By Leslie Z. Walker

The alliances between homebuilders and conservation groups forged during the drafting of Senate Bill 375 unraveled around the Regional Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Targets for Automobiles and Light Trucks (“Targets”) adopted today by the California Air Resources Board ("CARB"). Despite the suffering building industry’s claims that the Targets are too ambitious, CARB unanimously voted to adopt the Targets. The Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, Senate Bill 375, requires CARB to set targets for GHG reduction for 2020 and 2035 and further requires the 18 Metropolitan Planning Organizations (“MPOs”) include Sustainable Communities Strategies (“SCS”) to achieve these Targets in their Regional Transportation Plans.

CARB must adopt the Targets by September 30, 2010, and the MPOs will begin to incorporate the SCS into Regional Transportation Plans in 2011. If any of the 18 MPOs cannot achieve the Targets via an SCS, it may develop an Alternative Planning Strategy. MPOs using the Alternative Planning Strategies rather than the SCS will not, however, qualify for the CEQA streamlining available or relief from the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (See SB 375: A Subtle Shift in the State-Local Long Range Planning Paradigm.)

CARB set Targets for emission reductions over a 2005 baseline for three categories of MPOs: the four largest MPOs, the eight San Joaquin MPOs, and the remaining six MPOs. CARB’s Target setting effort focused on the first two categories because 95 percent of the state’s population lives within those regions. The Targets, to the extent possible, were based on the modeling work done by the MPOs themselves and build upon Blueprint planning efforts already underway.

The four largest MPOs (Metropolitan Transit Commission; Sacramento Area Council of Governments; San Diego Association of Governments; and the Southern California Association of Governments) account for 82 percent of the state’s population. These MPOs, for the most part, adopted CARB’s targets for 2020 and 2035. The only exception was SCAG’s approval of a 5-6 percent per capita reduction in 2035, rather than CARB’s proposed 13 percent reduction. CARB adopted the following per capita reduction Targets:




Metropolitan Transit Commission



Sacramento Area Council of Governments



San Diego Association of Governments



Southern California Association of Governments



San Joaquin MPOs (Council of Fresno County Governments; Madera County Transportation Commission; Merced County Association of Governments; Kern Council of Governments; Kings County Association of Governments; San Joaquin Council of Governments; Stanislaus County Council of Governments, and Tulare County Association of Governments) represent 10 percent of state’s population, and are expected to grow to 14 percent of the State’s population by 2035. Rather than adopting firm targets for the eight San Joaquin Valley MPOs, CARB adopted placeholder targets, recognizing that the MPOs have been undergoing a valley-wide blueprint planning process, are significantly updating the modeling capabilities, upon which the Targets are based, and do not have to update their RTP until 2014. CARB set the placeholder targets at a 5 percent per capita reduction by 2020 and a 10 percent per capita reduction by 2035. CARB will revisit the targets in 2012 and establish provisional targets at that time if appropriate.

The remaining six MPOs (Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments; Butte County Association of Governments; San Luis Obispo County Council of Governments; Santa Barbara County Association of Governments; Shasta County Regional Transportation Planning Agency; Tahoe Metropolitan Planning Organization) represent about five percent of the state’s population. Therefore, CARB adopted each of the six remaining MPO’s current projection for 2020 and 2035. The projections for 2020 range from a 7 percent decrease to a 13 percent increase for 2020; and a range of 8 percent decrease to a 14 percent increase by 2035. Monterey, Tahoe and Santa Barbara have volunteered to reduce their emission targets.

After more than four hours of public testimony and a spirited debate among board members as to the role of transportation funding in achieving the Targets, CARB unanimously adopted the Targets, with the caveat that CARB would work with SACOG to increase the 2035 emission reduction goal.

Leslie Z. Walker attended the hearing on the Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Targets. She is an associate at Abbott & Kindermann, LLP.  For questions relating to this article or any other California land use, real estate, environmental and/or planning issues contact Abbott & Kindermann, LLP at (916) 456-9595.

The information presented in this article should not be construed to be formal legal advice by Abbott & Kindermann, LLP, nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Because of the changing nature of this area of the law and the importance of individual facts, readers are encouraged to seek independent counsel for advice regarding their individual legal issues.