OB RAG: Court of Appeal Strikes Down San Diego County’s Climate Plan – Calls Off-Set Program ‘Unlawful’

June 17 – OB Rag – Joshua Emerson Smith reports – A state court has struck down a San Diego County plan to allow housing developers to buy their way around restrictions on greenhouse-gas emissions from new vehicle traffic using so-called carbon offsets.

The 4th District Court of Appeal in San Diego issued its ruling on Friday in response to a lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Climate Action Campaign and other environmental groups. Specifically, the three-judge panel’s decision tossed out the county’s latest adopted Climate Action Plan — the sixth such ruling in nearly a decade.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra celebrated the ruling on Twitter, saying “Victories like this will help California get back on track to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals …”

The county was relying on the offset program as part of an ongoing push to approve a slate of housing projects on undeveloped land throughout unincorporated territory, such as Newland Sierra, Lilac Hills Ranch and Adara at Otay Ranch.

Last year, the county sought to approve eight new projects totaling about 10,000 new units, but nearly all have since been derailed or delayed by lawsuits.

Many of those projects have been individually challenged in court by environmental groups. Those groups point to the tail-pipe emissions that would be created by additional traffic. Also, nearly all of the projects are located in wildfire-prone areas.

Becerra’s office argued in an amicus brief from November that the county’s offset scheme could undermine the state’s ambitious goals of slashing emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.

“This is huge,” said Pete Andersen, who serves on the local chapter of the Sierra Club’s conservation and legal committees. “Let’s stop these projects that are causing sprawl and vehicle-miles traveled.”

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