Following months of off-the-dais debate and a failed signature-gathering effort by opponents of current regulations aimed to curb dust emissions off the Oceano Dunes, the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District Board majority was able to pass a controversial set of fees to cover those efforts.
At a Sept. 5 special meeting, the 11-member board of directors voted 7-4 to approve charging the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area a total of $49,240.
The fees are related to a controversial “rule” passed by the board in November 2011. Rule 1001 allows the district to fine State Parks on days when particulate matter—airborne dust particles—exceeds state standards.
The fees cover a number of things; namely, the cost of verifying compliance with Rule 1001, two control site monitors, and the bulk going to pay for the district’s operation of an air monitoring site at the Cal Fire station on the Nipomo Mesa, where particulate matter is suspected of causing health problems for residents.
“This is a regular part of doing business for the agency. All sources need to pay the cost for oversight,” Nipomo Mesa resident Carla Heaney told the board prior to the vote. “Do the math. I mean, the park has collected all kinds of money. If some people have to pay for polluting and others don’t, that’s just not fair.”
But the fees weren’t passed without a fight. Grover Beach Mayor Debbie Peterson, Pismo Beach Councilman Ed Waage, Atascadero Councilwoman Roberta Fonzi, and County Supervisor Debbie Arnold all supported creating a memorandum of understanding with State Parks rather than imposing the fees.
“We should give State Parks the ability to use [the site] as needed, and give them the same flexibility that we gave ourselves,” Peterson said, adding she couldn’t make a finding of necessity to impose the new fees.
The board is scheduled to meet again Sept. 25.