San district ordered to pay legal fees
By Jim Holt
Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

The Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District has been ordered to pay more than $725,000 in lawyer’s fees incurred by a local group that challenged the district’s environmental impact report in its plan to reduce chloride contamination in the Santa Clara River.

A legal cost, ultimately, to be paid by the ratepayers.

The legal fees were accrued by a group of unhappy SCV ratepayers, called the Affordable Clean Water Alliance, who filed a lawsuit challenging the district’s report.

On Wednesday, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ordered the sanitation district to pay attorney’s fees amounting to $725,435.32.

“Although many of ACWA’s claims were dismissed by the Court, the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) law does allow for the challenger to seek attorney’s fees if any claim is successful,” district spokesman Bryan Langpap told The Signal Monday.

ACWA originally submitted a motion for almost $1 million in attorney’s fees, he said.

“Based on our review of that motion, the SCVSD filed a motion demanding a significant reduction,” Langpap said.

On September 13, 2016 the court apparently agreed, reducing the ACWA’s fee amount by 25 percent. But, the reduction wasn’t as much as the sanitation district hoped for.

“The SCVSD is very disappointed in the Court’s ruling and believe a larger reduction was warranted,” Langpap said.

The $700,000-plus legal cost would be paid by about 102,000 customers, defined as capacity units, who are hooked up to the sewer system, according to the district. Each unit represents the discharge of sewage.

Based on that, the shared cost works out to about $7 paid by each district ratepayer.

In its first lawsuit filed in 2013, the clean water group challenged the environmental studies used by the district to support its chloride-removal plan.

Judge James C. Chalfant agreed with ACWA lawyers and called for more studies on the effects of recycled water on an endangered species of native fish, district lawyers said, noting they would respond specifically to those concerns.

He wanted district officials to explain in greater detail how they will protect the unarmored threespine stickleback — an endangered species of native fish.

“The legal challenge has caused work on the chloride compliance project to stop pending completion of further environmental review regarding the impacts to the Unarmored Three Spine Stickleback Fish under reduced discharge conditions that has been required by the Court,” Langpap said.

“The delay in the chloride compliance project will make meeting the State-mandated compliance deadline more challenging and increases the risk that additional fines will be imposed on the Sanitation District,” he said.

Again, any fines leveled against the District would be a cost passed on to ratepayers in terms of rate increases.

Environmental lawyer Robert Silverstein who argued the case in court told The Signal Monday that he repeatedly tried to avoid going to court and, since 2013, sought a working environmental settlement with the district.

“We repeatedly tried to settle with the district, and made several attempts to avoid litigation,” he said. “Over three years, we’ve made several attempts.

“Every single time (we tried) they dismissed us and forced us to go to trial,” he said.

jholt@signalscv.com

661-287-5527

on Twitter @jamesarthurholt

About the author

Jim Holt

Jim Holt

San district ordered to pay legal fees

The Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District has been ordered to pay more than $725,000 in lawyer’s fees incurred by a local group that challenged the district’s environmental impact report in its plan to reduce chloride contamination in the Santa Clara River.

A legal cost, ultimately, to be paid by the ratepayers.

The legal fees were accrued by a group of unhappy SCV ratepayers, called the Affordable Clean Water Alliance, who filed a lawsuit challenging the district’s report.

On Wednesday, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ordered the sanitation district to pay attorney’s fees amounting to $725,435.32.

“Although many of ACWA’s claims were dismissed by the Court, the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) law does allow for the challenger to seek attorney’s fees if any claim is successful,” district spokesman Bryan Langpap told The Signal Monday.

ACWA originally submitted a motion for almost $1 million in attorney’s fees, he said.

“Based on our review of that motion, the SCVSD filed a motion demanding a significant reduction,” Langpap said.

On September 13, 2016 the court apparently agreed, reducing the ACWA’s fee amount by 25 percent. But, the reduction wasn’t as much as the sanitation district hoped for.

“The SCVSD is very disappointed in the Court’s ruling and believe a larger reduction was warranted,” Langpap said.

The $700,000-plus legal cost would be paid by about 102,000 customers, defined as capacity units, who are hooked up to the sewer system, according to the district. Each unit represents the discharge of sewage.

Based on that, the shared cost works out to about $7 paid by each district ratepayer.

In its first lawsuit filed in 2013, the clean water group challenged the environmental studies used by the district to support its chloride-removal plan.

Judge James C. Chalfant agreed with ACWA lawyers and called for more studies on the effects of recycled water on an endangered species of native fish, district lawyers said, noting they would respond specifically to those concerns.

He wanted district officials to explain in greater detail how they will protect the unarmored threespine stickleback — an endangered species of native fish.

“The legal challenge has caused work on the chloride compliance project to stop pending completion of further environmental review regarding the impacts to the Unarmored Three Spine Stickleback Fish under reduced discharge conditions that has been required by the Court,” Langpap said.

“The delay in the chloride compliance project will make meeting the State-mandated compliance deadline more challenging and increases the risk that additional fines will be imposed on the Sanitation District,” he said.

Again, any fines leveled against the District would be a cost passed on to ratepayers in terms of rate increases.

