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Climate action gets priority designation in Santa Rosa

Laura Neish, Mike Turgeon and Kevin Conway, 350SONOMA

On Thursday, February 21st, the Santa Rosa City Council made the wise and bold decision to elevate their Climate Action Plan (CAP) to a Tier 1 priority level. Other priorities at this top level are Financial Stability, Housing, Recovery and Resilience, and Homelessness. In addition to Tier 1 status, expected climate actions by the council this year now include passing the electric-ready ordinance on new construction, forming a Council sub-committee on climate to project manage CAP implementation, and obtaining a cost analysis for the city to go Evergreen, Sonoma Clean Power’s 100% renewable energy program. These are key decisions regarding climate and now climate activists must hold the Council to their statements. At one time, Santa Rosa was a state leader and advocate for Climate Action. In fact, President Obama designated Sonoma County as a ‘climate champion,’ one of only 17 such designations in the entire country.

In 2012, Santa Rosa developed and approved a Community Climate Action Plan (CCAP) and a Municipal Climate Action Plan (MCAP) in 2013. Unfortunately, the CCAP has languished for a number of years, largely due to the fact that no city department assumed responsibility for it’s implementation and when an implementation team was finally formed, it met infrequently. While there has been good progress in addressing the Municipal CAP, very little has been done to effectively address the Community CAP. Also, while the CCAP was a comprehensive document for 2012, a time when the climate crisis was not as recognizable to the majority of the population, we are obviously in a different place now and the CAP will require an update as funds allow.

Since the 2017 Santa Rosa fires, the Friends of the Climate Action Plan (FoCAP) have met regularly with council members asking them to take bold action regarding the climate. In October of last year (FoCAP) succeeded in attaining a public study session reporting on the status of both the Municipal and Community CAPs. That report revealed how far behind the city is toward reaching their GHG reduction goals. Fortunately, at that meeting, a motion was made and seconded to consider an all-electric ready ordinance and amended to also include a cost analysis for the city to go Evergreen. As it turned out, this motion was relegated as a ‘report item’ and was never agendized for a council discussion, public debate and vote. To the climate community these moves seem woefully incremental in the face of our impending crisis; however, this current Council is to be commended for paying attention to the public’s concern.

Source: https://350sonoma.org/climate-action-gets-priority-designation-santa-rosa

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Op-Ed: Four climate friendly steps for Santa Rosa

Kevin Conway & Mike Turgeon, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

With the catastrophic wildfires of 2017, climate change has already had a devastating impact on Sonoma County. Because Santa Rosa already has an excellent Climate Action Plan, here are four cost-neutral steps that the City Council can take this year to prepare for further climate emergencies while at the same time reducing our carbon footprint:

— Elevate the climate crisis to the tier 1 priority, so that any project before the council must be in compliance with the Climate Action Plan before a vote is taken.

— Establish a council subcommittee on climate to manage the plan so that future climate-related policies can be more readily enacted.

— Pass an electric-ready building ordinance as a first step to requiring all-electric homes.

— Update the Climate Action Plan to reflect current science as staffing and financial resources permit.

However, the climate crisis isn’t even on the council’s radar.

Recently, the council was given a lengthy report on the city budget that was followed by a public hearing on budget priorities. Chuck McBride, the city’s chief financial officer, reported on the sobering challenges our city faces. He pointed out that we need to come up with $6 million to $7 million to balance the budget. The primary reasons for this are lost property tax dollars because of the fires and unfunded pension liabilities.

Another sobering fact is that the city’s mandated reserves is 15 percent of general fund expenditures. That means the city should have about $25 million in reserves. Today, the amount of money stands at about $4 million. Again, this is largely because of money spent after the fires.

Surprisingly, no mention was made of the fact that the fires were the result of the climate crisis.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/opinion/9303599-181/close-to-home-four-climate

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Santa Rosa City Council moves toward innovative “electric-ready” building ordinance

Mike Turgeon, CENTER FOR CLIMATE PROTECTION

In a marathon study session on Tuesday, October 23rd, the Santa Rosa City Council, at the urging of the Friends of the Climate Action Plan (FoCAP), received a long-overdue update on the progress of the 2012 Municipal and Community Climate Action Plans. The Climate Action Plan implementation team (CAP-IT) has not met since the Santa Rosa fires and accomplishing its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions now is crucial.

After the session, the Council moved to put a discussion for an “electric-ready” building ordinance on a future agenda. Electric ready means having 220/240 volt outlets and the appropriate size wiring to accommodate electric appliances such as heat pump water heaters, heat pumps for heating/cooling, induction stoves and so on.

The infrastructure for natural gas would still be in place, but electric ready homes will be ‘future-proof,’ thus avoiding costly electrical upgrades when California begins to require a fuel switch from natural gas to “electrifying everything.” Homeowners can simply swap out gas appliances for the new, efficient electric appliances. The additional costs to make a home electric ready is roughly 0.1 percent of a home’s cost for labor and materials if done as part of the original build. It would be much more expensive for a homeowner to have to retrofit these electrical features.

