Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Chico ER Hates Climate Change Plans.

One of the more entertaining newspapers in this region is the Chico Enterprise Record. Chico is a good college town. As such it boasts a more liberal, and green, city government. Today the Chico ER launched into the town's sustainability committee with this editorial:

Editorial: Chico's haste on climate plan odd

Our view: When the City Council ramrodded through a climate action plan on election night, it did a real disservice to the public.

So, the city of Chico now has a climate action plan. Do you know what's in it? Did you know the city was working on such a thing? If you're like most Chicoans, the answer to both questions is no. Well, it's a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Chico by 25 percent from 2005's level by 2020. The state's aiming for a 15 percent reduction, but hey, this is Chico. We aim high, even if it causes some hardships. 

The plan's been shuffling through the city's maze of commissions and task forces for a few years and finally hit the City Council — where the general public was actually likely to notice — last week. On election night. In other words, when the general public wasn't likely to notice.  The sensible thing would have been to delay it to a night when people wouldn't have to choose between following election results or commenting on some obscure, enormous, dense plan they hadn't heard of before.

 But no, the mayor and the other liberals on the council said the plan had been vetted enough and went ahead and approved the thing on a 5-2 vote.  The plan's vetting has been through groups of like-minded people like the Sustainability Task Force, that hold views not common across Chico. Those views read, for example, "If parking remains abundant and traffic is not congested, vehicle travel will continue to be a convenient option," and they agree convenience is a bad thing.

And they apparently don't think a business with more than 100 jobs that is looking at coming to town might blanch at the requirement to submit a "Travel Demand Management Plan" explaining how it's going to reduce "single-occupancy vehicle trips" among its employees.  There's lots of that stuff in there. Requiring home energy updates before you can sell your house. Dividing Chico between the two waste haulers in town to reduce the amount of garbage truck traffic.

And in a second phase of implementation (starting in 2016), requiring "large employers" to provide showers and bike parking out of the rain. How large an employer? Not defined. How much greenhouse gas will be reduced? Yet to be determined. And why are we doing this?

Why have we spent $124,000 in tax dollars on this plan? Apparently because it makes some people feel good, since it's not going to have a bit of effect. The very first words in the plan are: "While Chico plays a very small role in the global problem of climate change ..."

Indeed. The city figures Chico emits a bit more than a half-million of the 469 million tons of greenhouse gases oozing out of California annually. Just under half the reduction the city is shooting for is coming from things others are doing. It's coming from increasing federal vehicle fuel efficiency standards and state regulation requiring, among other things, that power companies use more renewable sources. Those rules are just going to be screwed down tighter in the years ahead. Such state and federal moves are more effective — targeting the big players and resulting in the biggest reductions. We're looking at changing all the streetlights in Chico. But apparently we have money to burn, and time to burn developing a plan ... except when it's time to approve it.

Climate change isn't popular in these parts. The Chico ER endorsed Doug La Malfa for congress (the Republican who won). Doug La Malfa is most famous for saying that he believes in climate change. "It happens every year when the seasons change." Doug La Malfa also got into trouble for saying that having an abortion leads to cancer. Sigh.

Back to climate change and the sustainability task force. Of course cities should plan for the future. Planning for traffic and figuring out ways to get people onto bikes is an inexpensive and heroic thing for a city to do. I bet New York City and the Jersey shore communities wished they had planned a bit more for climate change.

As for passing this plan on election night? The committee has been meeting publicly for years (a friend of mine serves on this task force). The community has had plenty of opportunities to address what is in the report.

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