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)

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Time to pull the plug on VMT/Orcem

By Jeff Carlson : timesheraldonline – excerpt

A review of documents and communications related to the VMT/Orcem proposal reveal that the principals submitted an application before developing a viable project. The draft Environmental Impact Report prepared at great expense and circulated for public comment can no longer fulfill the legal requirements for sufficiency under the California Environmental Quality Act. Information recognized only after circulating the draft EIR exposed the fact that three quarters of the described operations will not be approved by a regional permitting authority. The project has now been reduced to a marine terminal with a slag cement plant tenant using only a quarter of the terminal capacity, without even the pretense of financial viability.

The major Vallejo Marine Terminal component of the project was described in the application, in the EIR, and in the applicant’s economic analysis as a break bulk cargo-handling operation. According to the applicants, this would “establish a key site of multi-modal and intermodal transportation and logistics, thereby enhancing Vallejo’s role in the regional and international trade economy.” Why they would think so is something of a mystery, since the cargo reports show demand for break bulk shipping has dwindled away to nothing, with the last activity recorded at any Bay port in 2006. VMT was always a business plan decades behind the times, and as it turned out not something that would be permitted by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission… (more)

Southern California Association of Governments Stalling on CEQA Reform

By James Brasuell : planetizen : excerpt
One of the largest, most influential regional governments in the state has asked for exemptions from changes to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that will measure Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) instead of Level of Service (LOS).

“[The Southern California Association of Government] sent a last-minute letter attempting to delay progressive updates to California’s outdated environmental standards,” according to an article by Melanie Curry, who explains in more detail.

In the letter [PDF], Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)—the regional transportation planning organization for much of southern California—requested exemptions for highway expansion projects and freight corridors from proposed state rules that could show their true environmental impact in a way that old rules do not.

In effect, SCAG is asking the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, which is developing the reformed CEQA requirements, to “limit the new VMT measure to projects that are close to transit, and also to ‘grandfather in’ highway expansion and freight corridor projects that have already been approved in planning documents.” According to an environmentalist source cited in the article, it looks like SCAG is asking for exemptions on projects that won’t perform will under the new environmental review process in the state. According to a SCAG source, the letter was meant to “request that OPR focus first on transit priority areas and allow a longer opt-in period for other areas.”… (more)

San Francisco is not alone in its request for exemption from the Governor’s new bill. Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) wants exemptions related to LOS and VMT.

With temperatures rising you can’t expect people to give up there air-conditioned cars to ride buses, bikes and walk. No one in their right mind wants to put themselves in that position. The best solution for the environment is to build solar sufficient housing and that is 4 to 5 stories maximum. Then you will need a state law that protects those solar units from shade by nearby buildings. Sort of the opposite of stack and pack units being pushed now.