Some take issue with ambitious climate goals

County asks for reduction in emissions for new projects
2012-11-24T23:17:00Z 2012-12-09T18:50:32Z Some take issue with ambitious climate goalsPETER JENSEN Napa Valley Register
November 24, 2012 11:17 pm  • 

In crafting Napa County’s Climate Action Plan, the centerpiece of its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the unincorporated area, planners have worked to ensure that it passes the Goldilocks test — that the plan’s regulations suit the county’s natural environment and industries just right.

Officials in the county Planning Department believe they’ve accomplished that, but wine industry groups aren’t convinced, and are pushing back to alter the plan before it goes to the county Board of Supervisors for a vote on Dec. 11.

The plan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and takes a threefold approach to accomplish this.

Seventy percent of the reductions will result from state actions that include new fuel efficiency standards, while the remaining 30 percent would be accomplished through a carrot-and-stick approach from the county government.

Seventeen percent would result from actions from the county government, which includes a list of programs that provide incentives to local businesses to reduce emissions — that’s the carrot. The last 13 percent is a requirement that new development, which in the unincorporated area mostly affects new permits or modified permits for wineries and vineyards, develop plans for reducing project emissions. This would be the stick.

Each project would be required to reduce its projected emissions by 38 percent, but the developers are free to choose how to achieve that reduction. They can work to prevent emissions through:

• Employee carpooling and making projects more energy-efficient;

• Reducing emissions by conserving natural habitat;

• Generating clean energy on-site;

• Installing electric-vehicle charging stations.

Planning Director Hillary Gitelman said she believes this flexibility allows the developers to devise plans that fit their projects, but also covers a wide swath of development that may occur in the unincorporated area. Building permits for the proposed residential development at the Napa Pipe site, for example, would be subject to the 38 percent, just as a winery would for seeking a use-permit modification to expand its marketing and events plan.

Moreover, Gitelman said this requirement rewards environmentally good deeds developers are already doing with their projects, which she called “incredibly forward-thinking and visionary.”

“We require the 38 percent, and then you can get there any way you want to,” Gitelman said. “They could look for the most cost-effective strategy.”

Trial run highlights concerns

When the Napa County Planning Commission meets every month, its discussions are usually devoted to a specific proposal or project. But they provide a glimpse of broader issues the county’s grappling with as it plans for the future.

On Oct. 3, the Odette Winery on Silverado Trail went before the Planning Commission seeking to modify its use permit to construct a new winery production building, modify other buildings, and greatly expand its marketing and events plan. In the process, it offered a trial run of how the Climate Action Plan would be applied to the wine industry.

The winery was first approved in 1980, pre-dating the winery definition ordinance, and has been approved for just under 60,000 gallons in production. New owners, who also own Cade Winery and PlumpJack Winery, purchased the property in February.

The application sought to increase its visitation from 17 to 24 visitors each day to a maximum of 131 visitors each day and 917 per week, according to a county staff report.

It also wanted to expand Odette’s number of events from 19 annually, each with 35 to 70 guests, to 96 events annually that range in size from 50 to 150 guests.

Staff noted in the report that “Given the increasing importance of direct-to-consumer sales for Napa Valley wineries, the 917 maximum weekly visitors proposed here does not strike staff as outlandish or disproportionate.”

The project was designed to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold standards to use as much recycled material as possible, use natural cooling and heating, maximize energy efficiency, and to ensure that construction would preserve existing natural habitat. Solar energy generation was also under design, and the project would conserve water. Employees would be encouraged to use electric vehicles, bike to work, or carpool.

Napa attorney Brian Russell told the Planning Commission that the new owners wanted to make the project as environmentally friendly as possible.

“Those things are really important to them,” Russell said.

Commissioner Bob Fiddaman praised the project.

“I’m impressed,” he said. “We have responsible new owners. I think this is an impressive application.”

But the project was selected for analysis under the Climate Action Plan, and the increase in events and visitors translated to an increase in vehicle miles traveled — and greenhouse gas emissions.

A consultant analyzed Odette’s proposal for traffic impacts, and determined that it would add 77 to 91 trips every day along Silverado, not enough to significantly impact traffic on the north-south artery.

That traffic drove the project’s emissions up, though.

“Your traffic signature is what’s driving up your Climate Action Plan (reductions),” Deputy Planning Director John McDowell told the commission.

The first estimates from the county found that Odette only reached 22 percent of the 38 percent reduction. That initial estimate was incorrect, said Kirsty Shelton, who’s managing the Climate Action Plan for the Planning Department.

