The current Los Angeles Department of Water and Power regime has gone back to what local officials call bullying, suing and ignoring old rules. Their recent actions in the Eastern Sierra point to DWP’s quest for more water and more money.
In an effort to avoid any more expense on cleaning up Owens Dry Lake dust, LADWP refused an order from the Great Basin Air Pollution Control District to add 2.9 square miles to the clean-up list. LADWP spent one day in mandatory mediation with APCD and then said mediation wouldn’t work. DWP then appealed the order to the California Air Resources Board. That Board issued a process for the appeal, and DWP then sued them over the process.
Next, DWP filed suit against the local air pollution control district because they don’t want to pay attorneys fees even though the state air board said they should. The APCD board had issued an assessment for LA to pay $250,000 in attorneys fees. DWP said, no, get it out of APCD’s reserve.
APCD Director Ted Schade issued a notice of violation for failure to pay with daily fines of $7500. DWP then filed a suit against the District order to pay attorneys fees and the notice of violation. This hard ball, sue at every turn approach has Inyo and Mono officials baffled and concerned.
Director Schade said that the agreements reached with LADWP six years ago spelled out the process for determining the completeness of the dry lake dust clean-up. Schade said he has followed the process and issued orders to make air quality at the lake comply with mandatory standards.
DWP apparently doesn’t want to play by the rules set down. Schade said DWP has “pulled out all the stops. They’ve decided they’ve spent enough money and put enough water on the lake bed, and they don’t want to do any more.” On the other side are air quality laws. “We have one goal,” said Schade, “to meet air quality standards. We’re done when the air is clean.”
Schade, who has tenaciously stood up for air quality, said DWP refuses to sit down with him to talk about the issues. “There are no face to face meetings. No communication among staff. If they would sit down and talk about real needs on both sides, we could craft something,” said Schade.
Meanwhile, APCD has to defend itself. “We aren’t a wealthy district,” said Schade. He concluded that LADWP is trying to “starve us out,” he said. Schade pointed to the fact that LADWP has hired eight or nine different attorneys. He said they paid one firm $1.4 million just to deal with Owens Dry Lake issues.
At an earlier meeting, APCD Board Chair Mono Supervisor Larry Johnston asked DWP Manager Ron Nichols why spend all the money on legal fees when it could be spent on dust mitigation. Nichols said, “Legal fees pale in comparison to dust controls.”
At this point, DWP has almost finished with dust clean-up, but they’ve dug in their heels in front of a few more square miles of mitigation.