FROM DEB MURPHY – Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District Takes a New Approach in Legal Battle with LADWP

dry lake

 

The Superior Court ruling last month did not mark the end of the dispute between Great Basin
Unified Air Pollution Control District and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power over
dust controls on Owens Lake. The beat goes on.

From a simplified, but confirmed, interpretation of the ruling, the penalties levied by Great
Basin against LADWP were dismissed, but the Court allowed the District to continue its efforts
in civil court for dust mitigation on an area containing cultural resources identified by local tribes. The Court only ruled on the specific issue: LADWP suing Great Basin for its intent to enforce a 2014 Stipulated Judgement.

In lay terms, the Court left the door open. Great Basin walked through it with an October 5 th
notice of violation under the Health and Safety Code. This notice of violation, addressed to
Marty Adams, LADWP’s general manager, requested a commitment to comply with the Health
and Safety Code within a week. “Otherwise, the District will proceed to seek a court order for
injunctive relief to compel the City to comply with the Order…. Given the Court’s Ruling, the
District withdraws its Order to Pay stipulated penalties under the Stipulated Judgment and
instead assesses civil penalties against the City under the Health and Safety Code,” the Notice states.

The Notice of Violation goes on, outlining three years of work with the Patsiata Cultural
Resource Task Force that included Los Angeles and Tribal representatives. A plan was
developed addressing dust emissions from the cultural resource areas as well as mitigation
methods. The plan, designed to “minimize ground disturbance and encourage the growth…. of
existing vegetation and uses seasonal supplemental surface watering,” was supported by all stakeholders, according to Great Basin’s Notice. Four of the five area Tribes participated. Sierra Wave reached out to Kathy Bancroft with the Lone Pine Paiute Tribe for comment but did not hear back.

Great Basin’s air pollution control officer Phill Kiddoo stated via e-mail, “I recently reached out and asked Paul Liu, LADWP Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Program Manager, for a plan and timeline for the implementation of the Vegetation Enhancement Project. The response stated LADWP’s concerns regarding Great Basin’s mischaracterization of the 2014 Stipulated Judgment and mentioned no intent to implement the project or comply with Great Basin’s Order.”

The District’s Health and Safety violation includes civil penalties at $5,000 a day, totaling $1.4 million for 280 days of violation.

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