With the county Board of Supervisors scheduled to vote on the county’s Climate Action Plan next month, wine industry representatives expressed concerns about its potential impacts during a county Planning Commission meeting Wednesday.
The plan would reduce the greenhouse gas emissions in the unincorporated area 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, but the way in which it accomplishes this for vineyards and wineries elicited some unease from the industry.
Concerns ranged from whether the plan would be fair to grapegrowers, and whether it was too burdensome on wineries because of the emissions associated with cars driving back and forth for wine tastings and events.
The Planning Commission has already recommended approval of the Climate Action Plan, so Wednesday’s meeting was only informational. The commissioners said they took the concerns seriously, but some felt they could be handled with minor tweaks before the plan goes to the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 11 for a vote on approval.
Seventy percent of the county’s total reduction will be achieved through state government measures such as new fuel-efficiency standards, while another 17 percent reduction will be reached through actions taken by county government, including increased energy efficiency and renewable energy production.
But the final 13 percent of the total reduction will require developers of new buildings, wineries and vineyards to find ways to reduce their emissions 38 percent below their “business as usual” level — what they would emit without any attempt to reduce or mitigate their emissions.
That requires a balancing act for developers to perform. They have to look at ways to prevent emissions from occurring, either through car or vanpooling, or increased energy efficiency, while seeking to reduce emissions from their projects. That could include renewable energy generation on-site, installing electric-vehicle charging stations, or conserving habitat and natural lands.
For those projects that can’t reach 38 percent, county planning staff advocates that they pay a fee, based on a metric ton of carbon emitted, that may go into a local fund to offset the emission through mitigation.
Kirsty Shelton, the county’s Climate Action Plan project manager, said that would be expensive based on the per-ton cost, and it would be cheaper to purchase carbon credits through already existing open markets. The county planning staff’s analysis estimated that it could cost developers $275 to $280 per metric ton.
“That was quite exciting, I think, for the local community — until we saw the cost,” Shelton said.
Jim Lincoln of the Napa County Farm Bureau said he wanted the plan to be as fair as possible to grapegrowers, so that it wouldn’t burden new vineyard projects.
“We just want to make sure it’s fair for our members,” Lincoln said.
Michelle Benvenuto of Winegrowers of Napa County said the Climate Action Plan is now targeting wineries’ visitation and marketing plans for the greenhouse gas emissions associated with car trips to and from the wineries.
That’s making it difficult for some wineries to achieve the reductions they need, said Benvenuto, who requested that an economic impact report be produced on the Climate Action Plan before the vote on adoption.
“The sample projects have exposed issues that need to be resolved on this,” Benvenuto said. “The local offset program has to be competitive or you have to be able to buy credits on the open market.”
Debra Dommen, speaking on behalf of Treasury Wine Estates, said the plan’s 38 percent reduction can be difficult for some, but believes that it needs only a few tweaks to make it more feasible.
“Thirty-eight percent seems to be a lot to be borne for discretionary projects,” Dommen said. “We’re almost there. We just need a little more time to get it right.”
Shelton told the commission that the new fuel-efficiency standards from the state can account for as much as 10 percent of some wineries’ 38 percent, and they also get credit for “good deeds” — actions they’ve taken since 2005 that reduced emissions, such as producing less waste.
Planning Director Hillary Gitelman said the plan has been worked on continuously over the past several months to make it as feasible as possible, and doesn’t believe it unfairly burdens the wine industry. She said that many agricultural projects will be able to get credits by preserving oak trees on their properties.
“We don’t think this CAP (Climate Action Plan) is targeted at the ag community,” Gitelman said.
Still, she acknowledged that some developers will have to pay more to comply with the plan if it’s approved.
“There are costs associated with digging a little deeper to do a little bit more,” Gitelman said.
Gitelman also said the plan, if approved, would be revisited frequently to take into account new science or other new developments.
Commissioner Terry Scott said the plan needed more work.
“I don’t want an unfair burden placed on ag,” Scott said. “Before we send it to the Board of Supervisors we need a little bit more fine-tuning and a little bit more input.”
Commissioner Bob Fiddaman noted that work on the plan has been going on for the past three years, and he would prefer it go to a vote so it could be in place and begin accomplishing its target reductions.
“This is dragging on,” Fiddaman said. “It’s starting to make me nervous. I’d like to see it get done.”