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Major Clean Air Advocacy Group + Grassroots Group Seeking Phase-Out Of Mass-Casualty-Risking MHF Urged Gov. Newsom To Pick New AQMD Boardmember Reflecting Those Concerns; He Chose Someone Who Worked For Exxon-Mobil For Four Yrs; Here's What Happens Next And How LB Officials And Grassroots Groups Can Be Involved (Or Not)


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(July 15, 2019, 2:40 p.m.) -- For weeks, the Coalition for Clean Air (founded 1971, CA's "only statewide organization working exclusively on air quality issues") and the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance (TRAA) (founded after Feb. 2015 "near-miss" explosion at Torrance refinery then-owned by Exxon-Mobil nearly precipitated mass-casualty-release of Modified Hydrofluoric Acid (MHF)) publicly urged Gov. Gavin Newsom to fill a crucial vacancy on the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) governing board with someone reflecting those concerns.

The vacancy results because newly-elected Governor Gavin Newsom has chosen not to reappoint Dr. Joseph Lyou, PhD to SCAQMD's governing board. Dr. Lyou is President/CEO of the Coalition for Clean Air and was appointed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was a crucial swing vote in setting air pollution policies impacting millions of people in the highly polluted Long Beach-Los Angeles area.

On Friday July 12, Gov. Newsom announced his choice. She was formerly "environmental project manager and process engineer" for ExxonMobil from 1997 to 2001. A biographical sketch provided by the Governor's office follows below.

The Governor's choice isn't automatic. In the public interest, LBREPORT.com details below the process that occurs next. The City of Long Beach (meaning its Mayor and ultimately Councilmembers) and grassroots Long Beach neighborhood groups, advocacy groups and individuals can become involved...or not.

The Governor's office provides the biographical sketch below of his AQMD appointee:

Negar "Nikki" Noushkam, 44, of Los Angeles, has been appointed to the South Coast Air Quality Management District Board. Noushkam has been senior project manager at Environmental Remediation Services Inc. since 2007 and chief engineer for the Aerospace Corporation since 2015. Noushkam held several position at Northrop Grumman from 2004 to 2015, including senior principle engineer, project manager and lead systems and photovoltaic design engineer. She was security assessor lead and project manager for Hudson Marine Management Services from 2001 to 2004. Noushkam was environmental project manager and process engineer at ExxonMobil Oil Corporation from 1997 to 2001. She is a member of the State Mining and Geology Board at the Department of Conservation. Noushkam earned a Master of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Noushkam is a Democrat.

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The Coalition for Clean Air had urged the Governor to choose someone sensitive to health and emission issues around our ports, railyards, freight logistics and other industrial activities.

Reacting to the Governor's choice, Coalition for Clean Air Policy Director Bill Magavern told LBREPORT.com in an emailed statement (July 15):

This is a very important position, because smog has persisted in the South Coast region and the Board needs to take decisive action to reduce pollution from freight hubs like ports, warehouses and railyards, as well as from oil refineries. Gov. Newsom has not chosen someone with a track record of reducing pollution or working with the affected communities. Instead, he chose someone who has worked for big polluters like Exxon. We hope that she will put scientific evidence and community health above the interests of oil and freight companies.

TRAA, whose focus is the MHF issue at the Torrance ToRC and Wilmington Valero refineries, had urged the Governor to "appoint an environmental/public health oriented candidate" to SCAQMD's board. A spokesperson for TRAA told LBREPORT.com that the group plans to discuss the Governor's appointment at its regularly scheduled meeting tonight (July 15).

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What Happens Now

AQMD is governed by thirteen Boardmembers. Three are chosen by Sac'to electeds: the Governor, the Assembly Speaker and the state Senate Rules Committee (all three members are Dems.) (The remaining AQMD Boardmembers are County Supervisors from L.A., OC, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, plus six city councilmembers (five chosen by a committee of electeds from various cities plus one chosen by L.A.'s Mayor.)

The Governor's AQMD Board nominee requires state Senate confirmation BUT can begin serving as soon as she's sworn-in, and can do so for up to 365 days without state Senate voted approval.

Within this 365-day period, the state Senate Rules Committee (members listed below) will hold a hearing on the appointee's nomination. The hearing is open to the public and the state Senate rules Committee typically allows written correspondence before the hearing (letters and/or emails voicing views pro or con and possibly raising issues). The Committee typically holds its hearing several months after the Governor nominates his choices.

