A committee made up of local government representatives from across the state is scheduled to meet April 7 and several more times in the coming months to discuss ways that local governments can comply with a new law aimed at reducing global warming emissions from cars and sprawl.
This panel is required under the new law SB 375, signed last year by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) authored SB 375, which requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) by 2010 to provide regions with greenhouse gas reduction targets for cars and light-duty trucks. For cars, these targets would have to be met by 2020, while the light-duty truck sector targets would have to be met by 2035, under the law.
Local governments are then allowed to come up with their own plans to meet these greenhouse gas targets.
Assisting CARB in implementing the law is the “Regional Targets Advisory Committee,” a panel of 21 people representing environmental groups, developers, local governments and local air districts.
Under SB 375, the committee is responsible for recommending methodologies to be used for setting greenhouse gas-reduction targets for the various regions of the state. The panel must submit its recommendations to CARB by September.
The panel last met March 4, and the next meeting is scheduled for April 7 in Sacramento.
In order for local and regional governments to meet the mandates of the law, the panel has identified a number of critical questions that it says must be answered.
These questions and discussion topics can be viewed here.
During the legislative process last year, SB 375 was considered a very controversial bill and faced opposition from local governments and developers, who feared that the state would take control of local land use decisions.
Most mainstream environmental groups supported the bill last year, however a few of these groups removed their support following amendments made toward the end of last year’s legislative session. These amendments aimed at a compromise: development projects would be exempt from certain environmental review requirements IF the projects are seen reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the long run.
These last-minute changes to the bill resulted in some major environmental groups removing their support of the bill, while the compromise led to most developers and local government groups removing their opposition.
SB 375 has been touted by Schwarzenegger, environmentalists, and others as a pioneering law that will move California away from sprawl and long commutes, and promote more urban development and walkable communities where people are less dependent on their cars.
However, the fact that environmental groups are split on SB 375–regarding whether it will actually lead to real changes in sprawl patterns– raises some questions about what, if any, impact the law will have on the ground.
The SB 375 panel is expected to play an important role in determining how this all plays out.