After recalculating, Shelton said the project did enough to meet the 38 percent, but Odette’s trial run highlighted a difficulty some wineries will face in the future if the Climate Action Plan is implemented.

They’ll have to be as green as possible, but seeking to expand their marketing and events plans will mean mitigating the resulting emissions from the vehicle trips to and from the wineries. Shelton notes that projects can take credit for the state actions in increasing fuel efficiency in trying to mitigate traffic emissions; in some cases that could reduce the target reduction by 10 percent, from 38 percent to 28 percent. They also get credit for environmentally good deeds done since 2005, which count toward their reductions.

The Planning Commission voted 3-0 to approve Odette’s application; commissioners Terry Scott and Matt Pope were absent. Speaking through Russell, representatives of Odette declined to be interviewed.

Discussions continue

Gitelman said this is the point of the Climate Action Plan.

“The projects that walk in the door that are really green. … Those wineries, their cost of business won’t change,” Gitelman said. “This kind of ethic is already here in Napa. This is already part of their business model.”

However, in a Nov. 15 letter to Supervisor Keith Caldwell, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, the Napa Valley Vintners organization laid out some of its concerns with the plan. The letter stated that the group would withhold its support of the plan until its concerns are met.

“Our industry will continue to be a leader on environmental initiatives,” President Rick Jones wrote in the letter. “However, given the overwhelming burden being placed upon the Napa Valley wine industry and the high threshold (38 percent emissions reduction), the following concerns need to be addressed before we can offer our support.”

Jones listed four criteria that would have to be met before the Vintners could support the plan.

For the industry, Jones wrote that the Climate Action Plan’s greatest benefit is that meeting its requirements would give projects compliance under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Vintners want to ensure that the emissions reduction measures available through the plan would survive legal scrutiny, to give developers insurance that their projects wouldn’t be exposed to legal challenges under CEQA that are based on emissions.

The second criterion is to allow project developers who are unable to meet their reduction requirements on site to purchase carbon credits on an open market. That would allow the industry to offset emissions in a cost-effective manner, Jones wrote.

County planners have preferred to set up a local offset program, which developers would pay into to fund emissions-reducing projects in the county. But the county’s analysis estimates that the cost for offsetting a metric ton of carbon could be $250 to $275; in established carbon markets, that price can be as low as $20 per metric ton.

“The local program, as proposed, is extremely cost-prohibitive,” Jones wrote. “Current open market rates for the purchase of carbon credits are approximately one-tenth of the cost to purchase a credit through the local program.”

The Vintners asked the county to investigate the local offset program, but to leave open the open-market option.

Gitelman said that because the local program would provide local benefits, staff doesn’t want to abandon the idea.

“The concept is so good,” Gitelman said. “I don’t think any of us want to give up on the local idea.”

On projects opting to purchase credits on an open market, Shelton said the preference is for the developers to try and mitigate their emissions on site — so the benefits of the reductions at least remain in Napa County.

“We’re still going to encourage on-site measures,” Shelton said.

The third criterion, according to Jones’ letter, is to allow businesses that have multiple properties in the county to apply offset measures at one property to another property they own.

Finally, the Vintners asked that the Climate Action Plan have a clause included in it so it expires after two years. Jones’ letter states that this would give an opportunity to review the plan to incorporate new research on greenhouse gas emissions and how they relate to agriculture.

Gitelman said the plan is supposed to be reviewed frequently to allow for new research and developments to be included in it. The first review would occur in 2013, she said.

“People are always dubious in government when you say you’re going to review the program and revisit it,” Gitelman said.

She acknowledged that discussions between staff and industry groups remain ongoing, as does work on the plan.

“We’re still doing a lot of talking,” Gitelman said in mid-November. “There’s still quite a bit of work to do between now and (Dec. 11).”

And as for meeting the Climate Action Plan’s goal of reducing emissions to 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, Gitelman said that’s still attainable.

“I think that’s still feasible,” Gitelman said. “We set a goal that we thought was achievable, and it’s still achievable. We’re still interested in talking to anybody who wants to talk to us. Give us a ring.”

Copyright 2015 Napa Valley Register. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(26) Comments

  1. vocal-de-local
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    vocal-de-local - November 25, 2012 12:35 am
    In response to this statement: "Employees would be encouraged to use electric vehicles, bike to work, or carpool." - Does 'encouraged' count toward the 38%?