The minimal cost of electric-ready will not affect the price of a new home since new home prices are based on what the market will bear, not how much wires, cables and assorted materials cost.

A Santa Rosa electric-ready ordinance would be a first in the state of California and perhaps the rest of the country. This ordinance would be a good first step toward getting away from natural gas entirely.

Read more at https://climateprotection.org/santa-rosa-city-council-moves-toward-innovative-electric-ready-building-ordinance/

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California Supreme Court calls for more robust analysis of greenhouse gas emissions in planning

Sean Hecht, LEGAL PLANET

So SANDAG won the Supreme Court case.  Nonetheless, the opinion was framed very narrowly, and reaffirms that an Environmental Impact Statement for a planning project must develop a robust analysis of greenhouse gas emissions under the plan.  Here, I’ll explain why the opinion will ensure that local governments and courts seriously and rigorously consider greenhouse gas emissions when they develop plans for future growth, development, and transportation.

In May, Rick Frank posted his reflections on the oral argument in the California Supreme Court on Cleveland National Forest Association v. San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), and predicted that SANDAG would win the case.  His prediction has proved correct with the release of the Court’s opinion last week – but SANDAG’s narrow win provides a lot to be cheer about for advocates and policymakers who want to ensure that new development and transportation planning in California helps, rather than hinders, our statewide greenhouse gas reduction efforts.  [Disclosure: UCLA’s Frank G. Wells Environmental Law Clinic, through the work of my colleague Cara Horowitz and several students, filed an amicus curiae brief in this case on behalf of a group of scientists, supporting the plaintiffs.]
Several prior Legal Planet posts have covered the issues in this case (including this detailed discussion by Rick after the Court accepted the case for review,  this one by Rick after the case was calendared, and this analysis by Ethan Elkind after the Court of Appeal opinion was issued) so I’ll just summarize them here briefly.  The plaintiffs – who included the California Attorney General as well as multiple advocacy groups – challenged the legal adequacy of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for SANDAG’s 2011 regional transportation plan, a legally-mandated plan setting forth a multi-decade strategy for meeting future transportation needs in the San Diego region.  At issue was the plan’s implications for future emissions of greenhouse gases, and whether the EIR did a good enough job explaining and addressing those implications.  The plaintiffs, including the Attorney General, alleged that the EIR didn’t do a good enough job.  They asserted that the EIR insufficiently disclosed and analyzed the plan’s inconsistency with state greenhouse gas reduction goals articulated in an executive order that required 80% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  They also claimed that the EIR failed to adequately consider alternatives and mitigation measures to reduce future emissions.
Both the trial court and Court of Appeal agreed with the plaintiffs that the environmental review was inadequate.The Supreme Court granted review on one issue: “Must the environmental impact report for a regional transportation plan include an analysis of the plan’s consistency with the greenhouse gas emission reduction goals reflected in Executive Order No. S-3-05 to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act?”  The Court did not, however, review the Court of Appeal’s judgment that the EIR didn’t sufficiently consider mitigation or alternatives.
All the parties’ briefs are archived here, for anyone who might be interested.
Read more at: Cal. Supreme Court Upholds SANDAG CEQA | Legal Planet

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

SONOMA VALLEY SUN
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, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Novato goes “deep green” in commitment to sustainability

NOVATO NEWS
At their May 2 meeting, the Novato City Council unanimously voted to participate in Marin Clean Energy’s (MCE) Deep Green/100% Renewable Energy Program, in which all the energy used comes from renewable sources—50% wind and 50% solar generated in California. Additionally, the Council vote included  conducting energy audits on City facilities to further reduce energy use.
“This year we are taking our commitment to sustainability to the next level,” said Mayor Denise Athas. “We are going beyond only greening our city operations and vehicle fleets. We are investing in programs and staffing to set a new standard for climate leadership and ensure a sustainable future for our community.”
Currently, the City is a participant in MCE’s Light Green program, which means at least 50% of the City’s electricity is being provided by renewable sources. For the past year, MCE has been able to provide 52% renewable energy, which is broken down as follows: Wind: 36%, Biomass/bio-waste, geothermal and small hydro: 11%, Solar: 5%. The remaining portion of the City’s electricity is generated through large hydroelectric, gas and unspecific sources of power (as reported by the California Energy Commission’s Power Source Disclosure Program).
MCE partners with PG&E to give residents and businesses choices about how much of their electricity comes from renewable sources. There are currently three different levels of MCE participation customers can choose from:
1) Light Green: 50% of energy used comes from renewable sources.
2) Deep Green: 100% of energy used comes from renewable sources.
3) Local Sol: 100% of energy used is locally produced solar energy (program is limited to residential customers).
The City’s participation in the Deep Green program, a stated goal in the City’s adopted Climate Change Action Plan, will save approximately 300 metric tons of carbon dioxide, which would meet 86% of the City’s 2020 target to reduce its emission levels.
Read more at: City of Novato, CA : News : City Goes “Deep Green” in Commitment to Sustainability

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Bay Area air regulators outline plan to combat climate change 

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Read the draft plan: Spare the Air, Cool the Climate
Watch a video about the plan.

