Valley attorney wins lawsuit challenging adequacy of County’s Climate Action Plan

by Sonoma Valley Sun : sonomasun – excerpt

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…

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…

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…(more)

Study shows Sonoma County has among smallest carbon footprints in Bay Area

by Guy Kovner pressdemocrat – excerpt

Sonoma County had the second smallest household greenhouse gas footprint of the nine Bay Area counties, and 11 local cities and towns accounted for carbon-related emissions below the statewide average, according to a new UC Berkeley report.

The average Sonoma County household had a footprint of 40.4 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, well below the statewide average of 45.7 tons per household and the Bay Area average of 44.3 tons, the report said.

Only San Francisco, the region’s most compact city with multiple mass transit systems, had a smaller footprint at 38.7 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, while affluent Santa Clara County was tops at 48.6 tons and wealthy communities like Atherton, Piedmont and Alamo accounted for 70 to 85 tons, as income, vehicle ownership and home size contributed heavily to the regional differences.

The average U.S. household accounts for about 50 metric tons of emissions.

Read the UC Berkeley report here

People with larger incomes “just consume more,” said Christopher Jones, program director of UC Berkeley’s CoolClimate Network and report co-author. They own larger homes which are “full of more stuff,” he said, and also travel by air more often, boosting their expenditures for transportation, which accounted for one-third of Bay Area emissions, the largest source by far.

Food is the second largest source of emissions at 19 percent, followed by goods and services (each 18 percent), heating fuels (5 percent), home construction (3 percent), electricity (2 percent) and waste (1 percent).

Rohnert Park households had the smallest footprint of the eight Sonoma County cities and three communities cited in the report at 37.7 metric tons of emissions per year, while Windsor was highest at 45.1 tons, exceeding the Bay Area average but still below the state mark.

Santa Rosa and Glen Ellen were in the middle of the pack, each at 39.5 metric tons.

Sonoma County households collectively accounted for 7.2 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. Californians accounted for 585.5 million tons; households nationwide accounted for 5.8 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, the Berkeley report said.

Sonoma County is a “good example of low-carbon development,” Jones said, noting the absence of widespread urban sprawl along with relatively modest household income and the benefit of a cool climate that reduces home energy consumption.

Sonoma County probably has an absence of widespread urban sprawl because it has no large cities. The economy is primarily agricultural, with many high-end wineries and tourists that cater to tourists, not construction and not tech. People choose to live there because they like wide open spaces, large yards and the ability to move about freely in their cars. Land values are through the roof. Vineyards, are worth more than dense housing so they protect Sonoma and Napa from dense growth.