The Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (“the District”), represented by Morrison & Foerster, has received the 2015 American Bar Association Award for Excellence in Environmental, Energy, and Resources Stewardship. This award recognizes achievement or leadership in areas of sustainable development or environmental, energy, or resources stewardship.
The ABA recognized the District for its historic achievement in American environmental law to control air pollution from the dried Owens Lake bed in California, the largest source of particulate air pollution in the United States. Made famous by the movie Chinatown, the lake bed was emptied by the diversion of the Owens River through the Los Angeles Aqueduct, creating the state's first major “water war” and forever linking the fortunes, communities, and environments of the two regions.
Morrison & Foerster was instrumental in representing the District in federal and state court, in agency appeals before the California Air Resources Board and in preparing a state implementation plan under the Clean Air Act for the U.S. EPA. In 2015, the firm obtained a stipulated judgment for the District in Sacramento Superior Court requiring the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to implement the most expansive air pollution control project in the history of the United States. The annual reduction of air pollution is unprecedented, comprising 75,000 tons of particulate air pollution, equal to the weight of 36,000 automobiles. The project will transform some of the nation’s most polluted air into some of its cleanest.
The District’s achievement also marks a historic moment to use the environmental laws to heal more than a century’s worth of damage from the diversion of the Owens River to the City of Los Angeles. According to the ABA, the improbable way that a small, committed group of scientists changed environmental policy and the law will leave a legacy of their extraordinary dedication to protecting human health and the environment. The dramatic scope of the project can be seen in the attached link to a recent article that was jointly prepared by Vogue and the National Geographic: http://www.vogue.com/projects/13353964/california-drought-owens-lake/
Morrison & Foerster partner Peter Hsiao leads a team that represents Great Basin including San Francisco of counsel Robin Stafford, San Francisco associate Megan Jennings, and Los Angeles associates Virginia Choi, Kelsey Stricker and William Herbert.