Reading Room

People to Air District: Stop the Permit!

Thursday, July 19, 2018
Posted by Marylia Kelley

Scores of community members from Tracy, Livermore and surrounding towns demonstrated the true power of grassroots democracy Thursday night at the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District’s Public Hearing on the proposal to increase the size of open-air toxic bomb blasts at Site 300 near Tracy, CA.

More that 80 people, some with babies in strollers and some with service dogs, representing all ages and backgrounds came together to challenge the Air District’s preliminary decision to grant Livermore Lab a permit to detonate bomb tests with up to 1,000-pounds of exotic high-explosive compounds and 121 hazardous contaminants in each blast on an outdoor “firing table.”

The Air District proved itself unaware of important details about the project for which it was giving the “go-ahead” signal, including straightforward facts such as other California regulatory agencies’ written concerns about the blasts, which had been sent to the Livermore Lab’s parent agency. Similarly, the Air District officials seemed in the dark about the City of Tracy’s formal opposition to the project or the San Joaquin County position supporting the City of Tracy, both also sent to the Lab’s parent agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration Livermore Field Office.

Instead, the Air District’s presentation to open the Public Hearing was filled with statements that began, “Livermore Lab told us…” Bottom line: The Air Board made its preliminary decision to grant the permit in ignorance of many key facts of the project.

As the Hearing progressed, the crowd became one cohesive unit echoing each other’s demands for accountability from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

The Air District had the opportunity to hear the public loud and clear. The community demanded the District undertake further technical analysis of potential environmental and health hazards, especially by conducting a full review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Shockingly, the District insisted that the project was exempt from CEQA and that no review was needed! The community members made it clear that they will not remain silent in the face of the grave environmental injustice that granting the air permit to Site 300 would inflict.

In addition to the disappointment of the Air Board’s negligence in forgoing a full CEQA analysis, attendees quickly noticed the agency officials’ lax standards for this Public Hearing process. Before the hearing, the Air District had said “transcriptionists” would be present to record the public comments, but staff members were seen merely “taking notes.” This means that all the attendees who stood in line and participated during the public comments can only hope that each individual oral comment was captured in the staff’s informal notes.

Due to the number of comments, the Public Hearing continued over three hours, which was an hour later than the original end time. Written comments may be submitted until August 7, 2018.

To submit a written comment, here is the link with the Air District’s email and mailing address:

For talking points to include in your letter, here is a link with more information: