Updated: AVAQMD meeting fails to clear the air

(Image concept of Palmdale Hybrid Power Plant, courtesy Inland Energy Inc.)

(Image concept of Palmdale Hybrid Power Plant, courtesy Inland Energy Inc.)

In a 4-3 vote Tuesday, Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District’s governing board voted to approve the transfer of emissions credits needed for the Palmdale Power Plant to move forward. T.E. Barkas was there, and gives his take on the seven-hour meeting.

The much-anticipated meeting of the Antelope Valley AQMD finally took place yesterday. Tasked with the responsibility to clear the air, the AQMD Board managed instead to muddy the waters for many in attendance.

The meeting was supposed to be a fairly straight forward affair with the singular objective of voting to either accept or reject the “emission offset credits” that the City of Palmdale needs to move forward with plans to build a natural gas-fueled power plant. But that seemingly simple agenda quickly devolved into a referendum on the controversial plan that lasted for more than six hours.

In the end, Palmdale got what it came for when the Board voted 4-3 to accept the credits. But that decision, widely predicted after some notable last-minute maneuvering, will likely not settle the contentious issue, nor quell the rancor between the mayors of Palmdale and Lancaster.

The bad blood and distrust was on display right from the start, when a large crowd of interested Antelope Valley residents packed the 400-seat hall at Antelope Valley College to overflowing. The SRO crowd spilled into the lobby, where the proceedings were made available on video screens. And those who came looking for fireworks were not disappointed.

The stage was set less than 24 hours earlier with a last-minute lineup change by County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who replaced longtime AQMD Board member Vern Lawson with retired LA Planning Commissioner Patricia Russell.

That change was denounced strongly by Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris, who took exception to the statement released by Antonovich’s office declaring the move necessary, “to ensure that the process was sound and with no appearance of conflict.”

Parris took the stage at the start of the meeting to praise the well-respected Lawson as an exemplary public servant who “has served the supervisor faithfully from the moment he took his seat. Vern Lawson has done more for this community than anybody on this stage.”

But when Parris mentioned his removal, many pro-Palmdale supporters in the room applauded, including Palmdale Mayor and AQMD Board Member Jim Ledford.  Those who believe animosity between the two mayors is at the heart of animus between the neighboring cities might have taken what happened next as confirmation of that view.

“I see the mayor of Palmdale is applauding the firing of Vern Lawson,” Parris remarked, clearly angered. “What kind of person applauds a thing like that?” he asked, evoking a chorus of remarks from the gallery in the first of several such outbursts by the crowd, and conflicts between the two men.

As the program moved forward, a wide range of groups and organizations with an interest in the outcome took to the podium, apparently viewing the proceedings as a last-chance opportunity to state their cases and sway votes. Representatives from Lancaster and Palmdale offered up largely predictable and redundant statements pro and con, and a fair amount of time was consumed when AQMD Board Chairman Marvin Crist strongly questioned the staff’s previously announced recommendation that the offset credits be accepted.

Formal statements were also offered by the Lancaster School District (against), West Coast Baptist College (against), and a representative from the Unions representing construction trades (strongly in favor). The audience included many out-of-work construction workers, who responded loudly to their union rep’s pro-jobs remarks.

Conspicuously absent from the proceedings were any representatives from Summit Energy, Palmdale’s purported partner in the project.

But the most entertaining moment may have come during the (otherwise interminable) “public comments” segment of the show, when a concerned citizen used his two minutes to address the newly seated Ms. Russell. Clearly caught off guard when asked to share her thoughts on the international environmental agreement known as the “Kyoto Protocol,” the newest Board member seemed at a loss for words.

When it became clear she had no response, the questioner followed up by asking her to briefly describe what an “emission offset credit” actually is. This was met with silence and a painful deer-in-the-headlights look that lasted only a minute (but must have seemed much longer to Ms. Russell) before Chairman Crist mercifully called on the next speaker.

In the end, however, Lawson was out, Russell was in, and – as predicted by many after the board-member shuffle – the AQMD voted to accept the offsets. Palmdale officials were exultant, but this may not be the end of the story. In fact, it almost certainly will not. A comment earlier in the day – possibly lost to many in the sea of arcana and minutiae of reports and legalese – may turn out to be the most important and prescient of the day.