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The State Senate Rules Committee currently consists of state Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (chair), plus state Senators Scott Wilk, Pat Bates, Bill Monning and Richard Roth.

If the Committee (majority vote) approves the Governor's choice, it moves to the state Senate floor for voted approval or disapproval.

The bottom line: the Governor's choice could cast highly impactful and decisional AQMD votes on multiple pending issues for months, and possibly up to a year before the state Senate Rules Committee hears her nomination and the full state Senate votes on it. During this period, LB's Mayor and policy-setting Councilmembers, as well as grassroots groups, can explore the nominee's record and request her responses -- either in writing or potentially in person at (for example) a Council committee meeting -- on multiple issues pertinent to Long Beach...from chronic area clean air issues to low probability but high risk MHF.

And the Mayor and City Council -- and LB neighborhood groups and civic groups -- can email or mail their views on the nomination to the state Senate Rules Committee.


As previously reported by LBREPORT.com, LB Mayor Robert Garcia quietly signed a letter dated June 20, received via pdf by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) on June 21, one day before a crucial June 22 SCAQMD Refinery Committee meeting, stating that he supports a phase-out of the use of Modified Hydrofluoric Acid (MHF) in local refineries.

In his letter dated June 20, 2019 to SCAQMD Executive Officer Wayne Nasri, Mayor Garcia wrote:

I join California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health in supporting SCAQMDs efforts to protect the health and safety of residents by implementing a phase-out of Modified Hydrogen Fluoride (MHF) in local refineries.

SCAQMD has taken steps to assess the health risks and other concerns regarding the use of MHF, it is critical that this phase out happens immediately. All but two refineries in California have found economically viable and safer alternatives to use in their production methods. The only refineries that continue to use MHF are located here in Los Angeles County and are in close proximity to residents of Long Beach, Los Angeles and many South Bay cities. The safety and welfare of our residents is of utmost importance and should be a prime consideration.

Other refineries show that it is technologically and economically feasible to use safer alternatives, therefore the continued transportation, storage and use of MHF cannot be justified given the significant safety risks posed to the surrounding communities.

I urge SCAQMD to take steps that ensures that proposed Rule 1410 addresses our concerns and begins the phase-out process of MHF immediately.

Sincerely,

Mayor Robert Garcia
City of Long Beach
cc: [SCAQMD] Refinery Committee

However, under LB's City Charter, LB's Mayor (who doesn't have a vote) doesn't set policy for City of Long Beach. City policy is set by a majority of voting City Councilmembers. Mayor Garcia or any Councilmember(s) (up to four together) could agendize an item to adopt the position stated in Mayor Garcia's letter in the SCAQMD proceeding as the position of the City of LB. At this point, that hasn't happened.

The City of LB via the Mayor and/or City Council -- and grassroots LB neighborhood and civic groups -- can also seek further information on the Governor's AQMD nominee, her record and her current views. In response, they can express their views, pro or con, on her nomination to the AQMD Board, which will cast impactful decisions on LB-impacting issues including MHF, I-710 freeway pollution, Port-related pollution and multiple other LB-impacting air quality issues.

Beyond social network comments, LB electeds and neighborhood/grassroots group can raise issues pro and con regarding the nominee to the state Senate Rules Committee (which will hear the nomination first) and to other state Senators who'll ultimately vote on it.

And neighborhood and grassroots groups (that aren't prevented by their non-profit status) and candidates challenging LB incumbents can make the nomination an issue in upcoming LB elections in the 1st Council district (Nov. 2019) and Council districts 2, 4, 6 and 8 (March 2020.) (Elected officials and the public are free to support or oppose the Governor's nominee just as may have done in response to President Trump's nominees.)

Or LB's Mayor, Council incumbents, candidates challenging them and LB neighborhood and grassroots groups may choose to remain silent.

July 17, 5:50 a.m.: Text re Dr. Joseph Lyou added

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If LBREPORT.com didn't tell you, who would? Help keep our independent news with stories like this one alive and growing. No one in LBREPORT.com's ownership, reporting or editorial decision-making has ties to development interests or other special interests seeking or receiving benefits of City Council development-related decisions; or holds a City Hall appointive position; or has contributed sums to political campaigns for Long Beach incumbents or challengers. No one in our ownership, reporting or editorial decision-making has been part of the governing board of any City government body or other entity on whose policies we report. LBREPORT.com is reader and advertiser supported. You can help keep really independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.


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