August 21, 2007

Deal cools Inland global-warming fight

Sacramento Bureau
Riverside Press Enterprise

SACRAMENTO - San Bernardino County will begin tracking greenhouse gas emissions under an agreement with Attorney General Jerry Brown expected to be approved today by county supervisors.

Brown sued the county in April, charging that its recently approved general plan would worsen global warming. The settlement would uphold the growth plan's legality and ends a fight that became part of state budget negotiations.

In Sacramento, Brown's suit came to embody Senate Republicans' fears that the attorney general was increasingly using the courts to pursue greenhouse gas reductions prematurely. The issue was a major sticking point in the almost eight-week budget standoff. The Legislature adjourned late Monday without reaching a deal.

Neither Brown nor San Bernardino County officials would comment Monday.

Brown has scheduled a news conference to discuss the case this morning in Los Angeles. Later, Brown is scheduled to appear with San Bernardino County supervisors in San Bernardino.

Both sides have been in talks for weeks. Board of Supervisors Chairman Paul Biane and Vice Chairman Gary Ovitt met with Brown for more than an hour in Whittier one Sunday last month.

The county will agree to track heat-trapping emissions and create a greenhouse gas reduction plan, according to the settlement summary. As part of the plan, the county will measure 1990 greenhouse gas emissions, current emissions and their sources, as well as project how the county's land-use decisions will affect emissions in 2020 within 2-½ years.

Brown will help the county recoup the estimated $500,000 in testing and other costs required to live up to the agreement.

Brown's office also will work with the county to achieve its greenhouse gas reduction targets and to help it avoid any future legal challenges over global warming issues, according to the draft summary.

The county's general plan, a blueprint for growth through 2030, projects more homes and increased traffic as the county's population continues to increase. It was the first time the state has sued a public agency for not taking into account global warming.

GOP senators and allies such as the California Manufacturing and Technology Association complained that Brown's actions were unfairly premature because regulations to implement last year's greenhouse gas law will not be complete until 2012.

But environmental groups and others accused Republican lawmakers of trying to undermine last year's law as well as the state rules requiring environmental reviews of major projects.

The $145 billion state budget agreement limits environmental lawsuits against projects funded by $19.9 billion in transportation borrowing approved by voters last November. The provision reflected concerns arising from the San Bernardino County case and others.