Public Health and Environmental Justice Advocates Criticize Air Quality District for Hiring Industry Lobbyist

Public Health and Environmental Justice Advocates Criticize Air Quality District for Hiring Industry Lobbyist

Photo: UCLA Newsroom

Wayne Nastri, an industry lobbyist and former Bush administration EPA political appointee once charged with bilking taxpayers and charging tens of thousands dollars for unnecessary travel by Federal auditors, has been named as interim executive of the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Less than a month ago, following a ‘coup by regulated industries’, the board of the air district fired long-time and highly respected director Barry Wallerstein.

Public health and environmental justice proponents showed up in force at a board meeting on Friday to protest the hiring. The meeting was briefly interrupted by an April Fools themed protest by Sierra Club members dressed as clowns, throwing “blood money” in the air.

Los Angeles area Moving Forward Network members have been outspoken in their opposition.

“We are deeply disappointed that the board chose to hire an industry lobbyist Wayne Nastri to be their new leader. Nastri embodies the dangers of the revolving door — he has made a career out of using his government experience to influence and lobby regulators on behalf of his corporate clients.” Adrian Martinez, staff attorney for Earthjustice.

“This appointment is very troubling to me. He has the qualifications, but I fear that he brings a perspective that will augment the (pro-business) perspective of the majority of the board.” Penny Newman, executive director of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ).

The cause for the high level of concern is the severity of Southern California’s serious air quality problems and the critical role of the air district in solving them.  Southern California has the highest levels of deadly ozone pollution in the United States, as well as very high levels of particulate matter.  A 2008 study found that air pollution in the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley air basins contributes to over 3,800 deaths and costs over $28 billion per year.

References:

Former EPA Official Charged Uncle Sam $69K for Weekend Trips Home, Government Executive

SoCal’s Possible New Head Smog Regulator Has a Questionable History, Curbed Los Angeles

Over protests, South Coast Air Quality Management District hires industry consultant as executive, LA Times

Air quality district picks former EPA administrator as chief amid protests, Daily Breeze

‘Coup by regulated industries’ alleged in air chief’s firing, Greenwire

Dirty Air Costs California Economy $28 Billion Annually, California State University Fullerton