A petition circulated by a sitting board member of the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) to repeal a rule designed to limit harmful fugitive dust blowing off the Oceano Dunes and into the lungs of Nipomo Mesa residents is reviving controversy between off-road enthusiasts and supporters of the air district’s efforts.
Grover Beach Mayor Debbie Peterson published the online petition on the 4th of July weekend, urging residents and her fellow board members to lobby the board to repeal the rule, which many argue is based on a flawed study linking fugitive dust to off-highway vehicle (OHV) use in the dunes.
Peterson claims that State Parks—which operates the OHV park in the Oceano Dunes—is the proper agency to research and mitigate the problem, not the APCD. She doesn’t, however, deny the existence of a health problem on the Nipomo Mesa.
“I have a really clear mandate from my city to support the biggest economic engine we have,” Peterson told New Times.
The petition claims that the APCD’s Rule 1001—which was adopted by the board in November 2011—will fine State Parks $1,000 per day “when the wind blows up excessive dust, $920 a year for a permit to operate, $4,080 a year to monitor each air monitor (22 have been installed), and $40,160 a year for an existing APCD monitor.”
Asked whether she thought it proper for a sitting board member to take the role of activist on an issue she may be called to vote on, Peterson responded: “Every single board member has the right to an opinion and a responsibility to request that their constituents are able to provide input.”
The petition is sponsored by American Property Services, a local real estate company; a local merchant association called Grover Beach United; and Mongo’s Saloon. As of press time, it had garnered 124 supporters, though a large number of them were anonymous.
However, the APCD executive officer, Larry Allen—who insisted he isn’t refuting a sitting board member—told New Times that information stated on the petition is incorrect.
He said that nothing in the rule dictates that State Parks will be fined $1,000 every day dust exceeds standards; rather, that amount is the maximum allowed under state law and issued at the discretion of the APCD executive officer.
“We’ve told the board numerous times we’re far more interested with working with State Parks to create effective controls rather than penalize them,” Allen said.
He also said the petition is misleading in that it implies that the rule charges State Parks some $4,000 a year for all 22 monitors, when in fact 20 of those monitors are temporary and the fee only applies to two monitors.
He added that dust off the dunes already exceeds state and federal standards, and that Rule 1001 is the only indication that the district is working to mitigate it. Otherwise, the state or federal government may step in and implement their own enforcement, effectively taking away local control of the issue.
The petition comes on the heels of the Grover Beach City Council—at the suggestion of Peterson—sending the Board of Supervisors a letter urging them to consider selling a 584-acre swath of county-owned dunes to State Parks for OHV use, following numerous meetings with a State Parks OHV Division commissioner.
The petition can be viewed at ipetitions.com/petition/repeal-the-dust-rule.
The public is being urged to comment at the
July 24 APCD meeting, though due to Brown
Act constraints, the board can’t take up the issue any earlier than at its regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 25.