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Work on Napa County’s long-stalled climate action plan is beginning to heat up, though it will be months before things come to full boil.

The Board of Supervisors is spending $100,000 for Ascent Environmental Inc. to complete the plan for the county’s unincorporated areas. Supervisors could be discussing the results next summer.

“I would like to endorse the idea that we’ll do some meaningful work in terms of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions,” Supervisor Mark Luce said at last week’s board meeting.

The goal is to avoid creating bureaucratic gobbledygook. The consultant’s scope of work calls for a climate action plan that is “concise, understandable, graphically interesting and engaging to the community,” with technical details relegated to an appendix.

Napa County tried before to come up with a climate action plan. Work started in 2011 and the Planning Commission in early 2012 endorsed a plan it forwarded to the Board of Supervisors.

But the Board of Supervisors in December 2012 decided the plan needed changes. It wanted to ease the burden on new development to reduce emissions — which would have mostly impacted the wine industry — and sharpen the focus on transportation- and housing-related emissions.

With that, the climate action plan went into a deep freeze. Now it is back.

The scope of work describes stakes that global warming skeptics might dispute. It says climate change could result locally in higher temperatures, more extremely hot days, changes in rainfall patterns, decreased water supplies, higher water demand, increased wildfire risk, sea level rise and declines and losses of plant and animal species.

Resident Jim Wilson went to the microphone to express his hopes for what he called CAP 2.

Wilson talked about preserving local forests because they absorb and store carbon dioxide — a greenhouse gas — through carbon sequestration. Napa County, despite a voluntary oak woodland management program, continues to see deforestation. One proposed vineyard project is a massive deforestation plan, he said.

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“There’s a lot we can do in the valley with your leadership,” Wilson told supervisors. “I urge you to show bold leadership when it comes to doing the right thing.”

Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht read a letter from local environmentalist Chris Malan. She, too, brought up the issue of deforestation, adding that the county’s forests and wildlands are unsuitable for agriculture/vineyards.

Luce said there’s disagreement about the role of forests in carbon sequestration, with some researchers saying that in some latitudes forests trap more heat than they reduce carbon dioxide. He raised the question of whether vineyards do a better job of carbon dioxide extraction.

“We hear a lot of debate, like this is the avenue we’re going (to use) to stop vineyard planting,” Luce said. “I just don’t think that’s the case. I don’t want to get sidetracked on that.”

Luce mentioned such options as using less carbon-rich fuels.

Planning, Building and Environmental Services Director David Morrison talked with supervisors about the upcoming climate action plan.

“To me, there’s no question that it’s a matter of continuing the policies and success we’ve already built on,” Morrison said. “There are twice as many oak woodlands as there are vineyards in Napa County. About 25 percent of the county is in oak woodlands.”

California’s 2012 green building standards have gone a long way in requiring new construction to improve energy conservation, Morrison said. The fastest way to reduced greenhouse gas emissions is to reduce energy usage.

Next, the county needs to look at what cuts it needs to make in greenhouse gas emissions to meet state targets, what the options are and what the advantages and disadvantages are to each option, Morrison said. Then the county can craft the best strategy.

The scope of work calls for Ascent to have up to four meetings with community “stakeholders” while preparing the climate action plan. Consultants will also participate in up to three public hearings.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.

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