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Air Quality Authorities Say Cross Burnings Violate Pollution Standards

February 22, 1996

MODESTO, Calif. (AP) _ Air quality authorities plan to take the Ku Klux Klan to court, claiming that cross burnings violate pollution standards.

Police said they had no reason to arrest the Klansmen after they burnt a 30-foot cross Feb. 10 on farmland near Modesto.

But the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District plans to file a civil complaint seeking $50,000 in fines and an injunction to prevent future cross burnings.

``It’s intentional,″ said Philip Jay, counsel for the district. ``They are doing it as a get-in-our-face kind of thing. It’s not an inadvertent violation.″

Bill Albers, who says he’s the Imperial Wizard of the American Knights of the Klan, claimed burning the cross on his land was part of his birthday party, not a threat to anyone and no more polluting than big rig trucks.

Jay said land owners can only burn agricultural materials on their land, and crosses don’t qualify.

Last year, the air quality district cited Albers after a cross burning, but he showed no willingness to settle the charge informally, Jay said. This month’s burning triggered a stronger reaction.

The complaint could be filed in Superior Court within a week, Jay said.

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