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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, November 23, 2009, 10:53 am

Climate plan tweaked to be compatible with new CEQA rules

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    NAPA COUNTY – The release of a draft roadmap for meeting climate-protection goals for Napa County has been delayed until December so that the plan can be adjusted to fit changes coming early next year in state law on environmental-impact project analysis.

    Over the past several months, the draft countywide climate action plan has taken shape with an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions and a list of steps all the jurisdictions can take as well as ones tailored to a particular local government.

    Trouble is, climate change-related adjustments to the California Environmental Quality Act to take effect as soon as January could give the greenhouse gas-reduction goals in the county plan the force of law, according to Eliot Hurwitz, program manager for transportation, land use and climate with the Napa County Transportation and Planning Agency.

    “The changes in CEQA guidelines are such that if you have a formal climate action plan adopted by a jurisdiction, it has a specific kind of standing for meeting CEQA guidelines for a project,” he said. “The concern is that to adopt a climate action plan that is CEQA-compatible it has to be something that if the county or a city adopts a plan with actions it is formally accountable to do those things.”

    So goals for a certain percentage of energy efficiency for structures in the forthcoming climate plan could become standards by which the environmental impact of a project is weighed. The county of Napa added requirements for climate-change analyses and mitigation measures in its update to its recently adopted central planning document, and the city of St. Helena is about to do likewise.

    The countywide climate action plan is being bifurcated into a document with greenhouse gas-reduction goals and another document with policies that will become local standards for environmental review, according to Mr. Hurwitz.

    The revised plan will be presented to the agency board’s Technical Advisory Committee on Dec. 3, with possible consideration by the agency board, which is made up of public officials from governments in the valley, on Dec. 16.

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