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SD Judge To Rule On Whether Environmental Law Should Govern Fireworks

A hearing is scheduled today on whether a judge should affirm her tentative ruling that the city of San Diego is bound by California environmental quality laws when issuing permits for fireworks shows.

4th of July Fireworks light up the sky over San Diego Bay.
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Above: 4th of July Fireworks light up the sky over San Diego Bay.

The initial ruling by Judge Linda Quinn undermines an action taken by the City Council on Tuesday, exempting private sponsors of fireworks shows from having to apply for the permits under certain conditions.

The decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed by environmental lawyer Marco Gonzalez against the city and organizers of the annual July 4 fireworks show at La Jolla Cove, which is adjacent to a marine sanctuary.

Environmentalists claim debris from fireworks pollutes the water and endangers marine life.

According to Gonzalez, the ruling means an environmental impact report will need to be compiled before the show can go on about six weeks from now. However, he said he expects the city to appeal the decision or seek an exemption for the La Jolla Cove event, which would get show organizers off the hook for this year.

"I don't trust them to do the right thing,'' Gonzalez said of city officials.

The lawyer earlier this week offered to settle the case, but the city has not announced a deal.

No decision has been made on whether to apply the ruling to other fireworks shows, he said.

Several City Council members said on Tuesday that they believe environmental concerns over fireworks were addressed by recently adopted regulations by the state Regional Water Quality Control Board, which requires organizers of shows to file for annual permits and prove they have cleaned up

debris. However, those new state rules are not as stringent as what was originally proposed.

Gonzalez said he plans to file a new lawsuit that challenges the council's action this week.

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