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dry lake

Court clears path for penalty trial against Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

in Owens Lake fee case

Date: February 5, 2013 – Press Release

Today, the Kern County Superior Court denied the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s request to dismiss the lawsuit filed against it by the People of the State of California for repeated violations of orders issued by both the Court and the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District.  Judge Sidney P. Chapin ruled that the LADWP was subject to civil penalties and an injunction for its decision to withhold over $1.1 million dollars in Owens Lake air pollution control fees.  The Court ordered LADWP to pay those fees to the District on January 24.  Today’s ruling clears the way for a trial later this year to determine the City’s liability and assess penalties, which could reach almost an additional $8 million.

According to Ted Schade, Great Basin’s Air Pollution Control Officer, “The Court’s ruling is a message that the LADWP’s decision to violate the court orders and District orders have injured the environment, its own ratepayers and its employees.  I once again encourage the City Council and mayor of Los Angeles to begin serious discussions with Great Basin as to how it can both meet the legal obligation to control its air pollution and protect public health, while saving both water and money on Owens Lake dust controls.”

The LADWP’s decision to withhold payment of its fees corresponded to its opposition to installing additional air pollution control measures at Owens Lake.  In November 2012, the California Air Resources Board rejected the LADWP’s appeal and approved the reasonableness and necessity for those measures.  Particulate air pollution is a danger to human health and the environment, and over the past year, LADWP’s water diversions have caused dust storms that violated the federal dust standard on 27 separate days resulting in the issuance of local health alerts.




“The comments made publicly by Great Basin in response to Tuesday’s court decision are false and misleading.

The Court did not find that LADWP was subject to civil penalties nor injunctions, and also did not find that LADWP’s actions harmed the environment.  In fact, the court made no determinations of fact whatsoever in this matter.

The court’s decision in this purely procedural matter simply allows the case to go to trial on its merits and allows both sides to present evidence.  In this matter, LADWP objects to paying Great Basin’s attorney $750 per hour.  In addition, Great Basin has overcharged LADWP water customers by $2 million, which it has kept in a reserve account.

After investing $1.2 billion of LA water customers’ money to control dust blowing from Owens lakebed, lake-generated dust is now below the natural level.

This is proven by sound science and studies that Great Basin refuses to hear and which is at the foundation of Los Angeles’ legal complaints against the air district.  To repeat the simple rhetoric that ‘The air is dusty because of DWP’ is irresponsible and completely untrue.”

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