East County News Service
December 26, 2018 (San Diego) -- Today, Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor found that the County of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) fails to achieve state goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In his decision, Judge Taylor ruled on behalf of the Sierra Club, finding that the County’s policy of allowing developers to offset emissions in locations outside of our region do not provide the required enforceable, verifiable and long-term emission reductions mandated.
The ruling could halt consideration of major housing projects in the pipeline, such as Newland Sierra, unless the developers offer mitigation locally.
The court also found the remote offset provisions to be inconsistent with the County’s own General Plan, as well as violating the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In a lengthy decision, Judge Taylor also found the policy was inadequate for other reasons, notably failing to analyze how facilitating developments in rural lands far from transit and often in high fire hazard zones could impact achievement of SANDAG’s regional plans for smart growth. The Court also faulted the County for failing to adequately respond to comments by the public about ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Court directed the County to set aside its approval of the Climate Action Plan and Environmental Impact Report. A permanent injunction was issued to prevent the approval of further developments that would require changes to the General Plan and would rely upon out-of-County offsets.
This decision was the latest in a series of defeats by the County and victories for the Sierra Club in challenges to the County’s CAP.
Sierra Club Attorney Josh Chatten-Brown considers this decision a major step forward.
“We are extremely grateful for the Court’s comprehensive and well-reasoned decision,” he says, adding, “Unfortunately, despite losing in Court at every step of the way since 2012, the County has failed to provide the people of San Diego the type of effective and enforceable climate action plan it committed to, and which is sorely needed. As shown in the most recent climate change report from the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change, local governments play a critical role in addressing climate change and our planet will be in dire straits if we don’t dramatically reduce greenhouse gases.”
He notes that increases in violent storms, flooding, drought, wildfires and extreme temperatures pose threats to lives around the world, while evidence of adverse health effects of extreme temperatures is emerging.
The Sierra Club attorney adds, “We hope that the County will finally accept this responsibility and work with the Sierra Club and other stakeholders to promptly prepare a truly effective and enforceable climate action plan.”
Petitioners that have joined with Sierra Club in its six year battle against the County include The Center for Biological Diversity, Cleveland National Forest Foundation, Climate Action Campaign, Endangered Habitats League, Environmental Center of San Diego and Preserve Wild Santee.
According to a press release issued by the Sierra Club, the environmental group supports development and affordable housing but only in areas that will not result in sprawl, increase traffic and air pollution. The Sierra Club also supports smart development near workplaces, transit, and in San Diego’s core urban area, such as the SDSU West proposal to expand San Diego State University and provide affordable housing adjacent to the trolley and other transit.