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Op-Ed: Sonoma County needs a more honest plan for cutting greenhouse gas emissions


Our lawsuit has overturned the Climate Action Plan as a basis for enabling new development with inadequate greenhouse gas mitigations. It has not prevented the cities or the county from proceeding with greenhouse gas reduction measures in the plan.

The basic issue in the lawsuit that overturned the approval of the Sonoma County Climate Action Plan was the failure to account for emissions from vehicle miles traveled in the global distribution of wine and other products and travel to tourist destinations in the county from around the world.
In a recent article (“Battling climate change at the local level,” Aug. 11), Supervisor David Rabbitt made the following claims:
1) The lawsuit argued for a growth moratorium for wine and tourism. A moratorium is not enforceable.
What we actually called for was consideration of a moratorium or significant limitation on new wineries/vineyard expansions and/or tourist destinations to provide an adequate assessment of feasible measures to reduce Sonoma County’s greenhouse gas emissions. State law allows a county or city to adopt an interim ordinance prohibiting any uses that may be in conflict with a plan or proposal the city or county intends to study. The statute allows an interim ordinance of 45 days with provisions for extensions to a total of about two years.
We were advocating for just such a measure to evaluate some controls on additional growth in high emissions land uses. We argued this was a legitimate request for relevant information under the California Environmental Quality Act. The court agreed. The simple reality is that an economy dominated by global tourism and production for global export generates enormous travel-related greenhouse gas emissions.
Read more at: Close to Home: Sonoma County needs a more honest plan for cutting greenhouse gas emissions | The Press Democrat –

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Local Sonoma Valley Attorney wins lawsuit challenging adequacy of County’s Climate Action Plan

Superior Court Judge Nancy Case Shaffer in Santa Rosa has ruled in favor of local Sonoma Valley attorney Jerry Bernhaut’s lawsuit challenging Sonoma County’s Climate Action 2020 Plan. A lawyer with River Watch, a Sonoma County firm active in filing environmental challenges, Bernhaut’s suit argued that the county’s plan violated various provisions of CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act.
Quoting from the 41-page ruling: “The court finds that the Sonoma County Regional Climate protection Authority’s Final programmatic EIR (“the Peir”) for Climate Action 2020 and Beyond, its Climate Action Plan (“CAP”) and the County of Sonoma”s approval of the CAP violate CEQA, in that the inventory of greenhouse gas emissions is based on insufficient information, the PEIR fails to include effectively enforceable, clearly defined performance standards for the mitigation measures regarding Green House gas (“GHG”) emissions, identified as “GHG reduction Measures”, and fails to develop and fully analyze a reasonable range of alternatives.”
Commenting on the ruling, Bernhaut said, “The court’s ruling validates River Watch’s contentions that:
1. By failing to account for GHG emissions from global tourist travel and global distribution of wine and other Sonoma County products, the CAP grossly understated the true GHG emissions generated by activities in Sonoma County.
2. By failing to identify clear and enforceable reduction measures, the CAP failed to provide  reasonable assurance that its program would result in the projected reduction of the County’s GHG emissions to 25% below 1990 levels, as predicted in the CAP, or even to 1990 levels by 2020, consistent with AB32.
3. By refusing to evaluate an alternative involving a moratorium or any form of control of growth in tourist destinations and/or wine production, the CAP failed to consider environmentally superior alternatives which are necessary for any realistic hope of reducing Sonoma County’s contribution to global GHG emissions to levels required to avoid reaching tipping points for irreversible catastrophic global warming.”
Bernhaut added, “It’s time to admit that perpetual growth on a planet with limited resources and carrying capacity is not sustainable.”
The County’s Climate Action Plan 2020 was adopted by Sonoma County last year, but River Watch’s legal action has placed the program on hold. The plan was that all nine Sonoma County cities would join the county and sign-on to the plan, conforming to its goals and methodology. That process was halted while the lawsuit proceeded, and now that the court has made its ruling, it’s unclear as to the next steps. The county can appeal the court decision, or it can decide to revamp and reissue the plan in accordance with the corrections and changes the court decision highlights.
Of particular note is the court’s reference to the need to use VMT calculations (Vehicle Miles Traveled) to better asses and calculate the full impacts of GHG (Greenhouse Gas emissions). During the recent, successful appeal of the certification of the EIR for the proposed hotel on West Napa Street, appellants objected to the fact that VMT methodology was not used to calculate the project’s GHG impacts, but city staff and the EIR consultant argued that calculations using VMT need not be used. It’s unclear what, if any, this court decision will have on that EIR, which is currently undergoing review and amendment.
Source: Local Sonoma Valley Attorney wins lawsuit challenging adequacy of County’s Climate Action Plan | Sonoma Sun | Sonoma, CA

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, WildlifeTags , , ,

Op-Ed: Putting the ‘action’ in climate action

Sonoma, meet the golden toad, a bright orange salientian – a wide-eyed rascal, slippery to the touch, and cute as a bug’s ear.
First discovered in 1964, the species has only ever been found in a remote, high-altitude region of Costa Rica, where as many as 1,500 have lived in the lower-altitude climes of an elfin cloud forest, an area less than two miles in radius. The glowing little hoppers would spend most of their 10-year lifespans in moist underground burrows, emerging for about a week in the spring to mate in pools of rainwater amid the twisted tree root. Ecologist Martha Crump, who studied them for decades, described them in her book, “In Search of the Golden Frog,” as “dazzling jewels on the forest floor.” The dazzle, however, wouldn’t last.
In 1987, during a particularly parched El Nino season, Crump observed a bitter drying of the rain pools, leaving behind “desiccated eggs… covered in mold.” Of the 43,500 eggs she counted, 29 hatched surviving tadpoles.
In 1988, fewer than a dozen toads emerged; the year after, only one. The golden toad has not been seen since – and bears the ill-fated distinction of being named in 2004 as the first species made extinct by human-caused global climate change.
The untimely demise of the golden toad would seem to have little to do with Sonoma. And yet it has everything to do with Sonoma – and all Sonomas, everywhere.
On Aug. 15, the Sonoma City Council tabled a discussion, and possible action, on the county’s Climate Action 2020, a regional plan to meet state-mandated greenhouse-gas emission reduction goals tied to eligibility for state funding.
The council on that Monday was set to consider the plan, plus eight additional Sonoma-specific GHG-lowering measures council members had previously suggested, as part of the County’s and its nine cities’ effort to achieve a 25 percent percent reduction in GHGs below 1990 levels by 2020. That’s even more ambitious than the state’s requirement to simply meet 1990 levels, as required by AB32. (Another bill in the works, SB32 would require counties to be 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.)
Read more at: Editorial: Putting the ‘action’ in climate action | Sonoma Index-Tribune | Sonoma, CA