Environmental lawyer Robert Silverstein who argued the case in court told The Signal Monday that he repeatedly tried to avoid going to court and, since 2013, sought a working environmental settlement with the district.

“We repeatedly tried to settle with the district, and made several attempts to avoid litigation,” he said. “Over three years, we’ve made several attempts.

“Every single time (we tried) they dismissed us and forced us to go to trial,” he said.

jholt@signalscv.com

661-287-5527

on Twitter @jamesarthurholt

Upcoming Events

Jan
12
Fri
all-day Domes – Art Exhibit @ Old Town Newhall Library
Domes – Art Exhibit @ Old Town Newhall Library
Jan 12 – May 11 all-day
Domes - Art Exhibit @ Old Town Newhall Library | Santa Clarita | California | United States
Local resident Naomi Young, is the artist featured in the latest exhibit at the Old Town Newhall Library. The exhibit features original paintings and multimedia by Young, an artist born and raised in Jerusalem, Israel,[...]
Feb
1
Thu
all-day “The Golden Oaks of Santa Clarit... @ Valencia Library
“The Golden Oaks of Santa Clarit... @ Valencia Library
Feb 1 – Jun 1 all-day
“The Golden Oaks of Santa Clarita,” Art Exhibit @ Valencia Library  | Santa Clarita | California | United States
“THE GOLDEN OAKS OF SANTA CLARITA” ART EXHIBIT BY BRAD SERGI ON DISPLAY AT THE VALENCIA LIBRARY Library hours: Mon-Thu 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., Fri 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sat 10 a.m. – 5[...]
Feb
14
Wed
all-day Tickets Available Now for 41st A... @ Dodger Stadium
Tickets Available Now for 41st A... @ Dodger Stadium
Feb 14 – May 12 all-day
Tickets Available Now for 41st Annual SCV Dodger Day @ Dodger Stadium | Los Angeles | California | United States
SANTA CLARITA DODGER DAY TICKETS ON SALE NOW! Tickets Start at $25 and Benefit Local Schools and Non-Profits It’s time to step up to the plate! The Santa Clarita City Council invites residents to purchase[...]
Apr
19
Thu
all-day Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival Co... @ Event Locations Vary
Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival Co... @ Event Locations Vary
Apr 19 – Apr 22 all-day
BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW FOR COWBOY FESTIVAL CONCERTS – Locations, Times & Prices Vary 25th Annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival offers ticketed performances and special events Get ready for some toe-tapping, two-stepping, guitar-picking musical performances![...]
7:00 pm Hart High School Presents ‘Bye, ... @ Hart High school Auditorium
Hart High School Presents ‘Bye, ... @ Hart High school Auditorium
Apr 19 @ 7:00 pm
Hart High School Presents 'Bye, Bye Birdie' @ Hart High school Auditorium | Santa Clarita | California | United States
Spring Musical Coming April 2018! Hart High Theatre is proud to present Bye Bye Birdie! April 19, 20, 27 & 28 @ 7pm April 28 & 29 @ 1pm When the draft selects rock star[...]
Apr
20
Fri
all-day Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival Co... @ Event Locations Vary
Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival Co... @ Event Locations Vary
Apr 20 – Apr 23 all-day
BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW FOR COWBOY FESTIVAL CONCERTS – Locations, Times & Prices Vary 25th Annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival offers ticketed performances and special events Get ready for some toe-tapping, two-stepping, guitar-picking musical performances![...]
7:00 pm Hart High School Presents ‘Bye, ... @ Hart High school Auditorium
Hart High School Presents ‘Bye, ... @ Hart High school Auditorium
Apr 20 @ 7:00 pm
Hart High School Presents 'Bye, Bye Birdie' @ Hart High school Auditorium | Santa Clarita | California | United States
Spring Musical Coming April 2018! Hart High Theatre is proud to present Bye Bye Birdie! April 19, 20, 27 & 28 @ 7pm April 28 & 29 @ 1pm When the draft selects rock star[...]
Apr
21
Sat
all-day Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival Co... @ Event Locations Vary
Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival Co... @ Event Locations Vary
Apr 21 – Apr 24 all-day
BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW FOR COWBOY FESTIVAL CONCERTS – Locations, Times & Prices Vary 25th Annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival offers ticketed performances and special events Get ready for some toe-tapping, two-stepping, guitar-picking musical performances![...]
10:00 am Astronomy Day @ Valencia Library
Astronomy Day @ Valencia Library
Apr 21 @ 10:00 am – 10:00 pm
The Local Group Astronomy Club and The Santa Clarita Public Library present our free annual Astronomy Day Celebration. We will be at the Valencia branch of the Santa Clarita Public Library from 10am to 3pm.[...]
10:00 am Resource Parents Needed to Foste... @ College of the Canyons, Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center, Room 222
Resource Parents Needed to Foste... @ College of the Canyons, Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center, Room 222
Apr 21 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Resource Parents Needed to Foster or Foster-Adopt a Child @ College of the Canyons, Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center, Room 222 | Santa Clarita | California | United States
Adoption is a meaningful way for individuals and couples to fulfill their dream of parenting.  There are approximately 64,000 children in foster care in California.  Los Angeles County’s foster care population exceeds 21,000 children with[...]