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Court says LADWP owes for penalties

February 6, 2013

Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District said it has won another victory in the fight for dust control on Owens Lake.
Kern County Superior Court ruled earlier this week that the LADWP is responsible for paying penalties associated with its decision to withhold $1.1 million in air pollution control fees last year.
Those penalties could reach up to $8 million.
The LADWP sued Great Basin and the State Air Resource Board last year, claiming that it had met its obligation for dust control measures on Owens Lake.
The department claims that it has mitigated all dust impacts from the lake that it is responsible for through mitigation projects completed between 2002 and 2012.
To date, the LADWP has spent $1.2 billion over the past 10 years to control dust blowing off Owens Lake, in compliance with regulations.
Great Basin said that the LADWP is in the home stretch, but still has a few miles of mitigation projects that must be completed.
Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control Officer Ted Schade said the LADWP has reduced dust blowing off the dry lake by 90 percent, but is required by law to reduce at least 99 percent of the dust. He said mitigation orders issued in 2010, 2011 and an order that is in the works for 2012 should complete the project.
While awaiting its day in court, the LADWP claimed it was not responsible for paying air pollution control fees.
Kern County Superior Court reviewed the department’s claim last November, and ruled that it was required to pay the $1.1 million in fees by Jan. 24.
The LADWP agreed to pay the fees, but claimed it was not required to pay penalties of up to $10,000 per day for each day the fee was past due.
This week’s ruling means the department will be required to pay some penalties associated with the late fee, and a hearing is scheduled for October of this year to determine exactly how much money in penalties the LADWP owes.
“The Court’s ruling is a message that the LADWP’s decision to violate the court orders and the district orders have injured the environment, its own ratepayers and its employees,” Schade said. “I once again encourage the City Council and mayor of Los Angeles to begin serious discussions with Great Basin as to how it can both meet the legal obligation to control its air pollution and protect public health, while saving both water and money on Owens Lake dust controls.”
The LADWP and Great Basin are also awaiting rulings on one state and one federal lawsuit filed by the LADWP.
Both those suits request an injunction against Great Basin, Schade personally and the State Air Resource Board that would prohibit more demands for dust control mitigation on the lake. The federal lawsuit will be heard Feb. 25 in Fresno and no date has been set for the state suit.
Schade said this week’s ruling is an “intermediate” step towards a resolution on dust control issues.
“If Great Basin doesn’t have funds to fight the LADWP, then we can’t fight, so one of their tactics is to cut off our funding” by withholding air pollution control fees,” Schade said.
Representatives from the LADWP did not respond to requests seeking comment as of press time Wednesday.

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