Jane Williams, director of Desert Citizens Against Pollution (DCAP) described the emission offsets at the center of the day’s events as “Lazarus Credits” that date back to the closure of an oil refinery in 1977, which she said cannot legally be used by Palmdale to offset its plant emissions.

“Those offsets reflect pollution that hasn’t been generated since 1977,” she said. “Which means pollution which is not being generated now is being resurrected by these credits. That’s not a valid approach. The power plant requires contemporaneous credits that offset pollution that is being created right now.”

Williams declared that if the AQMD board voted to accept the credits, DCAP would have no choice but to file suit against the AQMD.

It would appear to be a formidable threat, to anyone who knows anything about DCAP. Since its formation in 1986, William’s group has been on the winning side of several noteworthy pollution-related battles affecting the high desert including landfills, tire burning in cement kilns, nuclear waste transport and dumps, gold mines, hazardous waste dumps, and protecting critical habitat for the endangered desert tortoise. And as with so many in the high desert, the passionate environmental activist has a clear stance on the current dispute.

“I don’t want to see any fossil-fueled power plants built anywhere,” Williams said. “That’s an old technology. We don’t need power plants. We need clean energy, clean jobs and clean air.”

So the AQMD meeting and vote, which many thought to be the “last word” on the issue, may turn out to be anything but. Though Palmdale appeared to be victorious, the city may not actually be significantly closer to breaking ground on the ever-contentious power plant, with further court battles yet to come.

UPDATED 12/20/13 (Editor’s Note): Palmdale Communications Manager John Mlynar responded to the above article. Read his response below:

“I read the article on The Antelope Valley Times today regarding the AVAQMD meeting. Once again, Tim Barkas revealed his prejudice in this matter.  He, unlike the Antelope Valley Press and Time Warner Cable, totally ignored the fact that Vern Lawson is a Lancaster City employee, and that Vern, like the rest of City staff, was directed by the Lancaster City Council on July 22, 2010, to come up with a plant to stop the power plant. It would have been a blatant conflict of interest for Vern to serve on that board. We have pointed that out tirelessly over the past few months. (See attached minutes from the Lancaster City Council meeting, page 13.)

Mr. Barkas continues to post his views on Facebook, views which are eerily similar to those of Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris and the City of Lancaster, particularly in regards to the voting rights lawsuit and the power plant. I respect Mr. Barkas’ right to free speech. However, as someone who has studied communications and journalism, I do know the difference between news reporting and editorializing. Mr. Barkas seems to be practicing the latter.”

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The AV Times.

Email letters@theavtimes.com to submit a story to Your Issues | Your News.

  36 comments for “Updated: AVAQMD meeting fails to clear the air

  1. William
    December 20, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    @ Time Barkas. Re: Jane Williams from DCAP. If you were at the hearing, which is now questionable, did you not hear Karen, Palmdale’s counsel, say over and over that those 1977 so-called ‘Lazarus credits’, regardless of their quality, had to be accepted ‘as is’ and the time to question them was later when they will be used by Summit or whichever party wants to use them? If they are no good, then Summit will have to find other credits. It wasn’t the board’s job to investigate them or determine if they were valid. They had been certified by San Joaquin Valley and ‘that’s that’ for now.

    I swear I heard that several times with no effective rebuttal.

    Do you have one?

  2. Scott Pelka
    December 19, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Boy for a 7 hour meeting a lot was left out. I am beginning to wonder if Rex bought this website.

    • The Anti-REX
      December 20, 2013 at 11:05 am

      I think your right, they removed my comments that mentioned Rex.

    • William
      December 20, 2013 at 1:35 pm

      Scott, if Lawson had been left on the board, the hearing would have been over in 90 minutes. Crist wouldn’t have bothered with all his picky little questions that weren’t pertinent to the job of the board that day and knowing he had the votes, would have had the voting done much sooner.

      Count on it.

      • Scott Pelka
        December 20, 2013 at 2:06 pm

        Your right… Look at the message that I received on facebook from the writer of this story.

