The tentative “consent decree” agreement between the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) and California State Parks over how to mitigate air pollution from the Oceano Dunes has taken a step backward after a recent appellate court decision.
In a brief, unsigned order issued on July 30, California’s Second District Court of Appeal denied a joint motion brought by the APCD and State Parks that sought to dismiss all appeals of the controversial “dust rule” and approve the consent decree agreement (a tentative compromise) the two parties had informally agreed upon on March 26.
“Despite this decision, we are hoping to move forward with State Parks and implement the consent decree agreement outside of court,” APCD Executive Director Larry Allen told New Times. “We want to get out of the litigation phase and into the solution phase.”
The off-highway vehicle (OHV) advocacy group Friends of Oceano Dunes had appealed a lower court’s affirmation of the dust rule. According to APCD District Counsel Ray Biering, the appellate court was uncomfortable with summarily dismissing that appeal, considering Friends wasn’t a part of the consent decree agreement discussions.
“I understand that the court wants to hear arguments and evaluate the merits of the appeal, since their decision will be binding law,” Biering said. “Friends will get their day in court, but the other parties are always free to reach a settlement outside of court.”
Friends legal counsel Thomas Roth said the group—which is proceeding with its appeal seeking to eliminate the dust rule—has always been open to settlement discussions, but has been “specifically excluded” from those discussions.
In response, Allen said the APCD has no intention of working with Friends.
“We have not been working with Friends, and we don’t believe they have real standing or relevance here,” Allen said. “We are working with the appropriate party and landowner, State Parks, and we hope Friends see it’s in their best interest to drop their appeal.”
Allen and Biering said intensive discussions and negotiations are already underway between the APCD and State Parks. State Parks must quickly decide whether to move forward with its dust rule appeal, for which legal briefs are due on Aug. 29.
“We have very strong indications from [State Parks] that they want to continue down the path of the consent decree and drop their appeal, but we just have to figure out where to move from here,” Allen said. “We’re making good progress.”