Judge's Rejection of San Diego SCS EIR Could Spell Trouble Statewide

 

Exploiting a subtle difference between AB 32 and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's 2005 Executive Order that preceded the bill, environmentalists have successfully persuaded a San Diego Superior Court judge to strike down the environmental impact report for the sustainable communities strategy adopted by the San Diego Association of Governments.

In ruling for the plaintiffs, Judge Taylor wrote that SANDAG's approach "kicks the can down the road" and "perverts the regional planning function of SANDAG".

Although the facts of the case suggest that the impact might be limited only to San Diego, if the environmentalists can win an appellate court ruling, other SCS's around the state could be in trouble. In any event the ruling suggests that SANDAG's strategy of stretching the SCS timeline out to 2050 may not work.SANDAG adopted an SCS that stretched the time horizon out to 2050, but did an EIR showing that would reduce per-capita greenhouse gas emissions by 14% for 2020. The state Air Resources Board's target for SANDAG was 7% by 2020 and 13% by 2035. However, critics of the plan claim that after 2020, per-capita emissions will actually increase, resulting in a net decrease in per-capita emissions of 9% by 2050. [http://saferoutescalifornia.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/sandag_transformcomment/]

ARB has set no target for 2050 and, despite rhetoric from Schwarzenegger to the contrary, AB 32 does not set a target for 2050. However, in 2005 Schwarzenegger issued Executive Order S-03-05 -- never rescinded -- which calls for an 80% reduction in GHG emissions statewide by 2050. 

Like other metropolitan planning organizations around the state, SANDAG approved a sustainable communities strategy, or SCS, under SB 375 and tied it to the federally mandate regional transportation plan, or RTP. Whereas the RTP only extends to 2035, however, the SCS extends to 2050. The Cleveland National Forest Foundation, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club sued, claiming that SANDAG front-loaded the SCS with freeway projects and did an inadequate job of dealing with long-term environmental impacts even it the time horizon was stretched out an additional 15 years.

Cleveland National Forest Foundation v. SANDAG, San Diego Superior Court Case No. 2011-00101593.