Jerry Bernhaut, SONOMA VALLEY SUN
In July of 2017 ruling on a lawsuit filed by River Watch and attorney Jerry Bernhaut, a judge rejected Sonoma County Climate Action Plan (CAP) for reducing greenhouse gases. Here’s his update.
The primary basis for the lawsuit was that the accounting method used in the CAP grossly under counted greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from road, air and sea travel beyond county borders and nearby regional destinations generated in the course of the global export of wine and other local products, and travel to and from local tourist venues. This means millions of metric tons of GHG emissions, which would not have occurred but for the issuing of permits for hotels, event centers, vineyards and wineries, were simply not counted.
Since the judge issued her ruling, the Regional Climate Protection Authority and the County have completely disregarded her findings. They have repeatedly referred to the lawsuit as “unproductive” and have never responded in a substantive manner to the grounds for the judge’s ruling.
shutterstock_234239257-1-2-390x285The County has recently proposed a resolution, adopted by the Supervisors, which updates the County’s GHG Inventory and recommits the RCPA to policy goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The stated intent of the resolution is to “achieve the same policy impetus behind climate action as would have the Climate Action 2020 Plan, notwithstanding the setback from the lawsuit.”
But he RCPA once again refuses to include emissions from trans-boundary travel. This is a fiction which can only be maintained by excluding the thousands of tons of GHG emissions from 7.5 million tourists per year and billions of dollars in wine exports.
Each local community must take responsibility for its decisions that permit and enable activity that results in emissions that contribute to global warming. Each community must account for the environmental costs of its land use decisions. So far, Sonoma County elected officials have showed no inclination to take that responsibility, despite the decision of an experienced, highly respected superior court judge overturning the CAP.
Read more at http://sonomasun.com/2018/09/06/a-year-later-still-no-true-accounting-for-countys-greenhouse-gas-emissions/
Ann Hancock, CENTER FOR CLIMATE PROTECTION
The Center for Climate Protection just released the new greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions report for Sonoma County for 2016. The good news is that emissions from electricity have gone down since the inception of Sonoma Clean Power, the region’s Community Choice Energy program. The reduction of emissions in electricity was so significant that Sonoma County’s overall GHG emissions were lower in 2016 than they were in 1990 even though the County’s population increased during this same period.
As other communities throughout California consider Community Choice Energy, Sonoma County’s GHG report offers them powerful proof that Community Choice Energy works to lower GHG emissions.
The report also reveals that Sonoma County, similar to other communities, is challenged to reduce emissions produced by transportation. This sector now accounts for about 70% of Sonoma County’s emissions.
Read more at https://climateprotection.org/updated-greenhouse-gas-inventory-highlights-successes-challenges-and-opportunities-for-california/
Jerry Bernhaut, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
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 –
Matt McGrath, BBC NEWS
Potent, climate-warming gases are being emitted into the atmosphere but are not being recorded in official inventories, a BBC investigation has found.
Air monitors in Switzerland have detected large quantities of one gas coming from a location in Italy.
However, the Italian submission to the UN records just a tiny amount of the substance being emitted.
Levels of some emissions from India and China are so uncertain that experts say their records are plus or minus 100%.
These flaws posed a bigger threat to the Paris climate agreement than US President Donald Trump’s intention to withdraw, researchers told BBC Radio 4’s Counting Carbon programme.
Bottom-up records: Among the key provisions of the Paris climate deal, signed by 195 countries in December 2015, is the requirement that every country, rich or poor, has to submit an inventory of its greenhouse-gas emissions every two years.
Under UN rules, most countries produce “bottom-up” records, based on how many car journeys are made or how much energy is used for heating homes and offices.
But air-sampling programmes that record actual levels of gases, such as those run by the UK and Switzerland, sometimes reveal errors and omissions.
Read more at: ‘Dodgy’ greenhouse gas data threatens Paris accord – BBC News
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
Justin Gillis, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Scientists say their inability to know for certain is a reflection not just of the scientific difficulty of the problem, but also of society’s failure to invest in an adequate monitoring system to keep up with the profound changes humans are wreaking on the planet.
CAPE GRIM, Tasmania — On the best days, the wind howling across this rugged promontory has not touched land for thousands of miles, and the arriving air seems as if it should be the cleanest in the world.
But on a cliff above the sea, inside a low-slung government building, a bank of sophisticated machines sniffs that air day and night, revealing telltale indicators of the way human activity is altering the planet on a major scale.
For more than two years, the monitoring station here, along with its counterparts across the world, has been flashing a warning: The excess carbon dioxide scorching the planet rose at the highest rate on record in 2015 and 2016. A slightly slower but still unusual rate of increase has continued into 2017.
Scientists are concerned about the cause of the rapid rises because, in one of the most hopeful signs since the global climate crisis became widely understood in the 1980s, the amount of carbon dioxide that people are pumping into the air seems to have stabilized in recent years, at least judging from the data that countries compile on their own emissions.
That raises a conundrum: If the amount of the gas that people are putting out has stopped rising, how can the amount that stays in the air be going up faster than ever? Does it mean the natural sponges that have been absorbing carbon dioxide are now changing?
“To me, it’s a warning,” said Josep G. Canadell, an Australian climate scientist who runs the Global Carbon Project, a collaboration among several countries to monitor emissions trends.
Read more at: Carbon in Atmosphere Is Rising, Even as Emissions Stabilize – The New York Times
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/