California environmental bills Assembly Bill 32 and Senate Bill 375 are putting pressure on local governments, especially in these hard economic times.

AB 32, also known as the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, sets a goal of lowering California’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 to levels seen in the year 1990. Measures have followed this bill that reduce emissions from landfills, semi-trucks and things requiring an EPA approval.

Director of Land Use Services in San Bernardino County, Julie Rynerson Rock, said that the Attorney General hit the county with a lawsuit nearly a year-and-a-half ago. The City of Stockton was also hit with the same lawsuit.

Attorney General Edmund Brown claimed San Bernardino’s and Stockton’s plans did not account for greenhouse emissions. The Attorney General Global Warming page can be seen here.

Since that time, San Bernardino has taken more than the necessary measures.

“We have adopted a green county program, and alternative energy upgrades on single-family homes,” claimed Rynerson Rock.

San Bernardino County is the daily recipient of heavy pollution from Los Angeles County and Orange County.

“Things get nasty,” said Rynerson Rock.

In response to AB32, the California Air resources Board has developed standards adopted nearly every month since 2007. (Read the Scoping Plan report and AB 32)

AB 32 does not include specifications for city and county planning departments in regards to emission standards.  This has become the dilemma, as planning departments now must utilize their land in ways that will reduce gas emissions.

Mike Niblock, Community Development Director in the city of Stockton, said, “We have every intention to comply with AB 32.”

Rynerson Rock said of the process to mandate these new regulations, “It is an involved process, and very expensive.”

Burt Southard, Media Relations Coordinator in San Bernardino County, said, “We continue to have our reservations on the cost implications to counties.”

SB 375 states that the metropolitan planning organizations must put Sustainable Communities Strategies (SCS) in their regional transportation plans. For the purpose of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, cities and counties must align plans for transportation and housing, and create specified incentives for the implementation of the strategies.

In August 2007, the Board stated its official opinion on SB 375: “Despite the fact that we are committed to the concepts of the bill, we feel that transferring County planning authority to a Metropolitan Planning Organization is not the best solution to reach the provisions in the legislation.”

“The governor is continuing to put on unfunded mandates, and is taking away money,” said Rynerson Rock. 

Niblock said that the Stockton is feeling the same budget squeeze, and is aggressively pursuing outside funding.

Allan Abbs of the Tehama County Air Pollution, said because there are no requirements with the county because they are rural, the biggest issue is land use.

Rynerson Rock expressed that there is a real concern for good planning, air quality and doing the right thing environmentally, but the real question is how to fund this during this economic time.

As stated by SB 375, “Makes findings and declarations concerning the need to make   significant changes in land use and transportation policy in order to meet the greenhouse gas reduction goals established by AB 32.”

Southard said although the county has reservations regarding the legislation, they are in the process of preparing a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan in compliance with the Settlement Agreement with the State Attorney General’s Office regarding the General Plan Update that was adopted in 2007.

Abbs’ said that the 2020 goals are a responsible target in terms of actual reductions.

PublicCEO has numerous staff reports under Air Districts, discussing city and county decisions regarding emissions standards.