De Facto Mono County - Keeping A Local Health Emergency Going Solely For Funding Part 1: Mountain View Fire
Do you think keeping a local emergency going solely for funding is the right thing to do? Are there particular circumstances justifying such an act? Is it legal?
Mono County Inc. is currently under two separate declarations of health emergency. The one covered in this segment is for the Mountain View Fire, which burned down over 80 structures and claimed one life. The Mountain View Fire started on Nov. 17th, 2020 at 12:15 p.m. Somewhat ironically, absent the fires, the Mountain View Fire started on the exact same day in which just hours prior, the de facto Mono County Board of Supervisors voted 5/5 to terminate a different already existing local emergency for severe wild fire that was declared on September 18th 2020 by Sheriff Ingrid Braun. Full containment of the Mountain View Fire was finalized on Dec. 11th, 2020. As of March 1st 2022 the emergency declaration for the Mountain View Fire remains in place. That makes well over a year of an emergency for a fire that had a total burn lifetime of 24 days. The argument Mono County Inc. has been using to continue the emergency is that the structures and materials burned in the fire created toxic debris, ash and soil. For over a year and 3 months now the county has been in the process of remediation of hazardous material.
Alright, so what exactly is the problem with all that? Well, you have to dig a little deeper to find where cleaning up hazardous material goes from what sounds like a good idea to something that is being exaggerated to continue an emergency declaration.
The first thing one needs to consider here is that the de facto government has laws in place that address what constitutes an emergency. The second thing people should take into consideration is that the law does not care about our feelings or what we believe is right or wrong. A flawed system in many respects perhaps, but the law is designed to prevent crimes from occurring and describe the penalties when a crime is committed. Whether committed by individuals, corporations, or governments, nothing is exempt from the law. Or is it?
Now to dig a littler deeper. For months, almost all the hazardous material removal and remediation has been completed. There are only a handful of properties left that have not completed the remediation process. You read correctly, only a handful of properties... now I ask the reader, do you consider those circumstances to qualify as an emergency? Regardless of yes or no, there are laws that describe exactly what constitutes an emergency, which we will take a closer look at shortly.
Let's see what the Mono County Inc. is saying about their reasons to continue the local emergency for a handful of properties:
"Continuation of the declared emergencies supports the County's eligibility for state disaster assistance while debris efforts
are still underway. Debris removal costs are eligible for reimbursement only when there is an immediate threat to public
health and safety".
Mono County Inc. is labeling a handful of properties still awaiting the remediation process, "an immediate threat to public health and safety". Lets look up the definition of immediate.
Immediate - occurring, acting, or accomplished without loss or interval of time : instant
How much of an immediate threat to public health and safety are these properties really? Enough to constitute an emergency? Let's take a look at how the law describes what qualifies as an emergency in regard to fire and hazardous material and when those qualifications expire.
The most relevant law for a local health emergency not under the California Emergency Services Act is California Code, Health and Safety Code - HSC § 101080:
Whenever a release, spill, escape, or entry of waste occurs as described in paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) of Section 101075 and the director or the local health officer reasonably determines that the waste is a hazardous waste or medical waste, or that it may become a hazardous waste or medical waste because of a combination or reaction with other substances or materials, and the director or local health officer reasonably determines that the release or escape is an immediate threat to the public health, or whenever there is an imminent and proximate threat of the introduction of any contagious, infectious, or communicable disease, chemical agent, noncommunicable biologic agent, toxin, or radioactive agent, the director may declare a health emergency and the local health officer may declare a local health emergency in the jurisdiction or any area thereof affected by the threat to the public health. Whenever a local health emergency is declared by a local health officer pursuant to this section, the local health emergency shall not remain in effect for a period in excess of seven days unless it has been ratified by the board of supervisors, or city council, whichever is applicable to the jurisdiction. The board of supervisors, or city council, if applicable, shall review, at least every 30 days until the local health emergency is terminated, the need for continuing the local health emergency and shall proclaim the termination of the local health emergency at the earliest possible date that conditions warrant the termination.
Here are some of the possible arguments that Mono County Inc. would use for their interpretation and use of this law;
[A fire burned down structures creating hazardous material. The local health officer declared a health emergency due to the immediate threat the hazardous material posed to the public. The immediacy of the emergency conditions persist until all hazardous materials have been removed with no deadline. The emergency conditions that exist on the properties in Walker not cleared of hazardous materials remain an immediate threat to the entirety of Mono County. The earliest possible date that conditions warrant to terminate the local health emergency have not manifested.]
Quite the stretch of an interpretation. The definition of immediate is of particular importance here, immediate does not last long. Once the public was informed about the threat of hazardous material in the area and the public was blocked off from the area the threat was no longer immediate. The immediate threat of the hazardous material had come and gone because people were made aware of the potential hazard. Another flagrant violation of this law is that the threat to public health does not exist for anyone outside of the area affected by the fire. Anyone outside of the Walker area is not in any danger from the hazardous material, yet the emergency encompasses the entirety of Mono County. Furthermore, there are only a handful of properties left that have not completed the remediation process, therefore, there is little threat to public health even for those in the burn area. The conditions for the need to continue the local health emergency no longer exist. The eligible emergency conditions ceased to exist when the immediacy of the situation resided. A situation that resided well over a year ago when the immediate threat to public health ended.
There is simply no emergency occurring due to the Mountain View Fire and the law clearly defines when the emergency declaration must be terminated. There is only one reason to keep the emergency in place and Mono County Inc. officials admit to it. They are keeping the emergency declaration in place to remain eligible for funding from state and federal agencies. When a de facto official or governing body lies about an emergency and disaster to gain financially, according to their own laws, it is an act of fraud. Committing fraud in this nature is a violation of California Penal Code 148.3 PC, a California statute that makes it a crime for a person to make a false report of an emergency. Committing fraud in this manner is also a violation of 18 US Code 1040 which makes it a FELONY to perpetrate fraud in connection with major disaster or emergency benefits. Lastly, not terminating the local emergency for the Mountain View Fire at the earliest possible date that conditions warrant is a violation of Health and Safety Code 101080.
In the video clip below, Justin Nalder (solid waste superintendent) calls the efforts taking place in this fraudulent state of emergency, "recovery efforts". The words "recovery efforts", indicate the emergency has come and gone. If there is still an immediate threat to public health from hazardous material as the de facto Mono County Board of Supervisors states, why are people living in the area?