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IID General Counsel Responds to the Red Hill Bay Ruling

Following the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District hearing panel’s ruling on notices of violation for Imperial Irrigation District over the Red Hill Bay project, district General Counsel Frank Oswalt summed up the IID’s attorneys’ reactions.

Frank Oswalt, Imperial Irrigation District general counsel

“The hearing panel’s decision was not a surprise. They basically rubber stamped the recommendations of the APCD staff. There was no discussion of the serious deficiencies perpetrated by the APCD in this case, which were repeatedly raised by IID’s counsel during the course of the hearing,” Oswalt stated in an IID press release sent out Saturday morning, April 17. The APCD panel gave its ruling on Friday afternoon, April 16. 

“Of course, the IID will extensively review and consider its response to this unsupportable abatement order. Yet, the order raises serious and significant red flags that cannot be ignored.

“Most concerning, the decision appears to confer on the Air Pollution Control Officer a kind of veto authority over water conservation contracts. This overreaching grant to the Air Pollution Control Officer has no basis in law or regulations. It is impossible to imagine under what conditions the duly elected board of directors of the IID would find this usurpation acceptable,” Oswalt continued.

“The order also appears to require the IID to construct a shallow flooding habitat project, something which is beyond the jurisdiction of any air pollution control district. Satisfying a desire to create the United States Fish and Wildlife Services’ showpiece quality shallow flooding habitat project through an order that should be focused on addressing air quality. An order for a habitat project is contrary to the permissible functions of an APCD. Yet, that is precisely the objective of this order.

“The IID remains committed to addressing the air quality concerns for the Red Hill Bay property. Despite the deficiencies of the APCD’s process and order, IID has proposed a project that would meet Best Available Control Method requirements as set forth in the APCD’s rules for resolving these concerns. This air quality project has been rejected at every turn by an Air Pollution Control District determined to have a showpiece quality wetlands habitat project built by the IID, despite the absence of any legal authority to make such an order,” Oswalt stated in the district statement.