Local Officials to State: Let Us Save the Planet Our Way

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Officials from across Orange County say they are all about working to limit greenhouse emissions in their locales. They don’t, however, like the state mandating how they should do it, especially after it cuts funding on environmentally friendly programs.

“We all want to be good stewards of the environment and do our fair share in reducing greenhouse emissions,” said Mission Viejo Mayor Trish Kelley after a meeting Wednesday of officials from three regional agencies charged with finding ways to lower greenhouse emissions.

But Kelley and several other elected officials at the confab said they are not at all happy with the way state bureaucrats are handling the issue.

They said individual state planners give them arrogant or rigid opinions that seem aimed at forcing Orange County and other areas to adopt high density housing plans and transportation models that don’t fit well with the reasons people live in Orange County.

The three agencies are the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), the Orange County Council of Governments and the Orange County Transportation Authority.

Fountain Valley Mayor Pro Tem Cheryl Brothers was appalled at one approach that she said was suggested by a state planner, which would be to buy up a group of single-family homes then tear them down and build high density housing complexes on the site.

“How long to you think a recall (election) takes?” Brothers said she told the planner, predicting how voters would react.

Brothers added that planners told local officials they should “‘consider transit in all of your future growth, and by the way, we’re taking (away) your transit funds.'”

Brothers is referring to cuts in funding for mass transit that the state has made as it tries to close its gargantuan budget deficit.

Orange Mayor Carolyn V. Cavecche received some applause when said state officials “want to dictate what local jurisdictions do” to reduce greenhouse gasses. If she followed state orders, she said, her constituents “will kick me out of office very quickly. I don’t want anybody telling me what I have to do to limit greenhouse gas emissions.”

This meeting came about because of two recent state laws that require local governments to cut their output of greenhouse gases. Regions throughout the state must submit plans to the California Air Resources Board. Those that either are too little or too impractical to achieve will be sent back for revision.

Fountain Valley’s Brothers said after the meeting that the new laws are poorly written because they treat largely developed areas like Orange and Los Angeles counties in the same way they regulate still growing regions, like the San Joaquin Valley and sections of northern California, which face different development challenges.

So far, Orange is the only one of the six counties in SCAG to begin working on its own standards. Los Angeles is likely to also do its own, said Brothers, but the other four counties, Imperial, Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino may follow whatever limits are set by SCAG and approved by the Air Resources Board.

Instead of telling local regions how they should cut emissions, said Brothers, the California Air Resources Control Board should simply tell them how much emissions need to be cut “and go away. You don’t have to orchestrate every part of it.”



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