State of emergency at bomb house suspends environmental law - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

State of emergency at 'bomb factory' house suspends environmental laws

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ESCONDIDO, Calif. (CBS 8/AP) -- County Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard issued a proclamation Tuesday declaring a local emergency at the site of the Escondido home where bomb-making materials were discovered November 18.

At a town hall meeting Tuesday night in San Marcos, Sheriff Bill Gore announced plans to burn down the home located at 1954 Via Scott in Escondido.

Gore told neighbors that the 1,395 square foot home rented by George Djura Jakubec is so full of dangerous materials it cannot be made safe and authorities will destroy it with fire as early as next week.

"The most effective course of action is to destroy the residence by fire," Gore told the crowd. "There was no viable method to render the structure or the property safe."

Gore said protective barriers will have to be built around the home first, much of the surrounding neighborhood will be evacuated, and Interstate 15 will be shut down during the operation.

Jakubec is in jail after pleading not guilty last week to illegally making and possessing explosives.

Ekard's proclamation also requests that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declare a state of emergency for San Diego County, a move that would allow the suspension of environmental law regulating the incineration and demolition of the house.

During a state of emergency, the Governor is given broad powers to suspend local and state laws in order to protect public safety.

Property rights attorney Charles Campbell took a close look at the county's emergency proclamation and he had questions.

"The county wants it to be an emergency," Campbell said. "When the sheriff stands up there in his uniform and declares ‘I'm going to burn this house down,' my question as an attorney is ‘who appointed you, judge?'"

Campbell also questions whether there actually is an emergency and whether public safety is at risk.

"An emergency typically means you have no time to go to court. You've got to act quickly," Campbell explained. "Two weeks have gone by since the discovery of the explosives, and I'm unaware of any grounds to say there might be an explosion at any time."

Senior deputy county counsel Rod Lorang said the property owner was notified of the plan to burn down the house, which is valued at $494,000 on the Zillow real estate web site. Lorang said he is confident in the county's legal position that the home cannot be made safe by any other means.

Lorang said the property owner is not eligible for compensation under emergency police powers granted by state law. If there is homeowner's insurance on the house, the property owner may receive compensation, depending on the terms of the policy, Lorang said.

The homeowner listed in county property records, Michele Holt, did not respond to News 8's requests for comment; nor did her husband.

Campbell said the case may very well end up in court.

"The homeowner should be able to review the data, hire an expert if she wants and if that expert says ‘wait a minute, it's not truly an emergency,' then she should be entitled to her day in court," the attorney said.

By ordinance, the county emergency proclamation must be authorized by the Board of Supervisors within one week. A public hearing and vote is set for December 7 at the county administrative building downtown.

Members of the public, including the homeowner, would be allowed to comment at that time.

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UPDATE: On Wednesday night Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency for San Diego county, thereby suspending environmental laws regulating the incineration and demolition of the Escondido home. The emergency proclamation stated, in part:

"Statutes, rules, regulations and requirements are hereby suspended to the extent they apply to the following activities: (a) release, removal, storage, transportation, treatment, destruction and disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous materials and debris resulting from removal of the stockpile of highly explosive materials, (b) necessary restoration, and (c) related activities. Such statutes, rules, regulations and requirements are suspended only to the extent necessary for expediting the removal and cleanup of hazardous materials and debris from the area. This order shall apply to, but is not necessarily limited to, solid waste facility permits, and waste discharge requirements for storage, disposal, emergency construction activities, along with waste discharge requirements and/or Water Quality Certification for discharges of fill material or pollutants, air quality control requirements and hazardous materials release reporting laws regarding waste treatment/disposal."

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