While Assembly Bill 32, California’s landmark global warming and clean energy law, is under attack by Texas oil companies looking to overturn it at the polls this coming November, Senate Bill 375, a critical complement measure, also faces a critical challenge. The goal of 375 is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions resulting from vehicle miles travels (VMT) and next week the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is set to determine targeted VMT reduction goals for most of California. While most of the 18 metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) have risen to the challenge and proposed lofty reduction targets for reducing VMT emissions, some as high as 16% by 2035, certain MPOs have come up with less than stellar proposals.
The San Joaquin Valley Metropolitan Planning Areas have had a tough time recommending realistic targets due to the fact that the San Joaquin Valley is expected to see significant population increases in the next 25 years. For this reason, CARB has decided to insert placeholder targets until more research can be done in the region. Ensuring the San Joaquin Valley Council of Governments (SJVCOG) strives to reach targets that will actually reduce global warming pollution will be critical to the success of the entire effort, precisely because the region will see such growth.
The fate of SB 375 also hinges on what happens in Southern California. Unfortunately, the Southern California Area Government (SCAG) board discarded the recommended VMT reduction target of six and thirteen percent by 2020 and 2035 respectfully. The executive director of SCAG, Hasan Ikhrata stated that while the 190 cities and counties were “passionate about the state’s decision to pass regulation like SB 375…we have neither the authority nor the desire to tell cities and counties how to make land use decisions”. However, the goal of the law is to encourage smarter land use planning decisions that result in more sustainable communities and reduce VMT pollution. The only way to get there is for such populous regions of the state to take on ambition targets and truly work to reach them.
CARB is set to adopt targets for each region at its September 23rd hearing.