        Tim Barkas

        “Boy for a 7 hour meeting a lot was left out. I am beginning to wonder if Rex bought this website.”

        Indeed, quite a lot was left out. Because it was irrelevant minutiae that wasn’t worthy of inclusion.

        For example, virtually every meaningless, vacuous comment offered up during the “public commentary” portion of the program. Including, and most especially, the comments offered up by you, sir, which contributed absolutely nothing other than to extend the torture an extra two minutes.

        Now we know how he feels about public comment and who has the right to voice their opinion at public meetings. I guess Tim is paid by Rex and Marv. to push their agendas.

        • William
          December 20, 2013 at 4:14 pm

          @ Scott. I believe that Karen, Palmdale’s counsel, and/or the guy from the CEC sitting next to her repeated over and over that the board was NOT to re-litigate the CEC final report or debate the process used by the CEC. That wasn’t the board’s job.

          Mr. Hawkins even asked if the board was supposed to independently verify everything and was told “No”.

          They also told Crist and the board that the transfer credits were to be accepted as they were presented, whether from 1977 or 1877. The time to check if they were valid is later when they were going to be used. But, Crist and others keep on beating that dead horse. Mayor Ledford repeatedly said that the plant would only need 1% of the available credits and that there were about 6,000 available credits.

          Crist kept on trying to find ‘flaws’ in the final report. He was told not to do that but kept doing it for 7 hours. But, if Lawson had still been on the board, does anyone think Crist would have bothered with all those questions?

          Of course not. Crist would have had the votes from the beginning of the hearing and he probably wouldn’t have asked 1 question.

          I’m not a lawyer, a power plant expert or anything having to do with EPA or power plants BUT I could listen to what the instructions were for the board while it seems that the opponents were so deaf they couldn’t hear thunder.

          So, the opponents didn’t pay attention and now they are upset. Well, isn’t that something? Isn’t that something you would tell a 3rd grader to get over?

          I still want Wrecks and Crist to admit that their mailer was deceptive. It was pointed out during the hearing but Crist was in dreamland and couldn’t hear it.

          I wonder how Wrecks will deal with Crist, his man on the board, who failed miserably. The Ron Smith treatment, perhaps????

          And, was Chellette out to lunch or did it just seem that way when it was time to vote?

          I’m just writing this comment from memory so I could be wrong about everything.

  3. Newman
    December 19, 2013 at 7:44 am

    Looks like a bad idea.

  4. Stinger
    December 19, 2013 at 6:01 am

    The message is sent. The meaning is clear. The AV Power Brokers have decided. There WILL be a power plant built. If R. Rex Parris decides to take this any further, we will be watching him be destroyed by those very same power brokers who allowed him to expose their machinations by being so obvious in his own.

    Goodbye, Wrecks… It won’t be long now…

    • Not Suprised
      December 20, 2013 at 11:18 am

      It will be a glorious day in the AV when R. Rex Parris is not longer part of the political or power structure. We are not worthy of his brilliance and leadership skills. Maybe his neighbors in Laguna Niguel would benefit from someone like him. He can take his bird sounds, spy plane, cronies and valley fever spores with him.

      • William
        December 20, 2013 at 1:32 pm

        Does anyone think that Wrecks will continue living in Lancaster once he’s no longer mayor? He once said on the local teevee machine that he was gonna sell his big house and live in one of the new condos off the BLVD. LOL

        Then, his nose grew another inch.

        Wrecks lies when the truth would do.

        And, his lies were exposed Tuesday and, thankfully, he didn’t prevail. It’s so nice when that happens.

  5. Jason Zink
    December 19, 2013 at 1:11 am

    In the end you have to ask yourself AV, was this power plant worth it? What did we gain – sadly nothing.

    Who gets the electricity? LA
    Who gets rich? Newport Developer & local special interest.
    Who gets pollution? AV
    Who gets annual $450 tax bill? AV
    Who gets jobs? Out of town workers
    Who gets cheaper electric rates? No-one
    Who gets to turn the golden shovel?????? Say cheeze =) good job mayor, council members & county supervisor!

