Napa County has extended the trial run for its climate action plan for another two months so planners can resolve problems with how it’s being applied to smaller development proposals.
The county also wants to see what will happen with its application for grant money needed to kickstart a local program intended to offset greenhouse gas emissions from development by supporting local energy conservation, habitat restoration and land conservation.
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors heard a presentation and public comments about the climate plan, designed to cut emissions in the unincorporated area of the county 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
The board voted to delay a decision on adopting it until June. Planning staff asked for more time to work out issues that have cropped up during a two-month trial run.
The plan has separate checklists for commercial and vineyard developers to use to calculate emissions from their projects. Then developers have to identify ways to reduce those emissions by 38 percent.
Planning Director Hillary Gitelman said larger new projects haven’t had trouble with these checklists, but smaller projects — such as a winery seeking to expand its hours of operation — have had difficulty in calculating the resulting emissions and identifying reductions.
Gitelman said the local offset program would be a valuable way to ensure that’s accomplished.
“It’s really going to be challenging to meet that 38 percent unless we get a local offset program,” Gitelman said. “We’ve made a lot of progress. We have a lot of work to do.”
Steve Lederer, director of the county’s Environmental Management Department, said the offset program would be a last resort for developers and companies unable to accommodate ways to reduce their project’s carbon emissions through other avenues, such as encouraging employees to use transit or carpooling, installing alternative energy generators, or reducing energy use.
The county, the city of Napa, nonprofit Sustainable Napa County and other stakeholders would establish the offset program. The county has applied for up to $600,000 in grant funding from the California Strategic Growth Council, and may get an answer in May, Gitelman said.
The program would act as a bank account into which developers could pay so money could be doled out to projects aimed at reducing carbon emissions.
Sustainable Napa CEO Jeri Gill told the board Tuesday that her organization supports the climate action plan, and compared its measures to a diet: Just as people cut calories, the county could cut emissions.
“We are making ourselves healthier,” Gill said. “This plan really does offer a lot of flexibility.”
Chris Malan of Earth Defense for the Environment Now said that if an offset program is set up, it would need a lot of public input and process.
“I’m concerned that it’s not transparent,” Malan said. “This program is going to be the bullseye. It has to work.”
Lederer said that once the program gets funding and advances in the planning process, the county will seek public comment and involvement.
“At the moment it’s incredibly transparent because it doesn’t exist,” Lederer said.
Supervisor Bill Dodd said he was concerned about setting a realistic reduction goal. “I’m worried a little bit about moving too fast,” he said.
Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht agreed, and said the plan will need public education and outreach so people understand what it will do.
“There’s a lot of folks out there that haven’t been a part of this process. We really have to educate folks,” he said.
Gitelman said the top priority is to get a plan in place, and to get the county on the path to reducing emissions.
“The board members are right to be cautious,” Gitelman said. “We want to reach for something that maybe isn’t going to be that easy. We do need to get started pretty soon. 2020, in planning years, is like tomorrow.”