Letter: Why River Watch filed lawsuit against County’s Climate Action Plan

Posted on August 30, 2016 by Sonoma Valley Sun

The River Watch lawsuit is not demanding a “perfect” program to account for the County and Cities’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, just a good faith effort at full accounting based on the best available science. The methodology adopted by the Regional Climate Protection Authority (RCPA) fails to account for GHG emissions generated by vineyards and tourist venues, from vehicle miles traveled by land, air and water (global wine distribution).

During all the months that I have submitted written and oral comments, no one has come forward with a coherent rebuttal of my analysis. The response is always in terms of not making the perfect the enemy of the good, the CAP is an incremental step in the right direction, no time to lose in adopting reduction measures. We filed our lawsuit because the CAP has been incorporated into a program level EIR, which means future EIRs for individual projects will be able to satisfy their cumulative effects analysis for climate impacts by satisfying the standards in the CAP, based on the understated GHG emissions calculations.

Our lawsuit does not prevent implementation of GHG reduction measures in the CAP. If funding and/or the political will to implement the measures is tied to adoption of the CAP and EIR, that could delay their implementation That would mean that the reduction measures are being held hostage to a growth-inducing CAP. Consistency with current land use planning and promoting growth are stated objectives of the CAP.

The fundamental issue is whether it’s possible to reduce GHG emissions to the required levels while promoting continued growth in the dominant business activities in the County. We believe not. The CAP concludes it is, but only by relying on the understated calculation of current and projected GHG emission levels. We support the reduction measures. We would like to see clearer language in the CAP ensuring their implementation. However, the CAP provides no credible reason to believe that the reduction measures will offset the increased GHG emissions from continued growth.

After hundreds of hours studying climate change and the CAP, there is no question in my mind that if the adoption of the CAP in its present form is allowed to stand and become a model for other jurisdictions, it will be a major step in the direction of irreversible catastrophic global warming.

Jerry Bernhaut, Santa Rosa


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