Grover Beach Mayor Debbie Peterson has written a petition urging a controversial dust rule — which requires State Parks to reduce the amount of dust blowing off its Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area — be repealed.
Peterson points to reviews done by other experts and agencies, including the California Geological Survey, which question the conclusions of a scientific study that found off-highway vehicle riding in the Dunes increases the amount of dust coming from the park.
“The board in place now is not the same board that voted it (the dust rule) in,” said Peterson, who has sat on the county air district board since January. “It’s prudent for them to take another look at it.”
Peterson said she believes State Parks should research the issue and find ways to address it, but takes issue with what she called excessive fines, fees and permits that will fund the county Air Pollution Control District’s review of State Parks’ monitoring programs.
But air district officials and others who support the dust rule note the extensive work and analysis that went into the study, which was peer-reviewed by six independent experts, and stress the goal is not to fine State Parks, but to protect public health.
“We’ve told the (air district) board numerous times that our intent is to work with State Parks to get effective controls in,” said Larry Allen, the county’s air pollution control officer.
“We’re not looking to fine them. We’re working closely with State Parks right now, and about to approve the draft dust plan they’re putting together.”
Hotly debated dust-control regulation, called Rule 1001, was adopted by the 12-member air district board in November 2011. It requires the state to develop a plan to reduce the number of days that air quality on the Nipomo Mesa exceeds state standards for particulates.
High levels of particulates cause a variety of respiratory problems, and Nipomo Mesa residents have complained of having to stay indoors on high-wind days.
Once fully implemented, the rule will subject State Parks to possible fines if unhealthy dust levels blowing off riding areas of the park exceed levels coming off non-riding areas. The maximum fine is $1,000 a day per the state Health and Safety Code.
“The net result is that one state agency is requiring another to carry out and fund work and mitigation and then charging them again to monitor their work and then fining them if they don’t get the desired result,” Peterson wrote in the online petition, which had 45 signatures as of Saturday afternoon. “These funds would be far better spent to actually research and solve the problem.”
The annual cost to State Parks is about $49,000 a year, mostly for the air district to monitor and review air quality impacts. That includes a $4,000 fee for each of the two permanent dust monitoring stations that the air district will review — not 22 temporary stations, as
stated in the petition. The air district is not charging a fee to review data from the temporary monitors, Allen said.
“It’s not some overreach from APCD,” said county Supervisor Adam Hill, a member of the air district board. “This is part of what they do.”
Hill disagreed that the rule should be revisited because the make-up of the board has changed.
“I don’t think that having two new politicians should overrule well-founded scientific studies or a well-founded judge’s ruling,” he said, referring to a decision earlier this year by San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall.
In April, Crandall dismissed a lawsuit filed by the pro-riding group Friends of Oceano Dunes challenging the validity of the dust control rule. A petition filed by San Luis Obispo resident Kevin P. Rice was consolidated with the Friends of Oceano Dunes action.
In oral arguments in January, the plaintiffs contended that the district failed to show a clear correlation between vehicle riding in the Dunes and high levels of dust downwind on the Nipomo Mesa.
Crandall rejected those arguments, saying that the county Air Pollution Control District’s dust rule and the science it was based on were peer-reviewed by many agencies.
In May, Friends of Oceano Dunes appealed the ruling to the 2nd District Court of Appeal. An opening brief is due by July 30. The state attorney general’s office also filed an appeal for State Parks, court records show, and an opening brief is due by Aug. 28.
Peterson’s petition can be viewed at www.ipetitions.com/petition/repeal-the-dust-rule/.