Bill aimed at reducing global warming through smart local land use policy stalls.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Things had been going pretty well for SB 375, an environmental bill geared to reduce global warming through better local land-use planning. Earlier this year, state Sen. Darrell Steinberg’s (D-Sacramento) bill breezed through the Senate and looked like it might blow right through the Assembly, too.
That’s what it looked like right up until SB 375 stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee last month. Now, after a last-ditch effort by environmental groups to resuscitate it, the bill has been officially banished to the suspense file. It’s now a two-year bill, not up for consideration again until January 2008. Steinberg’s staffers say this is not bad news.
“We simply ran out of time,” says Bill Craven, a Steinberg staffer and chief consultant for the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. “This is a big enough bill that we needed to expand our coalition to succeed. It’ll have a better chance in two years.”
That’s the hope. Last year, California passed AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, which requires that the state reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
It’s an ambitious goal, and one that Craven says can’t happen without supportive legislation like SB 375. “If we’re going to achieve the objectives called for in AB 32, we can’t continue to grow and sprawl in the ways we have been for the last 40 years.”
SB 375 doesn’t require anything from cities or counties. Instead, it gives incentives to governments that grow in existing urbanized areas before sprawling into rural areas. The point is to get cities and counties to rethink their general plans, and build housing in communities where people work, thereby reducing commutes. Transportation accounts for 40 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.
“We’ve tried to create a way for new growth to occur to accommodate population growths in all economic brackets,” Craven says. “Ag and habitat lands shouldn’t be the first place we look to develop. But SB 375 allows for that so long as local governments have first looked elsewhere.”
Gary Patton is the executive director of the Planning and Conservation League (PCL). Immediately after 375 slipped into the suspense file, PCL initiated a campaign to get Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez to move SB 375 back to the Assembly floor. The movement was short-lived.
“We recognize that 375 will have a better chance at success if it’s given a chance to garner more solid, widespread support,” Patton says. “So this is the time when our work really begins.”