San Diego County Climate Action Plan creates disastrous precedent
When a plan to address climate change enables sprawl, it is a big problem. To reverse this, EHL has sued.
In February 2018, San Diego County attacked its own General Plan – which embodies “smart growth” principles – and adopted a Climate Action Plan (CAP) that streamlines approval of automobile-dependent development in remote, habitat-rich locations. This locks in long commutes, high vehicle miles traveled (VMTs), and high greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for decades to come. All this was justified on the basis of a spurious “carbon offset” program. No matter how badly planned, developers can buy their way out of sprawl by purchasing “carbon credits” offsite. These credits have been widely criticized as ineffective if not illusory, and particularly in the foreign countries allowed under the CAP, unenforceable.
While the County could have used its absolute control over land use to locate new development in locations that generate fewer GHG emissions in the first place, it chose to include not a single requirement for newly planned residential development to reduce VMTs. The scheme was obviously developed in close coordination with the building industry – it surfaced in nearly identical form months earlier, in a developer’s environmental impact report. County staff did not confer at all with environmental stakeholders, which would have been standard practice in past years.
Given that the California Air Resources Board has stated that reducing VMT’s is “essential” to meet State GHG reduction goals, the County’s action sets an unacceptable precedent. EHL has joined the Sierra Club and other groups in litigating the CAP, with Chatten-Brown & Carstens as lead attorneys.