    I will never understand what these pro power plant people where cheering for. Next project exporting AV ground water. Hiphiphoray!!!

    • William
      December 19, 2013 at 2:49 am

      Run for mayor, Jason. Put out all your ideas and see how they float.

      • Jason Zink
        December 19, 2013 at 9:16 am

        I dont see AV moving forward with the way it is politically which hurts us all. Someone needs to bring the Antelope Valley together. This project was a regional issue and the bigger AV gets the worst it will get until we have an Antelope Valley Wide governing body elected by districts. There are only two vehicles for that under state law:

        AV Community Service District (C.S.D.) which is easy and a small good step that gives us one voice and a powerful government of 450,000 people strong.

        Or a AV County which is complicated but ultimately the best vechical which is easier to have once we have a C.S.D.

        • Jason Zink
          December 19, 2013 at 9:28 am

          Palmdale and Lancaster would still be independent cities but AV C.S.D. would do regional planning, and lobby for jobs and tax dollars form LA County, State and Federal agency’s.

          Right now the county supervisor can change members on all these special boards as can the two cities and unless your a friend, you a private citizen has no chance of being on one of those boards which creates these political games you see today, which does not serve the citizens of AV.

        • William
          December 20, 2013 at 1:42 pm


          When are you gonna get that through your head? They spent 4 years on that and now they are supposed to do what you say? Give me a break.

          Didn’t photos of power plants in Burbank and Pasadena in the midst of schools and residences make any difference to you? It’s like you’re howling at the moon.

          And, no one wants to hear about “everybody getting along in the Valley” as long as Parris is mayor and being the kind of divisive, arrogant, dishonest person he has been. The only people who want to merge or anything like that are from Lancaster, which, if it’s so great, why do they want to merge with terrible old Palmdale?

  6. William
    December 19, 2013 at 12:37 am

    Despite Williams’ objections to the 1977 credits, it was either read of simply said by the counsel for Palmdale that the credits as certified by San Joaquin Valley are to be accepted as valid. Then later, when they are to be used, their validity can be inspected and approved or rejected. I know that sounds strange and backward but, apparently, thems the rules.

    It was amazing that the ‘rules’, ‘regulations’ and applicable ‘laws’ were read over and over and it didn’t much matter to Crist. He was on his own (Rex’s) agenda. And, it was an obvious fail from the beginning.

  7. Stinger
    December 18, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    Articles like this one, with such a clear bias towards Parris & Co., make me start to question the veracity of the AV Times.

  8. Not Surprised
    December 18, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    Not one word mentioned in this article that Vern Lawson works for the City of Lancaster and that the City Council of Lancaster directed staff on June 22, 2010 to come up with a way to stop the power plant? It is a very important fact to be leaving out. The AV Times usually gets the story straight and unbiased. Not this time.

    • Kaydee
      December 18, 2013 at 11:58 pm

      I agree. This story is crap!! It’s almost as it the writer is angry the power plant got the go ahead. I don’t care either way, but I don’t like being told what to think by journalists. You guys are supposed to be neutral parties. Note to author: Just the facts please! Leave your one sided commentary to the comment section. Thumbs down!!!

      • Not Surprised
        December 19, 2013 at 8:38 am

        The ‘writer’ of this story is a former Antelope Valley Press reporter who was let go from the paper. The ‘writer’ of this story doesn’t live in the Antelope Valley. The ‘writer’ of this story has been posting stories all over Facebook that mirror the Parris company line on voting rights and power plant. The ‘writer’ left out critical details of who Vernon Lawson, Jr’s employer is.

        • Tim Barkas
          December 19, 2013 at 12:56 pm

          @Not Surprised:
          I agree that more detailed info about Vern Lawson’s history and contribution to the Antelope Valley is worthy of more attention. Indeed, the laudable Mr. Lawson is a significant figure in the AV. His contributions are numerous, significant and above reproach. He most certainly deserves a profile story all his own.

          I would disagree, however, on where you demand the emphasis be placed on such a story. A thorough examination of Mr. Lawson’s background and public service would be edifying and well-deserved. Moreover, it would serve to illustrate how egregious and unjust his recent termination from the AQMD Governing Board truly was. The words “reprehensible” and “indefensible” come to mind.

