Last year, the Governor signed Senate Bill 375, a piece of legislation which will significantly impact land use planning and transportation throughout the State. This bill seeks to change land use practices by giving each region a greenhouse emissions reduction target and requiring the regions to adopt regional growth strategies that can achieve these targets. Senate Bill 375 provides that the transportation sector is the single largest contributor of greenhouse gases, producing over 40% of the greenhouse gases in the State, with automobiles and light trucks contributing almost 30% of the greenhouse gases. The emissions can be substantially reduced by increased use of low carbon fuel and new vehicle technology; however, greater reductions in emissions can be achieved through improved transportation and changed land use.
On January 23, 2009, the California Air Resources Board (“CARB”) appointed twenty-one members to the Regional Targets Advisory Committee (“RTAC”) created under the bill. Mike McKeever, the executive director of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, or SACOG, was appointed as the chairman of the committee. RTAC is required to recommend factors to CARB to be considered, and methodologies to be used, for setting regional greenhouse gas reduction targets. In coming up with its recommendations, RTAC is to consider the following issues: modeling techniques; growth forecasts; jobs – housing balance; interregional travel; economic trends; demographic trends; benefits of land use and transportation strategies; methods to describe regional targets; and methods to monitor performance in meeting targets. RTAC’s recommendations are due to CARB by September 30, 2009. Thereafter, CARB must propose draft targets by June 10, 2010 and take action to set the targets by September 30, 2010.
RTAC held its first public meeting on February 3, 2009 at its offices in Sacramento. Eighteen members were present for this inaugural workshop meeting. At this first meeting, RTAC discussed a work plan for delivering recommendations focusing specifically on reducing greenhouse gases from vehicle use. SB 375 requires CARB to set regional targets for the purpose of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles and light trucks for 2020 and 2035. Therefore, RTAC needed to come up with recommendations on the factors and methodologies for setting those targets that relate directly to use of these types of vehicles. California’s strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emission from automobiles and light trucks includes three elements: vehicle technology (addressed in AB 1493), low-carbon fuel technology, and reduced vehicle use (addressed in SB 375) through changed land use patterns and improved transportation. Accordingly, the following six questions formed the framework for RTAC’s discussion at the first meeting:
1. What are the key factors that influence vehicle use, including land use, the transportation system, the price of travel, and others?
2. What are the factors that affect the magnitude of the change in vehicle use that is achievable? This includes factors that the governmental agencies can control, such as land use decisions, transportation investment, and pricing and other transportation strategies, and those they cannot, such as demographic trends, consumer housing preferences, market economics for development products, and the price of gas.
3. What are acceptable standards for data quality and modeling tools for implementing various methodologies for processing the factors into targets? How fast can regions with current data and modeling limitations improve their tools? What is the cost to make those improvements? Can any of these improvements be made in time to meet the first round of targets? What can we do in the interim?
4. How should automobile and light truck trips, that cross regional boundaries, be incorporated into targets?
5. What metric(s) should be used to express regional targets? For example, should the metric(s) be per capita or total Vehicle Miles Traveled (“VMT”) for a region? Should they be measured as changes from current conditions or from future year baselines? How should the metric(s) account for differences between regions, e.g. growth rates, incomes, current jobs-housing balance? Is it important that the metric(s) represent real and permanent reductions?
6. How can the various methods be evaluated to see if they meet the goal of setting the most ambitious achievable targets?
In attempting to address these questions, three presentations were made to RTAC at the February 3rd meeting:
1. CARB staff presented an overview of the elements of AB 32, SB 375, as well as the role of RTAC.
2. RTAC member and principal of Fehr & Peers Transportation Consultants, Jerry Walters, discussed the relationship between land use and transportation plans and VMT and CO2. Mr. Walters provided RTAC with information regarding: the relationship between density and VMT; enhanced transit service impacts on VMT; and induced travel and development from highway or passenger rail expansion.
3. Bruce Griesenbeck, the principal transportation analyst for SACOG, provided examples of ways to reduce VMT and discussed land use characteristics of VMT-defined areas within the Sacramento region.
CARB Staff’s Workgroup will hold its first public meeting on February 19, 2009. This Workgroup will prepare information that will be presented at the next RTAC meeting in response to questions raised by RTAC members at the February 3, 2009 meeting. The topics to be discussed at the February 19th staff meeting include the current state of modeling among Metropolitan Planning Organizations and current market trends for development in California. The next RTAC meeting is yet to be scheduled, but we will keep you updated on the progress of SB 375, as well as updates on other climate change legislation.
If you have any questions concerning the content of this Legal Alert, please contact the following from our office, or the attorney with whom you normally consult.
Karina K. Terakura | 916.321.4500