For Immediate Release, August 21, 2007
Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (213) 598-1466
Drew Feldman, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, (909) 881-6081
Settlement on San Bernardino County Growth Plan Announced:
County Will Address Global Warming
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.— Attorney General Jerry Brown and San Bernardino County today announced a settlement to the attorney general’s challenge to the county’s growth plan for failing to address global warming. The county agreed to address greenhouse gases that cause global warming in its blueprint for growth for the next 20 years. The settlement requires the county to inventory greenhouse gas emissions, set reductions targets for greenhouse gases, and adopt feasible mitigation measures to meet those reduction targets.
The attorney general’s office and, separately, conservation organizations, have challenged the General Plan for violating the California Environmental Quality Act — the landmark environmental law that requires state and local agencies to disclose significant environmental impacts and adopt feasible measures to reduce those impacts.
“This agreement demonstrates the importance of the California Environmental Quality Act for addressing the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming,” said Jonathan Evans of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We must plan for global warming and reduce greenhouse gas pollution in the fastest growing region of the United States.”
The agreement comes as Republicans in the state Senate attempt to force an amendment into the state budget to create a loophole in the California Environmental Quality Act to eliminate requirements to deal with greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Senate Republicans had pointed to the San Bernardino case as a major justification for the rollback.
Many counties and agencies have already begun to tackle global warming while planning for growth. Marin County, San Diego County, the Orange County Transportation Authority, and Washington’s King County have all taken steps to plan for global warming.
San Bernardino County is the largest county in the lower 48 states and is projected to grow by over 30 percent, or 620,000 people, in the next 25 years. Global warming is already increasing large wildfires and drought across the western United States. San Bernardino County continues to experience high population growth in mountain and foothill communities adjacent to national forests where global warming-related wildfire threats are severe; 2003’s “Old Fire” destroyed over 1,100 homes at a cost of over $1.2 billion.
Drew Feldman, president of the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, lamented the county’s decision to spend money on defending a lawsuit instead of planning cooperatively with state and environmental groups. "It's unfortunate that once again it took an expensive lawsuit to get San Bernardino County officials to do what they could have and should have done on their own from the beginning."
The Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, and San Bernardino Valley Audubon society filed suit against the county for failing to address greenhouse gas emissions and global warming when it adopted its long-range growth plan. The groups also charged that the plan fails to protect communities from future wildfire hazards and preserve natural resources.
“Today’s settlement is a step in the right direction, but San Bernardino is far from the road to a sustainable future,” said Evans. “Keeping new homes out of the path of wildfire, protecting wildlife and decreasing sprawl are commonsense solutions that must be adopted.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. www.biologicaldiversity.org