Lorna Ho of Santa Rosa, proud driver of an all-electric Nissan Leaf, said she’s happy to be part of the vanguard in combating climate change.
Ho, a retiree, gave up her gas-guzzling Mercedes that got 15 mpg in September and leased a Leaf that hums along on battery power, releasing zero pollutants.“All of that matters to me,” said Ho, who was recharging her vehicle Thursday at a power station at Coddingtown. “I’m very much aware of what’s going on in the environment.”
She’s also in sync with an ambitious pollution-fighting plan unveiled this week by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the regulatory agency best known for issuing winter “spare the air” alerts that prohibit burning wood in fireplaces and wood stoves on chilly nights when the air is likely to be fouled.
Now, the district’s “Spare the Air, Cool the Climate” plan lays out a blueprint for curbing tons of Bay Area greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with a payoff of avoiding nearly $1 billion in social and economic costs.
“This is a major initiative,” said Kristine Roselius, an air district spokeswoman, noting that the Trump administration is dismantling numerous clean air measures. “The Bay Area is marching forward. It’s too important to stop.
”The Bay Area air district covers most of Sonoma County, including Windsor, Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Petaluma and Sebastopol, and all or part of eight other counties surrounding San Francisco Bay.
The plan, approved unanimously by the district’s 24 board members Wednesday, lays the groundwork for bringing Bay Area greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

It aims at big targets, such as oil refineries and diesel engines, emphasizes small, personal choices such as walking or biking to work, as well as eating more vegetarian and vegan meals.

“We really have to go beyond governmental actions to changes that people can make in their everyday lives,” said Abby Young, the district’s climate protection manager.

The plan, which includes 85 measures to curb Bay Area pollutants, “reaches beyond business as usual” for the district, she said. It targets pollutants from industry, transportation, agriculture, homes and businesses.

The air district will use its own authority to limit some emissions, and will work with cities and other agencies on issues related to transportation. The regulations will not be implemented for some time.

Read more at: Bay Area air regulators outline plan to combat climate change | The Press Democrat

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Update: Sonoma Climate Action Plan

SONOMA VALLEY SUN
The post-election landscape for climate change policy has introduced an atmosphere of uncertainty, fear and doubt that necessary progress will be supported by the federal government. In Sonoma County, the outlook is brighter for positive action. The onus is now more clearly on accomplishing climate goals at regional levels.
The number one source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is transportation.
Many regional government agencies and non-governmental agencies are pursuing different aspects of climate change. These actors cross a spectrum of county sectors and interests. Business interests respond to cost savings, and there is movement in building energy efficiency. In spite of tensions between different climate action approaches, Sonoma County’s aggregate efforts are far ahead of the rest of the nation.
Groups such as Wine Water Watch, and Preserve Rural Sonoma County continue to challenge business as usual wine/tourism, climate-related land use decisions that result in loss of carbon sequestering forest cover and higher vehicle miles traveled. The Greenbelt Alliance is a strong advocate of regional planning and high-density infill practices (not South Bay sprawl) that reduce GHG emissions.
The Regional Climate Protection Authority has developed the Climate Action 2020 framework, for county municipalities to reduce, by the year 2020, GHG emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels The state of California, by Governor Brown’s executive order B-3-15, is shooting to get to 40 percent below 1990 levels, by the year 2030. To meet these goals, a lot of work remains.
Jerry Bernhaut, of California River Watch, challenged the Regional Climate Protection Authority’s plans in a California Environmental Quality Act lawsuit, for what he sees as a lack of full cost accounting for county transportation and wine industry GHG emissions. Bernhaut, and others, believe the GHG reduction baselines are not low enough to result in meaningful long-term GHG reductions. This lawsuit has temporarily slowed the momentum for county climate action implementations. There will be a hearing on March 10 to see where the case stands.
Read more at http://sonomasun.com/2017/02/24/update-sonoma-climate-action-plan/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags

White House climate change webpage disappears after Trump's inauguration

Max Greenwood, THE HILL
Less than an hour after President Trump took the oath of office on Friday, the White House’s webpage on climate change disappeared, the latest sign that the new administration will divert resources – and attention – from the issue.
The removal of the page from the White House’s website came around the same time the site and other Executive Branch digital platforms were overhauled to reflect the new administration.
Trump’s America First Energy Plan
Trump has long denied, or at least questioned, the nearly unanimous agreement among scientists that human activity is causing rapid shifts in the Earth’s climate. At one point, the president called the phenomenon a “hoax” propagated by China to make U.S. manufacturing less competitive.

He has also brought into question whether the U.S. will adhere to the United Nation’s landmark climate deal, which went into effect late last year. Trump has indicated that the U.S. could withdraw from the accord, though such a move would take years to accomplish.

Former President Barack Obama expressed enthusiasm to tackle global climate change throughout his time in office, offering a Climate Action Plan in 2013 that outlined how the U.S. would respond to the issue.
Source: White House climate change webpage disappears after Trump’s inauguration