          You brought up the word “bias.” By emphasizing a six-month old factoid within a larger narrative, to the exclusion of the bigger picture, you are practicing the very bias you decry.

          You state that “the writer is angry the power plant got the go ahead,” and that you “don’t care either way.”
          I’ll meet you half way on this. I AM angry, but not that the PPP got the go ahead. I’m miffed that, in the end, supporters and opposition alike were cheated. YOU may not care either way, but many of your neighbors did.

          Alas, the ayes and nays were rendered irrelevant by the actions of one man. In the end, Supervisor Antonovich’s was the only vote that counted.

          It is not supposed to work this way. It is (yet another) example of the corruption that pervades our political process, and it is an affront to ALL voters in the Antelope Valley. My anger isn’t about the outcome. It’s about one man determining that outcome.

          “Leave your one sided commentary to the comment section,” you demand.
          Indeed. That is where it was located on the web site, and succinctly described as “his (my) take.” i.e. commentary.

          A final few words for @Not Surprised:
          The writer of this story is indeed a former scribe at the AV Press who has lived in the AV for more than a quarter century and currently maintains residences in both Palmdale and Glendale – an arrangement that is necessary to accommodate various professional engagements separated by distance.

          The writer is not a ‘writer,’ but a professional scribe who is only too happy to put his name and face on everything he writes and is not terribly bothered by cowardly ad hominem attacks from those who snipe while hiding behind an anonymous nom de guerre.

          • Marissa
            December 19, 2013 at 3:22 pm

            It’s sort of funny that everyone on the Lancaster side of this argument was fine when they thought that the person to cast the deciding vote was going to be a city of Lancaster employee, but the minute the Supervisor, whose job it is to make the appointments to the AQMD, made the decision to appoint someone who did not have an obvious interest in deciding this issue one way or another, now Lancaster voices, including the author of this story, are crying foul.
            The bottom line is that Lancaster already has 2 seats on the AQMD board, same as Palmdale. No city should have a third, so if the city of Lancaster wants Mr. Lawson on that board, they should give him Mr. Crist’s, or the useless Mr. Mann’s.

          • William
            December 19, 2013 at 5:21 pm


            I was thinking the same thing. Lancaster had 2 council members plus Lawson plus someone from the AV College in LANCASTER and even someone from Antelope Acres.

            Palmdale only had the mayor and 1 council member.

            Lancaster was over-represented and thanks to Antonovich, he leveled the playing field and hear them whine.

            One added note. If Lawson was still on the board, does anyone think Crist would have dragged on the hearing for 6 1/2 hours and spending as much time as he did asking irrelevant questions and more irrelevant qeustions?

            The opposition would have kept their statements short and sweet and Crist would have had the vote at noon.

            I would appreciate it if someone who has complained about Lawson’s replacement to at least be honest enough to admit that. .

          • Not Surprised
            December 20, 2013 at 11:23 am

            The AV Times is one of the few places where people can speak their minds without fear of retribution from R. Rex Parris and the power brokers in Lancaster. People live in fear that their careers or businesses will be ruined if they dare cross the King. Of course you would have take a stand against the King to realize that. When you write, er, scribe for the King, you are safe.

            A nom de guerre also protects people in this sometimes unstable cyber world from unwanted stalking, intrusions and threats.

            Thank you AV Times for allowing those who have no voice a platform to speak without fear of being blackballed or punished.

          • marissa
            December 20, 2013 at 12:00 pm

            I found out from reading the avpress that Newton Chillette is a commissioner for Lancaster. No wonder Parris & company are so upset, they had been allowed to completely stack the deck against Palmdale with people employed by Lancaster, or people that were picked by his holiness, the mayor.
            How dare the supervisor usurp the authority of the king! Even worse to do it by appointing someone with no obvious bias, and a stellar local record.
            I’m glad I live in Palmdale. I’m not sure how the people in Lancaster get by with that stench coming from city hall.

  9. G. Richards
    December 18, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    Interesting how the new AQMD board member Ms. Russell, was unable to utter a single clue about what her position represents, but darn sure knew how to vote. Was there was a reminder note in her pocket?

