behind the dust rule. Compton asked why the APCD is comparing air samplings from a location that is a sheet of sand to a control location that is heavily vegetated.

“It’s hard for me to understand that this is an equal comparison,” Compton said. “You’re not comparing apples to apples.”

Gibson responded by saying the best technical minds of the APCD, state parks and state Air Resources Board agreed on the control site. He then called Compton close-minded.

Referring to Harris, Compton said a scientist testified that the monitoring sites were not an equal comparison. Gibson responded by saying Harris’s “technical credibility is pretty well shot.”

The APCD website lists five engineers who work on local air quality monitoring issues. Of those, none are licensed professional engineers, according to the California Department of Consumer Affairs.

 

Will Harris’s memo outlining his concerns about the dust rule:

Email.OceanoDunes by CalCoastNews

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Myself

Well maybe its time we the people wrote the California Geological Survey and explained to them that gibson is not speaking for the people of his district and that he had no business talking to them.

I hope that hill doesn’t gain his seat back in the next election and that gibson is the next to go these two jerks just don’t do the people in their districts any good what so ever.


shelworth

Seems to me that Will Harris might have a First Amendment lawsuit here.


NorthCountyGuy

Politicians should be required to dress like NASCAR drivers. That way we can know who their sponsors are.


MajorityFan

Debbie and Lynn will have matching COLAB jumpsuits.


Pelican1

You have to ask yourselves, is THIS what WE want representing the citizens of this county?

Bruce has to go. Her has become a necrotic abscess that just can’t be treated effectively with any kind of intervention.

With Halloween approaching, it’s time to go on a witch hunt and put an end to the Adam and Bruce side show….for good.


JordanJ

Adam Hill is completely bought and paid for by PG&E and several developers. It is all about the money and promoting his bank roller’s projects.


PG&E’s Tom Jones is working on Adam Hill’s campaign at PG&E. Along with Tom Fulks and Jay Salter, they just make up lies to harm those who question their or PG&E’s actions.


Just like Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson lie about the interruption, or maybe they are not smart enough to remember what happen two months ago, Tom Fulks, Tom Jones and Jay Salter make up stories to demean anyone who does not bow down to their precious Adam Hill.


Last week Lynn Compton gave a speech attended by Jay Salter. Jay Salter then posted on Facebook that Lynn Compton had called Supervisor Frank Mecham a bully. A complete fabrication of a taped speech. He then went on to make multiple sexist comments about Lynn Compton such as, “Tottering on six inch heels, sinuous in a black sheath dress, taloned forefinger poking the sky for emphasis, Lynn Compton was an exact replica of rightwing pundit Ann Coulter, including the victimhood.”


It is sad that we have these men bullying and demeaning women. It is also sad that people need to tape their speeches and conversations to combat the lies of this group of corporate funded thugs.


Mitch C

I believe that a recall of Gibson is in order.


Mike Byrd

I takes a really lousy excuse of a human being to set out to ruin a person’s career for speaking at a public meeting during the public comment period. This man, who is far more qualified to understand the complexities of the dunes than anyone on APCD staff, was sharing his professional conclusions. Hill and Gibson have shown themselves to be science deniers and particularly vicious ones at that.


Mike Byrd

Sorry, It takes…


nipomian

It’s hard to believe the two of them, Hill and Gibson, would behave as they did at the meeting. Then taking it as far as they did to attempt to undermine a man’s career because he wanted to have his opinion heard is unconscionable. I thought I’d seen it all in abusive SLO politics but this is an example of two small men with bloated egos. They had no right to act as they did.


dogeatdog

If Hill wins another election it will just show once again, MONEY buys the seat, not the work the person has done.


Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson are just disgusting people in my opinion.


Adam has been quieter lately with an up coming election, but if he wins then it is back to the funny farm and the nasty comments all over again. Is taht what we really want in our elected officials.


BeenThereDoneThat

I totally disagree with your assessment!! Adam NEVER left the funny farm.


jonhartz

From personal experience I can state that the APCD is an agenda-drive, biased organization of non-scientists.

General manager Larry Allen is a devout believer in the pseudo-science, pseudo-religion of man-made global warming, and everything the APCD does or says is in homage to this. He still quotes the widely discredited “97% of scientists believe” nonsense, which give you an idea of how poorly the APCD does it’s homework.

It is not surprising at all that they run a useless study on the dust. From my home I can see the dust, and it blows when the wind blows, and stops when the wind stops, summer or winter, dune buggies or no dune buggies.

How do you think the dunes got there in the first place? Where there prehistoric Chumash dragging each other around on logs? When a governmental organization with a serious duty acts on an unfounded agenda we all pay for their willful ignorance.