Friday, January 13, 2012

East Kern Pollution Board opposes grand jury report

Tehachapi —

By Jill Barnes Nelson
Special to The Daily Independent
Posted Jan 13, 2012 @ 09:30 AM

Chip Holloway called it, “laughable.”
“Combining the East Kern air district with that of the San Joaquin Valley is just laughable,” said Holloway, the Vice-Chairman for the Eastern Kern Air Pollution Control District. “The recommendations of the Grand Jury to combine the two air districts into one is not logical and is cost prohibitive. We dispute the Grand Jury findings.”
Holloway, who also is councilman for Ridgecrest, was among those in attendance for a meeting of the EKAPCD on Tuesday in Tehachapi. The main topic of the meeting was the recommendation of the Kern County Grand Jury to combine the EKAPCD with a similar district in western Kern County. Much of the western section includes the San Joaquin Valley, which is noted for its bad air.
Holloway, along with the rest of the board and members of the public from East Kern, expressed their displeasure with the findings.
“We are strongly opposed to combining the two,” said Jennifer Keep, a representative of the Indian Wells Valley Water District in Ridgecrest. “We are presenting this board with a letter concerning our opposition. This would not be a benefit to us.”
The Grand Jury decided to look into why there were two different agencies governing air quality in Kern County. Much of the State is broken down into broader areas. The East Kern district includes 48 communities, including Mojave, California City, Ridgecrest, Rosamond, Tehachapi and Kern River Valley, as well as a number of smaller communities.
The Western portion of Kern County falls under the jurisdiction of another pollution board, which covers areas from Arvin to the western borders of the county, and includes parts of Tulare, Kings, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties.
David Jones, the Air Pollution Control Officer for the EKAPCD, explained that the Kern County Board of Supervisors made a decision to split the county back in 1991 because of the major differences in the two areas. It was pointed out that the western portion consisted of more oil refineries, while the eastern section had cement plants and mining.
But the Grand Jury decided to examine the two districts. It then issued a reported on Oct. 2011, stating it would be “logical” to combine the two districts.
“I don’t see any logic to it,” said director Jon McQuiston, who also is the County Supervisor for District One. “It’s just not feasible.”
Ridgecrest resident Renee Westa-Lusk wanted to know why the Grand Jury made the recommendations.
“I really don’t know,” said Chairman Ed Grimes, who’s also Mayor of Tehachapi. He and his Council also sent a letter opposing the change. “I really don’t know what their motivation is.”
District Two Supervisor Zack Scrivner, also on the EKAPCD board, noted that it is the Grand Jury’s job to occasionally look into different agencies to ensure accountability.
“I don’t think it had any bad intentions when it released its report,” he said. “I just think it was misinformed to the particulars of the two different areas.”
Jones said that if the two were combined it could have a negative impact on Edwards Air Force Base, China Lake Naval Base and the Mojave Air & Space Port, along with other businesses in East Kern.
“There could be some severe restrictions concerning ozone emissions,” he said. “Both these areas have such different concerns for air quality. So on behalf of the East Kern Air Pollution Control Board, I’ve drafted a letter opposing the Grand Jury’s recommendations.”
The City of California City and the Mojave Air & Space Port also have sent letters of opposition to the Grand Jury.
Scrivner said that the Grand Jury doesn’t have to respond to the board’s letter.
“We just need to be professional in our approach,” Grimes said. “We need to let our feelings be known to the Grand Jury.”

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