    In response to - A consultant "determined that it would add 77 to 91 trips every day along Silverado, not enough to significantly impact traffic on the north-south artery." - Can you imagine every winery adding that many per trip days?

    In all fairness to the wine industry, the focus should not be exclusively on them. How about hotel growth? Also, Odette is going from 19 to 96 annual events. Isn't that a huge leap? Where's the common sense of slow to moderate growth? Imagine for a moment that Odette is setting a growth precedence. Is it fair allowing one winery to grow that rapidly while denying it to others? This 38% thing is going to turn into a form of favoritism starting with Gavin Newsom. Green hijacked.How about just telling all wineries "no more growth" to level the playing field?

  2. vocal-de-local
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    vocal-de-local - November 25, 2012 1:08 am
    My point is that 'green' that's minimally green is simply a vehicle in disguise to encourage more growth. True green would be stopping growth altogether. What's described above sounds more like what developers in Angwin were using when they described a development as an 'Ecovillage'.

    Problem here is that some of the larger, corporate owned wineries will have the resources to play a better 'green game' than the smaller ones. They will be pushing their growth weight around, especially if they are politically connected. It's not fair and it doesn't really solve problems. In the end, Odette is still increasing its event numbers from 19 to 96 annually.

    I agree that many of the methods described above are noble, however some of them should be required no matter what. A Trade of green for growth is not the right way to go about slowing growth in my opinion. It's just another form of growth in disguise.
  3. publiusa
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    publiusa - November 25, 2012 2:17 am
    The local wine industry never seems to be mentioned when the subject of CO2 emissions are discussed. More than 15,000 tons of CO2 are released into the atmosphere by of the fermentation process of grapes in Napa County. Maybe I missed something in this article, but I saw nothing about reducing fermentation emissions - why is that? Clearly, the political pressure to ignore it is very strong. The Vintners are very persuasive. So, if political pressure can suppress the controls on one polluting industry it means that global warming is nothing but a hoax. If it were real, no industry would be exempt. Exemption of one locally powerful industry means that some other ox must be gored and that ox is the poor person, the utility rate payers and everyone dependent on the automobile and everything delivered by trucks - people unorganized and powerful like the vintners are easily intimidated by bureaucrats.
  4. glenroy
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    glenroy - November 25, 2012 6:18 am
    All the recent data shows it has not warmed in 16 YEARS!
    There never was a consensus, just frantic liberals looking for a way to replace the 'well-funded,' Soviet, antiwar movement after the Soviet collapsed. Russia, what’s left of the Soviet Union, flat acknowledged, stated as clearly as a blue sky, the data they provided these leftists, tree rings was edited to the point of useless for the purpose of determining carbon/warming. They don’t believe in it and neither does China, India is turning as well.
    The fact is all the data used to create this hoax was in some way edited, deleted and created a program model that does not work to this day…. Pier review was staged among a small group of leftwing political activists with an agenda to make lots of money.
    This is going to destroy what is left of our state economy…for what another liberal make work job?

    All you have to know is how to read the data over the last 1,000 years, do that and you will know it's a hoax, set free even...
  5. Red Dirt Town
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    Red Dirt Town - November 25, 2012 8:04 am
    And the forest of Howell Mountain is pushed into burn piles.....waiting to be lit. Mocking the people of Napa County and the Climate Action Plan as proposed.

    This plan is flawed and is 'paper clean air.'

    Permanent conservation of the mixed coniferous forests of Napa County should be priority number 1.
  6. Ronco99
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    Ronco99 - November 25, 2012 8:26 am
    liberal-liberal bla bla hoax yada yada Yo Glenroy, Gore warned you that the truth is inconvenient.
  7. BennyD
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    BennyD - November 25, 2012 10:17 am
    A sustainable tourist and Ag economy is key. Many wineries have taken it upon themselves to embrace solar, and good practices that include organic and "diversified crop" planning. The new and upcoming technologies like electric cars/cabs and a rail infrastructure already in place can and will help our economy more sustainable. The only other solution as vocal-de-local suggests in stopping all growth would only work if all population ceases to grow, not gonna happen, unfortunately.
  8. vocal-de-local
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    vocal-de-local - November 25, 2012 11:46 am
    Glen, global warming is not the only problem. What if we cycle into higher levels of catastrophic events (global warming caused or not?)