    • William
      December 19, 2013 at 1:21 pm

      Apparently, Pat Russell correctly heard the instructions from the CEC that the board was only to approve or not approve of the transfer of credits, not to find fault with the CEC’s report or process like Crist was doing all day and accept that the certified credits were valid and not to have to prove that they were or weren’t valid.

      Given those 2 criteria, she did what is usually a routine approval process except for Rex Parris having a bug up his butt about Mayor Ledford and Palmdale. You might want to help Rex remove it so we can live in peace for a while.

      Thank you.

      • Ed
        December 19, 2013 at 4:32 pm

        Ms. Russell could not answer a simple question about emission reduction trading, yet she was able to cast a crucial vote? She cast the vote she was told to cast.

        • William
          December 20, 2013 at 1:25 pm

          Didn’t Chairman Crist finally tell the person who asked that question that this wasn’t the time to question the board members? It was inappropriate as were many things done that day.

          The opposition headed by Crist wasn’t to rehash the CEC report or procedures but Crist kept doing it.

          The opposition wasn’t to question the validity of the transfer credits but Crist and others did it anyway.

          The board’s job was to accept the CEC final report and the transfer credits and approve them barring any solid evidence of any problems. No evidence other than speculation was given.

          The desperation on the part of the opponents was palpable and ultimately irrelevant and a poor strategy. Parris admitted that he was to blame for not bringing forth any evidence of risks to the CEC prior to their final report. Too bad.

          Have a nice day.

  10. Candice Carr
    December 18, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    “AQMD Board Member Jim Ledford”, was the text that caught my eye. Doesn’t that sting a little as conflict of interest? Can you imagine if the shoe was on the other foot, and Parris was that AQMD board member pushing off a power plant as pretty and clean on Palmdale?

    • Willaim
      December 18, 2013 at 8:59 pm

      @ Candace Carr. Well, if you were paying attention, did you not notice that Vice-Mayor of Lancaster, Marvin Crist, was the Chariman of the AVAQMD board?

      Please, think before you type.

  11. Chris
    December 18, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    This makes me sick. The corruption of these leaders is shining right through. I have lost all respect for Michael Antonovich and especially Jim Ledford. This will not end up benefiting the AV near as much as it is going to hurt it. Wow.

    Jim Ledford needs to go!!!

    • Letlow
      December 18, 2013 at 8:36 pm

      Jim Ledford needs to go?! Because he unstacked the deck stacked by Parris the tyrant?? Antonovich stepped in because Lancaster leaders turned a routine approval process into a circus sideshow. They whipped the community into a sky-is-falling frenzy that would make Chicken Little blush. And for what? Because Parris is jealous of Ledford. SMH!

      The respect that you have lost for Antonovich balances out, because I never cared for the man, but now I have some new found respect for him.

    • William
      December 18, 2013 at 8:52 pm

      @Chris. The lies and deceptions of Parris and Crist were exposed Tuesday, one by one, by the representatives of the CEC. Mayor Ledford keep returning to the ‘facts’ which the AVAQMD board was to consider and not the lies and unfounded speculations of Parris and Cris.

      Parris even admitted he was to blame for no producing ‘evidence’ of the risks much earlier in the CEC prodedure. What a joke? He was throwing himself on the mercy of the court. Pity the fool.

      If you guys think Parris and Crist are to be believed over the California Energy Commission that spent 4 years putting Palmdale through all the hoops, pity you fools.

      • taxichef
        December 19, 2013 at 3:48 am

        All I really want to know is where did the money come from for those newspaper ads and nasty mailers . Maybe time to turn the tables on King Rex and have him explain to the citizens of Lancaster why he spent their money on his self gratification campaign against Jim Ledford.

        • William
          December 19, 2013 at 1:10 pm

          Too bad Crist and Parris weren’t asked to acknowledge the various lies and deceptions in the mailer in front of everyone such as a statement from the CEC that implied that the plant didn’t meet certain criteria which were corrected by the time of the final report.

          Their lies were rebutted but Crist never acknowledged that he even heard what was said.

Comments are closed.