LADWP loses court motion in dry lake legal fees issue

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.”


4 Responses to LADWP loses court motion in dry lake legal fees issue

  1. salblaster February 6, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    just wondering what the 1.1 million in withheld fees was actually going to be used for. was it to fund the day to day operations of the G.B.A.P.C.D or to buy more monitoring equipment, or to pay for the lawyers who are suing dwp, or maybe an upgrade to their offices and transportation vehicles. on a different note i went looking for amonoid fossills(1 to 3 inch sea snails) at unionwash in the inyo mts east of manzanar and did’nt find a single one, anyone have information on where specifically to look for them, maybe gps long and lat.

    • erik simpson February 6, 2013 at 3:01 pm #


      Some info about Union Wash and fossil collecting is available from

      As you’ll read, there are restrictions on what you can collect. Consider that the ammonoids are ~240 million years old. and as such are irreplaceable. They aren’t real easy to find unless you look in the right place, but with some perseverance you can find them. Don’t restrict yourself to the canyon floor.. there’s not much there. Good luck and don’t take too much home.

  2. Chris February 6, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

    Thank you, Kern Co. Superior Cout, for seeing it as it is. May be a drop in the bucket (pun intended), but jerking DWP’s chain through legal channels makes me smile.

  3. Philip Anaya February 7, 2013 at 7:44 am #

    More Truce stories. NPR has a story this morning regarding silicosis.

    I’m guessing that the airborne particulates coming off the Lake since the 20’s have had devastating and unspeakable damage to the lives and lungs of human beings. I never want to see a cross section of a damaged lung.
    The LADWP should accept responsibility for each and every airborne particle that has ever come off the Lake. The wind blown eolin landscape surrounding the Lake especially on the eastern and southern boundaries is a result of the dry lake bed condition. These areas although outside of the lakebed will continue to pollute and will again, as the winds change direction, blow back onto the Lake bed and into human lungs.
    I’m just wondering about the huge DWP Installation on the Eastern shore and it’s HVAC system. I hope that it is a safe environment. I hope that the DWP workers have adequete air filtration equipment and procedures when they are working on the Lakebed. This is a dangerous occupation and I hope that CAL OSHA is as vigilant and as responsible as Great Basin APCD. Not forgetting about moral imperative’s, DWP, especially when it involves the health of all who are subjected to the airborne particles from the Owens Lakebed.
    A TRUCE can only occur when the DWP demonstrates that it has stopped resisting it’s responsibilities in it’s actions and deeds in bringing expensive and needless legal challenges to the regulatory process that in the end will help protect the health and lives of people and not as important the rate payers of the DWP . A TRUCE, a GALA ?????


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