Public opinions about whether or not Santa Barbara County needs a Climate Action Plan range from a firm “no,” to it being one of the most important issues of the current generation.

The county Board of Supervisors was nearly as divided over whether or not the county should continue development of a plan before it determines how much it will cost and the effects it could have on county residents and businesses.

Ultimately, the board voted 3-2 to go with the staff recommendation to develop the Energy and Climate Action Plan that targets a 15-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions through one of five options.

North County supervisors Steve Lavagnino and Peter Adam opposed developing the plan because its costs are not yet known.

The Energy and Climate Action Plan (ECAP) is the second phase of the county’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The plan was initiated in March 2009 with adoption of the county’s Climate Change Guiding Principles, which directed staff to “take immediate, cost effective and coordinated steps to reduces the county’s collective GHD emissions.”

In September 2011, the board received a report on a Climate Action Study, which was the first phase of the overall strategy and led to pursuit of the ECAP.

Planning and Development Department staff developed a series of five options that they estimate could reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the county between 10 percent and 20 percent. Each of the options contain reduction measures that affect land use designation; transportation; the built environment (homes and buildings); renewable energy; industrial energy efficiency waste reduction; agriculture; and water efficiency.

The options also include community choice aggregation (CCA) which allows communities to develop and own alternative energy supplies.

While the plan contains measures that affect transit, renewable energy sources and water efficiency, the focus of the public discussion was on how the plan would affect business and residents.

Of the dozen people who addressed the supervisors, the majority thought the plan was unnecessary.

Several suggested letting the state imposed measures of Assembly Bill 32 take effect before instituting any local changes.

Robin Hayhurst, executive director of the Santa Maria Valley Contractors Association, said Title 24 of California Building Standards, which require increased energy efficiency standards in new construction, could exempt that industry from participation in the plan. She also said the proposed plan unfairly targets certain industries including building and energy generation.

Tobe Plough, of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association, and others suggested that allowing more oil production would reduce the off-shore seeps, which they say are the largest contributors to the county’s greenhouse gases.

Others lauded the supervisors for taking action and said Santa Barbara County’s coastal location put it on the front line of the world-wide battle against global warming.

Nathan Alley, an attorney with the Environmental Defense Center, called for the supervisors to go with the staff’s recommendation of Option 4, which calls for phased-in and required energy efficiency upgrades for industrial facilities, homes and businesses that would result in the 15 percent reduction in emissions.

Brian Trautwein, an environmental analyst with the EDC, asked the supervisors to “do all you can do” to reduce emissions in the county, suggesting the county go with the most extreme measures, which would cut emissions by 20 percent.

While board chairman and First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal and Doreen Farr, Third District, and Janet Wolf, Second District, chose to go with the staff-recommended Option 4 with some modifications, Lavagnino and Adam opposed making any recommendation.

Adam repeatedly asked for costs related to the various plan options and was not provided any numbers. He also pointed out that staff’s letter to the board said “neither state nor federal law currently mandates a specific GHG reduction target.”

Lavagnino compared the request to sitting down at a restaurant for dinner and getting handed a menu without prices. He said he wasn’t comfortable with that and added his constituents don’t appear to be interested in whether or not the county has a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The next call I get about this is going to be the first one. Nobody has called me and is pushing this,” he said, referring to his constituents. “They want job creation. They want to find out how we’re going to fund a new jail. They want safe communities.”

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