    The two things that concern me most are longterm droughts and fossil fuel wars that will diminish supply and drive costs up dramatically. Without fossil fuels, how do we pump water to crops? How do we transport food to their destinations? We are highly dependent on fossil fuels and we also have a high level of population which continues to grow because we cannot effectively secure borders.

    I support efforts to use alternative energy but I do not want to trade 'green for growth' which essentially cancels out the benefits of green technology.
  9. vocal-de-local
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    vocal-de-local - November 25, 2012 12:09 pm
    Organic is better for many reasons but in all honesty, I do not see how it increases sustainability. Dry farming is more sustainable, of course, but this requires planting drought resistant crops which grapes are not. One fairly simple solution would be to allow ag lands to be developed but only in drought resistant crops such as olive trees. The Valley is already over saturated with a grape monoculture. All new ag land development should have water meter restrictions. This alone will limit the types of crops that are planted.
    Are there crops which naturally require fewer farmwork hours, reducing farmworker travel?

    Another possibility is limiting the number of employees allowed to work at any facility. In other words; a maximum number of employees per square footage of building or farm acreage. Seriously limit future square footage growth. Do we really want
    the Valley to turn into a Disneyland of electric vehicles? Tourists will stop visiting.

  10. MyWrites
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    MyWrites - November 25, 2012 12:28 pm
    Still taking your talking points from the Heartland Institute I see. Keep wearing those aluminum foil hats GR, they work, they really do!

    China is developing alternative green resources and power generation faster than anybody and they are selling a good deal of it to us. If you guys hadn't declared war on green energy years ago, we would be using more of it here and selling it to the rest of the world. But when you take your marching orders from American oil and coal, guess we can't expect much from you other than this drivel.

    OK, enough of this...now get back to work hunting down those liberal commies for Allen West. Oh right, he's out of a job...another Tea Party trouble-maker bites the dust. Time to pull that old McCarthyism trunk out of the basement; you might find some bile and vitriol that an be recycled. Actually it appears you already have.
  11. vocal-de-local
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    vocal-de-local - November 25, 2012 12:58 pm
    Here's a fantastic website on grape dry farming. Frog's Leap Winery serves as a model, proving that dry farming is possible in the Valley. Instead of green points, how about requiring that all future ag lands be dry farmed? Consider (non growth promoting) incentives for wineries to convert their lands to dry farming, or meter and limit water availability. The yields will be less but this is a good thing because a lower number of workers will be needed but grape quality will be higher. It's a win win and it will be easier to manage than green point policing will be.

    The County could create a five year dry crop conversion period and those who do not comply will be charged a substantial fee which could then be used to convert potential ag lands into permanent open space native grasslands.
  12. BennyD
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    BennyD - November 25, 2012 1:36 pm
    Healthier soil because of diversification will generally translate into other efficiencies. Many of my clients have embraced this along with energy efficiency, they go hand in hand. All this will make our Napa Valley much more attractive to the growing more aware "eco tourist". Transportation to and from the Valley then becomes a very important part of the equation we must plan for. We are sitting on a "sustainable" gold mine, and a community rich with the most important thing to all of us who live and work here, a healthier environment.
  13. publiusa
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    publiusa - November 26, 2012 1:49 am
    To Ms. Gittleman: What about the huge amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere during fermentation?
  14. glenroy
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    glenroy - November 26, 2012 8:06 am
    China’s carbon release is up approx. 500% over 17-18 years and their average temp has dropped. The original hypothesis of these scammers was ‘manmade ice ages’ they were closer to reality with the first guess, and it is a guess....nobody knows for sure even today.
    It’s is in large part about these 'issues authors' track records, they just kept throwing it against the wall until something stuck...
    I agree on alternatives, within reason, we were raised and raised out kids to be as efficient as possible…
    Our energy reserves consist of 400yrs worth excluding coal, 500yrs with… so if independence was really an objective we could have drilled our way out of this decades ago. I was on the inside among the them interning, if they can scam more (regulate & litigate) ruining the economy they'll do it gladly...they have already done numerous times over our nation’s history…nothing has changed. That's all obama knows.
    When people vote to things they don’t understand…here we are.
  15. OK sooner
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    OK sooner - November 26, 2012 8:22 am
    Napa is a big source of CO2.
    We should add a $1 carbon tax to every bottle. We should have "car counters" (the hose you run over) and charge every winery a 50 cent carbon tax for every car.
    Fair is fair... If we charge carbon tax on coal we should tax ALL CO2.
    We should all drive and live green, is this not what Al Gore says as he flies around in his jet?
    Eat and drink green or admit we cannot change the weather with taxes.
    BTW Mywrites... China is not green, they pollute worse than we do. And if there really is a market for green power we would not need taxes and grants to make and sell it. Business goes where the money is. (some of the green business in China IS American, they just can't make a proffit being Union.)
    Vocal-de-local... All water used for farming and business should be taxed, (except ponds filled by run off) even ground water should be taxed but at a higher rate. The tax should be put to use to build recycled water plants and de-salinazation plants here in the US.
  16. gettingreal
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    gettingreal - November 26, 2012 10:10 am
    Climate Gate blew this scam wide open but the indoctrination has already taken place. Now, Envirobots are sent out by our parasitic government to suck the life blood out of our economy. They will stop at nothing!
  17. gettingreal
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    gettingreal - November 26, 2012 10:23 am
    Congress members are pushing a carbon tax and they're even using Exxon to do it!

