Not only did the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power file a lawsuit in federal court against the Eastern Sierra’s Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (GPUAPCD) on Oct. 12, it has also filed a request that the court impose an injunction on Air Pollution Control Officer, Ted Schade.
“They’ve asked the courts to impose an injunction prohibiting me from making decisions regarding DWP,” Schade explained to The Sheet on Wednesday. “Technically, we have to have an Air Pollution Control Officer enforcing the laws, so if the courts approved the injunction our Deputy Air Pollution Control Officer, Duane Ono, would take over.
“You think I’m tough, but he’s even tougher,” Schade said, adding that since it is at a federal level, arriving at a decision regarding the injunction could take several months.
The lawsuit filing comes on the heels of DWP’s December 2011 appeal of GBUAPCD’s requirements for re-watering the dried Owens Lake bed, and the constant back and forth that has gone on since.
In 1997, LADWP committed to mitigating 45 square miles of Owens Lake with the knowledge that GBUAPCD would continue to monitor the amount of area that required dust control. At the time, GBUAPCD had estimated that controls would be required on about 46.5 square miles of the dried lakebed, according to Schade. The dust is an effect generated by the City of LA’s water diversion activities and is the largest single source of particulate matter (PM) air pollution in the country.
“Mitigation is done when dust levels have been reduced enough to meet federal standards,” Schade explained to The Sheet back in March of the original agreement. When the GBUAPCD reevaluated the square mileage needing mitigation and determined that in fact, today, 47.9 square miles needs mitigation in order to meet standards, the onslaught from DWP began, starting with an appeal in December 2011, and leading to the recent filing of the lawsuit.
In recent newspaper articles where Schade and LADWP’s General Manager Ron Nichols have argued publicly about the lawsuit, Nichols claimed that the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District has refused to participate in recent discussions with governmental leaders to “work with LADWP to help build consensus around new, innovative approaches that will protect the environment, conserve scarce water, and be more cost effective for LADWP water customers who now pay two months a year of their water bills solely for dust mitigation.”
According to Nichols, “To date, the project cost exceeds $1.2 billion. And recent orders by Great Basin for new areas to mitigate dust that was not caused by LADWP will require another $400 million.”
Nichols went on to say that GBUAPCD has also continued to “impose unjustified demands on the Department for new areas of dust control [referring to the increase in required square mileage],” which is why LADWP “has been left with absolutely no choice but to file a lawsuit in federal court.”
In his response to this article, Schade wrote, “The most obvious choice for LADWP is to comply with the air pollution laws. This is certainly the choice that any responsible public utility would make, not just to avoid the legal costs and penalties for violating the law, but because it is the right thing to do in order to protect the people affected by its air pollution. The District is asking the LADWP to keep its past promises and comply with the law.”
Schade claimed that GPUAPCD is not “moving the goal posts” as Nichols alleged, but is simply imposing state and federal air pollution standards, which is why, even if Schade were to be removed as the decision-maker for GBUAPCD, it wouldn’t make a difference.
“Someone [Ono] would still have to enforce the laws,” Schade said.
Particulate air emissions of 10 microns or less are regulated by the federal and state laws mentioned by Schade as a danger to human health and the environment.
“This fine dust lodges deep in our lungs, causing respiratory injuries and special risks to children and the elderly. Over the past year, LADWP’s operations have created dust storms exceeding the federal standard on 25 separate days and the more restrictive state standard on 87 days,” Schade said.