ClimatePlan: California Air Resources Board Adopts SB 375 GHG Reduction Targets

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Yesterday the California Air Resources Board (ARB) voted unanimously to adopt a strong set of regional targets under SB 375. The historic vote was the culmination of a two-year effort and renewed California’s commitment to a healthier, more prosperous future.
The vote came at the end of a tumultuous month for SB 375. In late August, the Building Industry Association and highway lobby launched a sudden campaign to attack the proposed targets, using misinformation and outright lies to cast aspersions on the targets themselves and the process of developing them. They succeeded in getting influential votes to oppose the targets in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley. We were worried that reductions in targets there could cause these regions, which already suffer disproportionately from air pollution, to miss out on the benefits of stronger goals.

However, the Air Resources Board (ARB) members were not misled. Following the two-year process — including the Regional Targets Advisory Committee’s report, nine months of intense research by MPO modeling experts, careful deliberation by MPO leadership, seven public ARB workshops around the state, and an interim ARB meeting full of overwhelming support — the Air Resources Board moved forward with the confidence deserved from a solid process and well-founded conclusions.

The Air Resources Board also cut through specific untruths. At yesterday’s hearing, ARB member Ken Yeager set the record straight after an op-ed misrepresenting MTC’s target showed up in his hometown San Jose Mercury News, and Chair Mary Nichols inquired of MTC Steve Heminger about the BIA’s outrageous claim that the targets would lead to “forced relocation,” which Heminger quickly put to rest.

There was tremendous support at the hearing for the ARB staff’s recommendations, with speakers ranging from physicians and medical experts, infill builders and businesses, advocates, and elected officials. The overwhelming majority of speakers asked the Board to be ambitious and forward-thinking as they set the targets.

Testimony from infill builders played an important role in addressing the concerns not only of the BIA lobby but of an audience filled with Carpenters In Action (CIA). After the Carpenters’ representative spoke movingly of the need to keep carpenters working, and after several Building Industry lobbyists spoke to their general fears, three working infill builders spoke specifically about the projects that they are building, the market demand and profitability of those projects, the jobs that these projects provide, the workers and suppliers that will benefit, how SB 375 supports these efforts, and their support for ARB’s staff targets.

Following about 3 hours of testimony there was a unanimous vote by CARB to adopt the staff-recommended targets for the big four regions — 13-16% by 2035, and 10% for the Valley. The targets for the Valley are a placeholder – to be revisited in 2012 when we expect to have better data and tools in the Valley.* And in Southern California, the 2035 target is conditioned on a dialogue between ARB and Southern California leaders about what it will take — especially financial resources — to achieve the targets.

They also improved the targets for four of the smallest regions – now every region in the state has a target of at least zero (previously, some of the smaller MPOs had targets that were actually positive – ie an increase in per capita GHG ). They committed to a more formal relationship with the Strategic Growth Council to develop better tools and metrics for evaluating health, equity and conservation outcomes. They committed to revisit the targets in four years, and to advocating for more state and federal transit funding.

According to a statement from the American Lung Association in California, “Today’s historic vote signals the start of regional agencies and local governments moving forward in creating plans to meet the targets and transform California’s future.”

Below are only a few quotes from the outpouring of powerful testimony. For more info, see the ARB staff recommendation here. You can also find a number of comment letters and other materials on the ClimatePlan website.

Thanks to all of you for your support throughout the target-setting campaign!

* An early press release mistakenly reported that ARB had lowered the targets, but that did not happen, as the ARB announcement confirms.

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“The building industry does not speak for me. People want this kind of development, they are tired of business as usual. They don’t want to be tied to their cars. The proposed targets are realistic. I urge you to think of the future – the old model of doing business has changed and we need to change with it.” — Kirstie Moore, Codding Enterprises, Bay Area

“We see [SB 375] as providing real community benefits. We have a problem in our community with air quality, so this is a significant benefit for us. It will also give us more energy security and independence, and most importantly it will give us a more livable community.” — Mayor Janet Abelson, El Cerrito, Bay Area

“As a physician, I have a deep interest in the root problems and environmental impacts on my patients. I support SB 375 as a tool to help me help my patients. Because so many of our neighborhoods are designed for driving and prevent safe walking and biking, we face the great cost that’s affecting children at alarming rates. Establishing strong targets will underscore that we need to change.” — Dr. Janet Abshire, California Medical Association and Health Network for Clean Air

“We need a community where children can walk and bike to school, and where we can bring the community together….Strong targets will give my community, and my children’s community, a healthy and safe commute by reducing the pollution that causes asthma and keeping children safer while going to school.” — Mayor Virginia Madueno, Riverbank

“Compact land use supports walking and biking and public transport, and has huge, huge public benefits. SB 375 is important now because we must reverse our dependence on oil, reduce sky rocketing trends in illness, and reduce climate change.” —  Jane Warner, American Lung Association of California President and CEO

“We are already working hard to make our community a clean, safe place, and to make it the green gateway into Solano County. We stand ready with a long list of cities and counties throughout California who have adopted ambitious targets, and are prepared to work with CARB.” – Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, Benicia

“Merced is set to have a high influx of growth, and having lower targets means having more sprawl which will not help my city. I ask for your leadership – help my city improve our overall quality of life. We cannot fight this on our own, but we need effective regional planning targets.” — Council Member Mary-Michal Rawling, Merced

“Fresno Metro Ministry is a faith based community benefits organization non-profit. We keep at the forefront of our mission that the people who are affected by climate change, the people who grow our food, the people who work in areas of concentrated poverty. Fresno in general is very excited about what Fresno is already doing. The people of Fresno are excited about the co-benefits, the walk-ability, things that will lead to less obesity.” — Mike Wells, Fresno Metro Ministry

“Let’s move forward.” — Denny Zane, MoveLA

“The implementation of SB 375 is key to redevelopment opportunities that are responsive to community needs in terms of air quality, and smart growth. I am here to ask you to support the staff recommendation and to help us all improve our quality of life.” — Cesar Covarrubias, The Kennedy Commission, Orange County

“A lot of people have spoken of the health benefits. I’d like to talk about the economic benefits. If we can achieve a greater balance between jobs and housing, if we can avoid having so many commuters buried in horrible traffic … that becomes especially crucial to people in my area.” — John Longville, former San Bernardino assemblyman, Inland Empire

“As physicians, we see the effects of poor planning. Strong targets for the valley will help us to clean up our air. We urge you to support staff recommended targets; we feel they are not only achievable but necessary.” — Michelle Garcia, Fresno Madera Medical Society, presenting a letter from Dr. Alexander Sherriffs (Fowler), Dr. Don Gaede (Fresno), Dr. Praveen Buddiga (Hanford), and Dr. Michael Delollis (Fresno)

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