In what some call a desperate attempt to blame the victim, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will now drag the federal government, state government and the local air pollution control district into federal court. LADWP seems to want a free pass from clean-air laws in the Eastern Sierra.
DWP’s main target is the Owens Dry Lake clean-up and APCD Director Ted Schade. Behind the scenes, DWP tries the strategy of divide and conquer and feeds local officials the line that they can’t give ranchers enough water because they have to put it on the dry lake. No longer interested in paying any more for drying up the lake, DWP wants the court to strike down their signed agreement with APCD and the State Air Resources Board to clean up the dry lake dust. They also want the court to say that the California Health and Safety Code which protects air quality here is violating the constitutional rights of LA people.
LA wants injunctions to prevent paying any more fees to APCD including attorneys’ fees that they already owe. They want the court to declare that hearing procedures by the State Air Board violate the law. DWP’s lawsuit, filed in federal court in Sacramento sues APCD, the California Air Resources Board, State Lands Commission, Bureau of Land Management and US Environmental Protection Agency.
Though there is no evidence to prove it, DWP insists that remaining dust on the dry lake was not caused by them. LA’s main gripe is the money – the some $1.2 billion spent on the dry lake to date. Accustomed to the idea that water from the Eastern Sierra is free and mostly all theirs, DWP seems offended that Air Pollution Control Director Ted Schade has tried to enforce clean air laws and the agreement LA signed.
Schade maintains he is enforcing the laws he is responsible to enforce. LA says they’ve had enough. In an LA press release, DWP says its lawsuits are designed to “force the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District to halt its systematic and unlawful issuance of water-wasting orders to LA’s customers.” LA’s Mayor is quoted as saying the lawsuit is “an absolute last resort.” DWP calls Schade “an unaccountable regulator.”
Mr. Schade has repeatedly revealed that he is only carrying out the requirements of the plan and state law to which LADWP agreed. Schade said LA’s lawsuit “seeks to prevent enforcement of the Clean Air Act’s requirements on its water diversion operations in the Owens Valley. These diversions,” he said, “have created the dried Owens Lake bed, the largest source of particulate air emissions in the United States. Particulate air emissions of 10 microns or less are regulated by federal and state environmental laws as a danger to human health and the environment, with the particulates lodging deep in the lungs, causing respiratory injuries and special risks to the elderly and children.”
Schade said that over the past year, DWP’s operations have created dust storms exceeding the federal standard on 42 separate days resulting in the issuance of local health alerts.
Schade went on to say that in 1997 and 2006, the DWP entered into a “series of agreements to control the PM10 emissions caused by its operations. Those agreements resulted in regulations approved by federal and state regulators that require the DWP to implement control measures that can include at its option shallow flooding, gravel cover or managed vegetation of areas that its water diversions have left dry.”
Schade said that in 2011, the City “repudiated its agreements and initiated a series of actions to avoid the cost of those controls, while continuing to divert water and profit from that diversion.”
Schade said, “The DWP has broken its promises to the Owens Valley.” He said the District will have further comment upon reviewing the specifics of the DWP’s legal action.