Air Pollution Board Appears to Have Been Meeting Illegally for Years

The San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control Board (APCD) has been operating unlawfully since October 2017 – failing to adhere to a requirement that the board include a licensed engineer – and must void all actions taken since then, according to a lawyer from the community group Friends of the Oceano Dunes.

Air pollution control district hearing boards are required to have five members, one of whom is a licensed engineer, according to the California Health and Safety Code. The APCD has not had a licensed engineer on its hearing board for the past three years, the community group alleges.

“The board did, however, have a hearing member who is also a professor of environmental engineering at Cal Poly,” reported. “Yarrow Nelson received a Ph.D. in environmental engineering from Cornell University in 1997, but he is not a licensed engineer.”

Friends of the Oceano Dunes is an off-roading organization with more than 28,000 members. In 2016 it won a case against the APCD over regulatory actions related to the Oceano Dunes State Recreational Area.

In a letter to the board, attorney Thomas D. Roth said that during meetings, Nelson “was held out as the person serving as the engineer” and served as chair or acting chair. “He was in a position to greatly influence … the Board,” Roth wrote. “He also has greater powers under state law than other Board members. However, at no time during his tenure was Mr. Nelson a licensed engineer. I understand that an alternate who served during this time was a licensed engineer so clearly a licensed engineer was available to serve. Also, applications during the past several months by at least three licensed engineers demonstrate an interest to serve on the Hearing Board by persons who meet state law qualifications.” (Source:, November 5.)


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