Local Cities Have Mixed Reactions to Impending Environmental Regulations set by State’s Global Warming Solutions Act

Posted on June 7, 2010

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Local cities have mixed reactions toward impending environmental regulations set by the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act. The act, A.B. 32, which requires the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, has motivated some cities to embrace new environmental laws, while others have come out in favor of a ballot initiative to suspend it.  A few cities are taking a “wait and see” approach before addressing A.B. 32. The Chino Hills City Council recently adopted the California Green Building Code, which would apply to new residential and non-residential construction. Officials said adoption of the building code would lower energy demand and water consumption in the city, but would increase construction costs on homes and buildings.  Adoption of the green building code is expected to increase new construction costs in the city by 1.5 percent to 2 percent, or by about $2,500 or $3,000 for every new home constructed.

Officials said, however, they expect the additional costs to be recovered within 10 years through lower utility costs. The code, developed by the state Building Standards Commission and the Department of Housing and Community Development, becomes mandatory under state law on Jan. 1. The city of La Verne is working with their waste haulers on future requirements on their commercial recycling programs, said Jeannette Vagnozzi, administrative superintendent for the city of La Verne.

“We don’t have the final requirements yet on what will be required, I just know that commercial recycling is looking like it’s going into a mandatory program,” Vagnozzi said. The impact that the A.B. 32 related program and regulations will have on the city is still unknown, she said. “We’re going to have to take all this information, so we’ll rely on our waste haulers to help us with that as much as possible, however, it’s still going to require tracking, data gathering and reporting on an annual basis,” Vagnozzi said.

The city of Claremont has taken some action on its own in regard to operating in a more environmentally friendly manner, but it’s a “wait and see” situation when it comes to implementing A.B. 32, said Chris Veirs, Claremont senior planner and sustainability coordinator. “To this point, there has been a lot of general direction but not a lot of real specific action that the city should take,” Veirs said.

Claremont has included a focus on sustainability efforts in their general plan and created the Claremont Sustainable Plan to reduce the city’s impact on the environment.  Claremont, in addition to San Dimas and Pomona, is working toward the completion of their “greenhouse gas inventory,” which requires cities to take inventory of all citywide operations to determine where the largest amounts of greenhouse gases are coming from.

“Once the emissions are targeted, the city will develop programs to assist in lowering the emissions,” said Ann Garcia, administrative aid for the San Dimas Community Development Department.

The inventory is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. However, city officials are still uncertain about A.B. 32’s requirements.

“It’s still early,” Garcia said. “We’re still working with the Southern California Association of Governments and the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments and San Gabriel College to get an understanding of the issues and what is needed.”

While cities like Chino Hills are working to conform to the new Global Warming Act mandates, critics, including some local agencies and officials, have called for a temporary suspension of the global climate law because they say it will cause economic harm.  The cities of Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana, along with the county of San Bernardino, are among hundreds of supporting agencies, organizations and individuals who have publicly expressed support for a November ballot initiative that seeks to temporarily suspend A.B. 32.

“The economy today is much different than it was when the legislature adopted A.B. 32 in 2006,” said Anita Mangels, spokeswoman for the California Jobs Initiative organization, which seeks to defer the law. “Considering the fact that there will be severe impacts on employment and on energy costs from A.B. 32 implementation, the initiative advocates temporarily adjusting that the timetable for implementation until the state’s unemployment situation improves.”

Fontana Councilman John Roberts on Monday called A.B. 32 “worrisome.” “My biggest concern with A.B. 32 is the negative impact on jobs and employment,” Roberts said. “I’m not convinced that we’re ready for that, given the already high rate of unemployment.”

County spokesman David Wert said the new law imposes regulations that businesses can’t afford and would lead to more unemployment. “San Bernardino County is considered to be one of the most economically depressed counties in the nation,” Wert said. “It didn’t make sense for our county to not support a measure that would prudently delay the implementation of a law that could very well slow the economic recovery.”

Upland Mayor John “JP” Pomierski said he hopes the city is not forced to comply with A.B. 32 regulations, but the impact of the measure has a trickle-down effect. “This whole thing is a trickle-down detrimental thing to the state, to the counties and to our existence in general,” said Pomierski, who signed a petition to defer A.B. 32. “I’m done with it. At this time, I just have such a sour taste in my mouth from almost everything coming out of Sacramento and at the federal level at this time. It’s just ridiculous.”

Ontario’s general plan includes a “climate action plan” that the city needs to complete within 18 months, but is not taking any action on A.B. 32 as of yet. “I think the question in the legislation is whether or not they’re going to suspect or defer A.B. 32,” Ontario City Manager Chris Hughes said. “Obviously, we’re looking at hiring a sustainability manager. That’s the person that actually runs your environment program. Other than that, I think it’s very difficult to put a cost to it right now.”

In the meantime, the county is in the process of selecting a consultant to prepare the Environmental Impact Report for the greenhouse gas plan, said Lynne Fischer, assistant public information officer for the county.

The city of Montclair does not intend to take any action in regards to A.B. 32 and is waiting for the county to take the lead, said Edward Starr, director of administrative services. “We’re in an agreement with the county of San Bernardino and I guess they’re out to bid at this point in time to have somebody develop a provision for the cities and the counties as well as the county to follow,” Starr said. Thus far, the Montclair City Council has not taken a stance on the issue, he said. “Until they get out to bid and come up with final terms of the contract and the cost, the city is not taking any active participation,” Starr said. “Many cities in San Bernardino County are leaving it up to the county to develop the necessary provisions to implement AB 32.”

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