  18. publiusa
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    publiusa - November 26, 2012 10:53 am
    Ms. Gittleman's silence on the issue of fermentation emissions of CO2 confirms my suspicion that she has been muzzled by the vintners.
  19. fmmt47
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    fmmt47 - November 26, 2012 12:16 pm
    Money for nothing when it could be used to provide additional jobs. In regards to man made climate change the jury is still out, why is the county picking the pockets of local business? The county will get it's foot in the door on this one and eventually all restaraunts, retail, and manufacturing businesses will have to pay for an annual permit and purchase carbon credits. What a fraud.
  20. napa1957
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    napa1957 - November 26, 2012 5:24 pm
    I know several people that have travelled in China or that area recently and they are amazed at how much air pollution there is, worse that they have seen here in 50 years. China may be developing it and selling it to us...but they sure as snot are NOT using it to benefit their own country.
    Could there be any discussion on these threads that does not throw out mean spirited and illusionary rhetoric to others? Why does everyone who has a concern about big government regulations that are expensive and not proven worth while, get called a Tin Foil Hat wearer and accused of being a McCarthyite? Others below have good ideas that show thought and mature language. I'm really getting tired of the Middle School mentality!
  21. vocal-de-local
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    vocal-de-local - November 26, 2012 10:17 pm
    Desalinization of water will require other energy consuming resources and then there's the issue of transporting it. Problem with these types of solutions is that it's another 'green for growth' solution. In other words, if it increases our population (which tends to increase alongside new technologies that presumably create more resources) than it defeats the purpose.
  22. Red Dirt Town
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    Red Dirt Town - November 29, 2012 7:36 pm
    Ms. Gitelman does not want to stop the sweeping tide of urbanization proposed for Napa County. But she does want it to look good on (recycled) paper.
  23. John Richards
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    John Richards - November 30, 2012 8:09 pm
    CO2 emission is a natural byproduct of life. You emit CO2 every time you breathe out. Perhaps we need to muzzle the more vocal liberals for exceeding their CO2 quota.
  24. vocal-de-local
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    vocal-de-local - December 01, 2012 6:34 pm
    Organic IS more sustainable. I made a mistake with my statement above. Organic probably does not reduce Co2 but I'm not 100% sure about that. It depends, probably on the type of fertilzer used and whether organic reduces the need for so much fertilzer etc. Btw, I'm a big advocate of going organic but I want to be honest about it's relationship to carbon reduction.
  25. glenroy
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    glenroy - December 02, 2012 9:25 am
    ..most liberals simply do not understand the cause and effects of trillions of cycles of earth life daily...to them if man has a hand it's bad, period.
    Greenhouse gases….really isn’t such a thing but using liberal lingo benefits foliage as oxygen benefits man/mammal…basic. The bulk, 99% of these gases are consumed by plant life converted back to oxygen, we could not live our GHG. Mankind produces millionths of a part=1%... less than a blade of grass on a golf course. Most of the loony left don’t even understand these cycles. They saw Forest Gore claim a consensus, that never was, based on phony insider pier review using known corrupted data… all because billions of dollars and soon trillions dollars are being taken away from us so liberalism dictate to us what to eat, drive, wear etc.
    Gore has become, like most successful liberals, filthy rich off a scam…a guy with a high 70 IQ sober..sober.
    It has not warmed for 16 years..that would be impossible under this liberal myth
  26. glenroy
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    glenroy - December 22, 2012 7:44 am
    Yeah.... if only it could be.

    Seeing that so many can only work at a government job it's a stacked deck against the tax payers.
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