Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kern County Grand Jury recommends consolidation of air districts

Tehachapi News

Tuesday, Dec 20 2011 02:30 PM

The Kern County Grand Jury has recommended that the Air Pollution Control Districts of eastern and western Kern County be consolidated into one.

In a report issued earlier this month, the Grand Jury noted that its Administration and Audit Committee conducted a review of the Eastern Kern Air Pollution Control District.

According to the findings of the committee, “it is logical and advantageous to combine the Eastern Kern County Air Pollution Control District and Western Kern County into a single pollution control local district. This change is justified by the extensive oil production and refinement activities in western Kern County, including the expanded financial resources gleaned from production and manufacturing.”

According to Dave Jones, Air Pollution Control Officer with the Eastern Kern APCD, the recommendation is problematic in that the Eastern Kern APCD is comprised of the eastern portion of Kern County that is not within the San Joaquin Valley APCD.

Jones said that Kern County once had one APCD, but that around 1990, state legislation required the eight counties of the San Joaquin Valley to consolidate into one air pollution control district to begin addressing issues common to that air basin.

Eastern Kern - including Tehachapi - is not part of the San Joaquin Valley air basin, so a decision was made at the time to split off into a separate air pollution control district.

Currently, the board of directors of the Eastern Kern APCD is made up of two representatives of the Kern County Board of Supervisors and representatives of the three cities in the district - Tehachapi, California City and Ridgecrest. Tehachapi Mayor Ed Grimes sits on the board.

Jones said the board will consider the Grand Jury recommendation at its January meeting. The staff recommendation is to oppose consolidation because of the differences in the air quality issues.

“Although there are minor ozone problems,” the air in Eastern Kern is “nothing like it is here in Bakersfield,” Jones said.

The Mojave Chamber of Commerce has also come out against the consolidation proposed by the Grand Jury.

In a letter to Kern County Supervisor Zack Scrivner, Cathy Hansen, president of the Mojave Chamber of Commerce, noted that “Eastern Kern is in a separate APCD because this region is in a different air basin, and has an industrial base based on mining, aerospace, renewable energy, and tourism rather than the petroleum and agriculture base of the SJVAPCD.

“Further,” Hansen noted, “EKAPCD consists of the 41 communities of the region, all in Kern County, while SJVAPCD includes seven other counties in addition to the western portion of Kern County.”

Eastern Kern leaders have faced the challenge of similar suggestions in the past, Hansen noted.

“Several years ago the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attempted to impose upon Eastern Kern potentially devastating air quality rules based on combining pollution levels in the Valley with those in Eastern Kern. It took an outcry from Eastern Kern community leaders and the support of then-Congressman Bill Thomas to halt this action, which could have closed down activities at Edwards Air Force Base, the Mojave Air and Space Port, and the Naval Air Warfare Weapons Division Weapons Division at China Lake if fully implemented,” she said, asking Scrivner to “do everything in your power to oppose this recommendation, and that you suggest to the Grand Jury that they perform more intensive studies before making potentially devastating suggestions such as this one.”

The January meeting of the EKAPCD Board of Directors will be held on Jan. 12, 2012, beginning at 1 p.m. at the Golden Hills Community Services District office, 21415 Reeves, Tehachapi. The meeting is open to the public.

Jones noted that although the district is now headquartered in Bakersfield with a field office in Tehachapi, it plans to relocate its headquarters to Tehachapi in October 2012.

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