“We’re done. We’re absolutely done in terms of going around and around and around with these arguments.” Los Angeles Department of Water and Power attorney, Stuart Somach, opened the City’s State Air Board appeal to more dust clean-up at Owens Dry Lake with the assertion that LA will continue to challenge any agency’s order to force them to meet federal air quality standards at the dry lake. The transcript of last Friday’s hearing has now gone public.
In the transcript, Somach challenged the local air pollution control district, the state air board and the State Lands Commission. Said Somach, “We’re all big boys and girls. And we need to resolve these issues.” Somach implied LA is not responsible for the additional 2.9 square miles of dust recently ordered for clean-up. He also spelled out LA’s belief that an evidentiary hearing has to happen to examine the evidence that LA has created the dust in question.
Somach and others from LA offered no hard evidence to dispute APCD’s findings and order. In fact, LA was supposed to have provided evidence long before the appeal hearing. Somach did accuse the Air Board staff of “rubber stamping” the APCD’s position. He continued in a kind of rant, describing the hearing as having an “Alice in Wonderland Quality.” He accused APCD and the State Lands Commission of wasting water even though no order exists forcing LADWP to use water on the lake bed.
Somach points to the 95,000 acre feet that LA spreads on the lake and said that the City “simply does not have a surplus of 95,000 acee feet of water.” However, Mammoth Community Water District had offered up LA’s Urban Water Management Plan earlier this year which states that the City’s water surplus is “forecasted at between 370,000 and 1,000,000 acre feet under dry year conditions.”
Somach brought up issues about LA’s other water sources – Colorado River shortages, cuts in Delta water, polluted LA groundwater. He calls the use of water on the dry lake “inexcusable as a matter of state policy.”
The hearing transcript also reveals LADWP’s attack on the APCD computer model, a photo of a dust storm in 1901, assertions of off-lake dust emissions, and arguments about past levels of the Owens Lake, and about artifacts in the new dust area.
Great Basin Air Pollution Control District lawyer, Peter Hsiao (Huh-sow) of Morrison and Foerster called the Owens Dry lake Bed the “undisputed largest source of particulate air emissions in the country.”
The attorney proceeded to spell out how LADWP has violated the agreements and laws with respect to dust control, how the City failed to comply with State Air Board rules and procedures. Hsaio said DWP had an opportunity to present evidence on their position to APCD and failed, had a chance to work with APCD and refused, had agreed to a lake bed computer model, had agreed to the level of the Owens Lake, had agreed to additional clean-up when necessary. Now, he said, LA wants to ignore its agreements and the law.
Hsaio said, “What we have is every agency that has considered these procedures has unanimously supported them: The district, the Air Resources Board, the United State Environmental Protection Agency, and most importantly, the City and its Department of Water and Power.”
The attorney explained how the district followed the legal requirements to assess ongoing air quality violations and how LA never contested past assessments and methods to get them. He also said that the law puts the responsibility for dust clean-up on DWP, not on the State Lands Commission.
Both sides will submit proposed orders on these issues in about two weeks. A decision is expected to quickly follow.