Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 19, 2018

Contact:  George Courser, Sierra Club, (858) 231-0156,
John Buse, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 533-4416,
Jack Shu, Cleveland National Forest Foundation, (619) 708-2050,
Nicole Capretz, Climate Action Campaign, (619) 490-6248,
Dan Silver, Endangered Habitats League, (213) 804-2750,
Van Collinsworth, Preserve Wild Santee, (619) 258-7929,

Lawsuit Challenges San Diego County's Sprawl-promoting Climate Plan

SAN DIEGO, Calif.— Conservation groups have filed suit challenging San Diego County’s second, ineffectual attempt to reduce greenhouse gas pollution that fuels climate change.

The new lawsuit, filed in San Diego Superior Court, notes that the revised plan would facilitate the county’s approval of sprawl development over thousands of acres of greenfield lands in unincorporated areas, including nearly 20,000 new residential units already in the pipeline. That would vastly increase automobile air and climate pollution.

Following a successful lawsuit by the Sierra Club invalidating the previous version of the county’s Climate Action Plan, the county approved its revised plan in February but failed to fix the precursor plan’s flaws.

“We’re doing this again because the county has twice failed to confront the link between its new land use approvals and climate change,” said George Courser of the Sierra Club.

In 2011 the county claimed to have adopted a Climate Action Plan that would have comprehensive and enforceable measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change. But in fact the adopted plan failed to meet this laudable goal, as the California Court of Appeal decided in 2014. The county’s second effort still falls short of meeting its commitments and doing what the law requires.

"The county promised in 2011 to prepare a Climate Action Plan that reduces greenhouse gas emissions in the county, but it has reneged on its promise,” said Josh Chatten-Brown of Chatten-Brown & Carstens, the law firm representing the groups. “Meanwhile the county essentially allows unbridled development in far-flung areas, provided that developers purchase carbon offsets from anywhere in the world. Such offsets may be completely illusory and would not benefit the residents of San Diego the way offsets attained through local projects would. This lawsuit seeks to ensure the county fulfills its original promise." 

“Climate action demands real, enforceable measures, not hollow gestures,” said John Buse, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Without teeth, San Diego County’s plan just provides cover for new sprawl and more carbon pollution spewing out of commuters’ tailpipes.”

“With good planning our region can solve our affordable housing needs and the obligation to substantially reduce greenhouse gases,” said Jack Shu of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation. “Instead, San Diego County abuses the system by pushing forward a Climate Action Plan that does little to change the way we’ve done things in the past, promoting development farther from where people work or go to school.”

“Clean air and clean water are fundamental human rights. It’s our duty to do everything in our power to reject this fake climate plan and protect our quality of life,” said Nicole Capretz of the Climate Action Campaign. “Nothing less than our children’s future is on the line.”

“It is mind-boggling that a so-called climate action plan would facilitate automobile-dependent sprawl,” said Dan Silver, executive director of the Endangered Habitats League.” The plan is a huge setback for aligning transportation with climate goals. Yet such alignment is exactly what the California Air Resources Board states is absolutely necessary.”

“The San Diego region is at a crossroads and one that may never come again,” said Laura Hunter, board member of the Environmental Center of San Diego. “We will be deciding our future, and our fate, depending on the actions we take in the next year. From the climate plan to land use planning, these decisions will have major consequences.”

“Catastrophic climate breakdown is occurring now,” said Van Collinsworth of Preserve Wild Santee. “There can be no tolerance for plans that provide little more than the appearance of taking climate action."

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Cleveland National Forest Foundation, Climate Action Campaign, Endangered Habitats League, the Environmental Center of San Diego and Preserve Wild Santee.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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