Thursday, April 26 , 2018, 1:10 am | Fair 51º


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SBCAG Board Votes to Maintain Status Quo on Emissions Targets

Debate on whether to adopt stricter standards than those recommended by the state ends in 7-6 vote

In a 7-6 vote that, for the most part, separated North Santa Barbara County board members from their southern neighbors, the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments board decided Monday to keep emissions in the county within the status quo for the next decade.

Emission targets set by the state have been the subject of discussion for the past week during two public workshops, and whether SBCAG should press for stricter emissions standards than the state has recommended. Earlier this summer, the California Air Resources Board issued draft targets to Santa Barbara County as part of Senate Bill 375, which creates greenhouse gas reduction targets for regional agencies throughout the state.

CARB consults with metropolitan planning organizations and issues draft targets, and Santa Barbara County was one of the only counties expected to increase emissions by 2030. Based on SBCAG’s growth forecast, which was updated in 2007, emissions are expected to increase to 6 percent by 2020 and 4 percent by 2035.

SBCAG Deputy Director Michael Powers displayed a graph that showed SBCAG as second to last, followed only by the Lake Tahoe area, in its emissions projections. On a per-capita basis, the county’s emissions are still midrange.

Predictably, the San Joaquin Valley and clusters of major metropolitan areas account for the largest regional groups. Santa Barbara is included among six smaller areas: Butte, the Monterey Bay area, San Luis Obispo, Shasta and Tahoe — all areas that have slower growth and lower densities.

The Southern California Association of Governments, which includes Ventura County, approved a 6 percent decrease by 2020 and 8 percent by 2030. The San Luis Obispo Council of Governments also approved an 8 percent decrease by 2030.

More than 30,000 people a day commute more than 50 miles to work on the South Coast, according to Terry Dressler, director of the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District, who spoke Monday.

“Looking forward, you can say, ‘We need to change the way we plan our communities.’ ... But you’re not going to smart-growth your way out of the 30,000-commuter problem right now,” he said, adding that giving commuters more efficient ways to commute would be the biggest way to reduce vehicle miles traveled.

SBCAG chairman and First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal said the problem seemed to be South County based, adding that South County officials had the burden to help deal with that.

During public comment, speakers from environmental groups called for officials to take the most stringent approach, which calls for an 8 percent reduction in per-capital emissions. The most pointed comments of the meeting came from COLAB’s Andy Caldwell, who called out South County leaders on reinforcing policies that force people to commute.

“If you guys want to reduce the numbers, get rid of the height reduction in Santa Barbara. The South Coast no-growth policies are directly responsible for the bulk of this pollution,” Caldwell said. “We’re going to ask you to put up or shut up, because your economic policies, your land use policies, are what’s driving this. You want to be green ... but you certainly don’t want it in your view shed.”

“I cannot believe that I almost agree with Andy Caldwell,” resident Noreen Nimms said to laughs. “But I think there’s just this amazing need to find more housing in the Santa Barbara area because you have this beautiful wealth of jobs. We just need to find a way in which we can support reality.”

Eva Inbar of the Coalition for Sustainable Transportation encouraged the board to view SB 375 as an opportunity to discuss these issues, not just to implement something from the state level.

“I think the discussion is just what Andy Caldwell just mentioned,” she said. “That discussion needs to happen, and we need to face these problems.”

Carbajal said he felt there was a need to go as aggressively as possible toward the more stringent of the target goals, and he recommended the 8 percent decrease. Others expressed concern about the ramifications if the county wasn’t able to meet those targets. There aren’t many consequences just yet, but entities that can’t meet their targets will have to come up with alternatives. It also could have impacts on any projects that are given California Environmental Quality Act certification if the standards are changed. Powers said he suspects consequences for not meeting the targets will develop over time.

“The fact of the matter is the high-paying jobs are in South County. We also have commuters from San Luis Obispo, so we’re spreading our population in both directions,” county Supervisor Joe Centeno said. “What we’re talking about here isn’t going to do a thing to reduce that.”

He said the only thing that would fix the problem was more housing in the South County, and he acknowledged that he didn’t know where that housing would be placed unless agriculture land and open space were compromised.

Carpinteria City Councilman Joe Armendariz, the only South County official to vote for the proposal, said he has a problem with the entire process, calling it a “solution in search of a problem.”

“We have the most energy efficient economy in history and the cleanest air quality in a generation,” he said. “Santa Barbara cannot make a meaningful improvement to the problem, no more than California can make it on a global level.”

County Supervisor Doreen Farr disagreed.

“To support an increase doesn’t seem like at all the way to go,” she said, adding that oil prices inevitably would increase over time, and that would cause more people to rely on mass transit. “It’s incumbent on us to assume that that’s what our future’s going to be.”

Voting against the measure were board members Salud Carbajal, Janet Wolf, Doreen Farr, Victoria Pointer, Roger Aceves and Helene Schneider.  In favor were Joni Gray, Joe Centeno, Joe Armendariz, Lupe Alvarez, Mike Siminski, Larry Lavagnino and Ed Skytt.

The board voted to request that CARB set the target at zero net increase, but that would be contingent on future modeling by SBCAG to see whether that would even be feasible. The SBCAG board will forward its decision to CARB, which is expected to make a decision on the targets this Friday, Sept. 24.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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