- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
The Air Pollution Control District Board of Directors at its July 28 meeting unanimously passed a memorandum to establish two ad-hoc committees to structure a Particulate Matter Reduction Plan (PMRP) for the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area.
A February 2010 study by the APCD found particulate matter (PM) emissions to be significant contributors to above-average ambient PM levels in the area surrounding Oceano and the Nipomo Mesa.
The memorandum provides for the establishment of a so-called Technical Advisory Committee, which will be responsible for preparing the scope of the plan and will include two representatives from the county and state parks, as well as a yet-to-be-determined outside technical expert. A Management Oversight Committee also formed, responsible for reviewing and approving all work by the Technical Advisory Committee for submittal to the district.
The problem: The committees, as drafted in the staff report, would be closed to the public and, according to county counsel, exempt from the Brown Act. That advice didn’t sit well with those in attendance.
“I believe the APCD is creating these committees in violation of the Brown Act, discussing the issue without the scrutiny of the public,” said SLO resident and OHV advocate Kevin Rice. “The public deserves access to make sure good science pervades at these committees.”
“I absolutely think they’re violating the Brown Act and not giving the citizens the right to participate in the process,” Lucia Casalinuovo, an Oceano resident for 20 years, told New Times. “If they discuss this in closed sessions and secretive meetings, there’s no representation by those affected by the health problems associated with [particulate matter]. When is the public going to be involved in this process?”
Air Pollution Control Officer and principle district administrator Larry Allen answered that he wasn’t opposed to allowing the public to attend the meetings, but he wasn’t sure public input on the technical meetings of the Technical Advisory Committee would be appropriate.
In the end, the district directed staff to make the Management Oversight Committee open to the public, but many residents still questioned what will be considered behind the closed doors of the Technical Advisory Committee.
Supervisor Frank Mecham stated that the Air Pollution Control District was caught between residents demanding action as well as participation: “We don’t want to exclude the public, but the public is demanding we do something, and we want to expedite that process.”