LANCASTER – In what Lancaster officials are describing as “a last-ditch effort to control the outcome of [Tuesday]’s vote,” L.A. County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich has removed founding Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District (AVAQMD) Governing Board member Vern Lawson, Jr. and replaced him with Pat Russell, a Palmdale business owner and former staff member for Antonovich.
“This eleventh-hour surprise completely highjacks the public process for approval of this project, which began in 2006,” said Vice Mayor Marvin Crist, Chairman of the AVAQMD Governing Board.
The years-long controversy was set for resolution with the AVAQMD’s vote to either accept or reject the so-called “emission offset credits” required for construction and operation of the Palmdale Power Plant.
“This board and its (seven) representatives have literally spent years learning the in-depth details of this project,” Crist said. Now, just before the board will vote on a project that will profoundly affect our entire region’s air quality for the next 30-50 years, a key member of the board has been replaced by an individual who has no knowledge of the AVAQMD or emission reduction credit (ERC) review process and has not had sufficient time to learn enough about the project to make an informed decision.”
Ranging from detailed environmental impact reports to EPA evaluations and much more, a steady stream of documents and countervailing reports has been created and issued by both sides in the dispute. In theory at least, members of the AVAQMD governing board are charged with the task of familiarizing themselves with the detailed paperwork. Moreover, in voting to accept or reject the emission offsets, the board members have primary responsibility for the best interests of the public.
“This is not only extremely poor public policy; it is an insult to the citizens of the Antelope Valley, who deserve to have informed representatives making decisions that will affect our community’s air quality and public health for decades to come,” Crist commented.
“The purpose of Air Quality Management Districts is to protect the health of the community. For the Supervisor’s Office to play politics with such an important purpose is a betrayal of all the citizens in the Antelope Valley,” said Lancaster Mayor R Rex Parris.
The announcement came as a surprise to Director Lawson, who said he was unaware of any change and would, “have to look into it” when contacted at his office. Lawson said that he had not resigned his AQMD post and his departure from the board was not voluntary.
Lawson, who also serves as the City of Lancaster’s Economic Development Director, was a founding member of the AVAQMD Governing Board and had represented the Los Angeles County 5th District since the AVAQMD’s inception in 1997.
Despite this unexpected change, the vote to accept or reject the highly controversial emission offsets is still set to take place on Tuesday, December 17th when the AVAQMD Governing Board – minus Lawson but including Russell, meets at Antelope Valley College in Lancaster.
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