It’s been a busy summer for those working on SB 375 in the San Joaquin Valley as they prepare for a review of their greenhouse gas reduction targets. But recent changes to the timeline give the Valley Councils of Government (COGs) a little bit of breathing room and may even shift the Valley’s focus towards its Sustainable Communities Strategies.
The targets set goals for how much to reduce per capita GHGs from passenger vehicles. They were set by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) in 2010 as a 5% per capita reduction by 2020 and a 10% reduction by 2035. At the time, the plan was to revisit the numbers in the fall of 2012 after Valley COGs had upgraded their forecasting tools to gain a more accurate view of what reductions would be possible.
Now, though, two things have changed: the ARB review has been delayed to align with the timing of another Valley ARB decision in January 2013, and the targets may not be able to change at all.
Why might the targets not be able to change? SB 375 allows ARB to change targets only once every four years. ARB had been intending to commit now to changing them later, in 2014. But back then, everyone thought that the Valley would finalize its plans in 2014, after those new targets could take effect. Now, the COGs have accelerated their timelines and will finalize their plans in late 2013 – before ARB could legally change the targets.
The targets may therefore be locked in at 5% and 10%. And this may be fine, as more and more COGs are informally beginning to say that they think they might maybe be able to meet them. But none are ready to make it official or hold a vote. At least two more valley-wide policy council meetings are anticipated to be scheduled over the next couple of months to continue the discussion, so things are looking hopeful.
The big decision that remains is whether the COGs will work together to meet the targets as a Valley, or whether each county will attempt to meet the targets on its own. The Regional Policy Council would make this vote, which could come as soon as their Fall Policy Conference, October 10-12th. If the COGs work together, for better or worse, some counties might make greater reductions and pick up the slack for counties making lower reductions. While it would be great to see every county excel, a similar dynamic happens in many regions, since every county has unique circumstances. Regional collaboration might even encourage more focus on regional strategies, such as transit between the Valley’s big cities.
In the meantime, many of the COGs are beginning to focus more on their Regional Transportation Planning and Sustainable Communities Strategies work, a shift we are happy to see. While the targets are important, no target, however carefully calculated, will in itself improve the Valley’s economy, public health, and quality of life. We look forward to seeing the conversation increasingly focus on what planning, policies, and investments will meet the needs of the San Joaquin Valley, and how this might help jumpstart the Valley’s economy, save households money, and improve public health.
For more info, contact Carey.