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Santa Barbara County Planning Commission Talks Threshold for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Santa Barbara County wants to develop a greenhouse gas emissions threshold, a point that distinguishes which industrial projects would have significant cumulative impacts and require mitigations.

Having a threshold isn’t required, and there is no cohesive state approach so local jurisdictions are left to their own decisions, county staff member Doug Anthony said. It’s part of the effort to plan for the statewide mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2010.

Santa Barbara County could adopt a zero-net emissions standard, a percentage-based reduction from business as usual, or a numeric threshold — which Energy and Minerals Division staff is recommending.

At Wednesday’s county Planning Commission meeting, staff recommended a threshold of 10,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year (MTCO2e/year) to trigger a finding of significant mitigations, which would only apply to industrial stationary source projects.

If projects have significant cumulative impacts from greenhouse gas emissions, they would be required to reduce emissions down to the threshold through onsite and offsite mitigations.

One metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent per year is the unit used to incorporate emissions of seven greenhouse gases into one measurement, based on the global warming potential of the gases, according to a county staff report.

Planning commissioners didn’t make a decision and will discuss it more at an April 9 meeting in Santa Maria.

The Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District will also discuss the issue, and both groups will make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors.

Every public commenter but one at Wednesday’s meeting asked for a zero-emission standard or a lower level than the staff recommendation, at 1,000 to 2,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

“I get zero threshold when it comes to dumping trash on the street, so I’m not clear why dumping trash in the atmosphere gets a different threshold,” Sierra Club board member Robert Bernstein said.

The 10,000-level is “too much for a county that prides itself on its environmental record,” said Bill Marks, representing the League of Women Voters.

Ben Oakley, representing ERG California, recognized he was the “lone voice of consent” and opposed the greenhouse gas emission threshold.

With a 1,754 metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent per year threshold, it would capture 95 percent of existing greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources, according to county numbers. It would also allow smaller-emission projects to go through the planning process without the mitigations.

The 10,000 metric ton level recommended by staff would capture 82.4 percent of existing project emissions.

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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