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Green rebuilding group to host Santa Rosa expo on Feb. 23

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Like many, Sarah and Bruce King watched in horror as the wildfires burned through the North Bay in October, leaving them to wonder how they might aid the recovery when the smoke cleared.

The San Rafael couple have backgrounds in sustainable construction through a two-decade-old nonprofit called Ecological Building Network, or EBNet. So they were uniquely positioned to make an immediate impact. In late October, along with green building consultant Ann Edminster of Pacifica and Sustainable North Bay executive director Oren Wool of Graton, the Kings hosted a small dinner at their home in late October and got to work.

The group formed a new organization, Rebuild Green Coalition, and decided to hold a one-day workshop in December, inviting others with expertise to the table. The idea was to brainstorm ideas for how Sonoma County and other affected areas could tap new technologies and modern home designs that reduce carbon footprint to help communities recover with greater post-fire resiliency.

“It’s one thing to build green, it’s another for how to actually do it,” said Sarah King. “With the wildland-urban interface, which is big up toward the hills, how do we make that more resistant? That’s the name of the game in a lot of areas, especially where the fires took place, and what happened here is equally applicable for Southern California.”

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/7987771-181/green-rebuilding-group-to-host

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Marin County goes 100% green energy

Cynthia Sweeney, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

Government entities in the North Bay are leading the state with 100 percent renewable electric power.

In October, Marin County was the first in the state to enroll all of its county and city accounts in Marin Clean Energy’s 100 percent renewable electricity program, the company said.

Marin Clean Energy supplies customers with 50 percent to 100 percent renewable energy as an alternative to PG&E.

Called Deep Green, the program now supplies non-polluting wind and solar power for public buildings, streetlights and other civic accounts in the county.

The city and county of Napa also adopted the Deep Green Program in 2017.The city of Sonoma, and the Sonoma County Water Agency have also transitioned to Sonoma Clean Power’s 100 percent renewable energy program, called Evergreen.

Read more at: Marin County goes 100% green energy

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What a new report on climate science portends for the West

Maya L. Kapoor, HIGH COUNTRY NEWS

[But] the root causes of these symptoms remain societal and personal choices that lead the average American to burn more than twice as much fossil fuel as the global average. As California Gov. Jerry Brown and others have demonstrated, the West also could lead the way in addressing these root causes. See the website for the We Are Still In coalition.

The complexity of climate change means it’s hard to trace simple lines from cause to effect in daily life, much less plan for the future. That’s one reason the federal government updates its National Climate Assessment every four years — to provide lawmakers, policymakers and citizens with the information they need to plan everything from urban infrastructure, to insurance programs, to disaster readiness. After the third NCA came out in 2014, the world experienced three of the warmest years on record. In the same time the United States, along with 167 other signatories, agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep global temperatures below a dangerous tipping point.

But after last December’s presidential election, the odds of the U.S. willingly contributing to international climate change solutions dwindled. At this year’s United Nations climate conference, the Trump administration — which previously announced plans to withdraw from the international climate agreement — says it will promote fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

All of which makes the fourth NCA seem even more urgent. After all, the U.S. emits more greenhouse gases per person each year than almost every other country in the world. Last week, the government released the first part of its 2018 assessment. Focusing on the science of climate change, the report describes how greenhouse gas emissions are affecting the U.S. already and will continue to do so in future if we continue on the current trajectory.

Here are the takeaways for the West:

Read more at: What a new report on climate science portends for the West — High Country News

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California lawmaker wants to ban gas car sales after 2040

Alexei Koseff, THE SACRAMENTO BEE

France and the United Kingdom are doing it. So is India. And now one lawmaker would like California to follow their lead in phasing out gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles.

When the Legislature returns in January, Assemblyman Phil Ting plans to introduce a bill that would ban the sale of new cars powered by internal-combustion engines after 2040. The San Francisco Democrat said it’s essential to get California drivers into an electric fleet if the state is going to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets, since the transportation sector accounts for more than a third of all emissions.

“The market is moving this way. The entire world is moving this way,” Ting said. “At some point you need to set a goal and put a line in the sand.”

California already committed five years ago to putting 1.5 million “zero-emission vehicles,” such as electric cars and plug-in hybrids, on the road by 2025. By that time, the state wants these cleaner models to account for 15 percent of all new car sales.

But progress has been modest so far, as consumers wait for prices to drop and battery ranges to improve, or opt for large trucks and SUVs that are not available among electric offerings. Slightly more than 300,000 zero-emission vehicles have now been sold in California, and they accounted for just under 5 percent of new car sales in the state in the first half of the year.

Read more at: Ban on gas car sales proposed by California lawmaker | The Sacramento Bee

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California Air Resources Board eyes future ban on gas-powered engines 

Dale Kasler and Ryan Sabalow, THE SACRAMENTO BEE

Get ready to scrap your gas guzzler. And your gas sipper, too.California’s chief air-pollution regulator said this week the state is considering a ban on cars fueled by internal-combustion engines.

While the ban would be at least a decade away, Mary Nichols, the chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, said putting California motorists in an all-electric fleet would help the state meet its ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Tailpipes generate more than one-third of all greenhouse gases, according to state data, and so far only a small fraction of California’s motorists drive electric vehicles.

Nichols made the comment in an interview with Bloomberg news, saying Gov. Jerry Brown has been asking her about a ban on gas- and diesel-powered cars announced recently by China.

“I’ve gotten messages from the governor asking, ‘Why haven’t we done something already?’ The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California,” Nichols told Bloomberg.

Chinese leaders said earlier this month they plan to phase out internal-combustion cars at some point, although they haven’t set a date. The United Kingdom and France said in July they would ban such vehicles by 2040.

Read more at: California Air Resources Board eyes future ban on gas-powered engines | The Sacramento Bee

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Commuters find joys, pains of using new SMART rail system 

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Five days a week, Wally Walston rides his bike less than 2 miles to the Cotati SMART station and rolls his two-wheeler aboard the train for a 32-minute trip to southern Novato.

In the past month Shaun Ralston has cycled to and from SMART stations in Sonoma and Marin counties. He also has combined his train trips with bus and ferry rides and been shuttled by Lyft, a ride-sharing service paid for by his employer, Sutter Health.

And Sharon Bringel last week said she was going to take her first SMART trip to her job in San Rafael. The decision came after watching a northbound train with a coworker on board zip by her car as it sat stuck in afternoon freeway traffic.

“When she passed us, I said, ‘Okay, we need to at least try this,’” said Bringel, who stopped by the Petaluma station on Thursday with her husband Don to purchase a Clipper Card, the payment method accepted by SMART and other regional transit services.

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit agency attracted nearly 53,000 riders in its first three weeks of service, surpassing projections for the period of 46,800 passengers.

The biggest surprise has been the 15,000 weekend patrons, which is more than seven times greater than first anticipated.Even so, the majority of passengers still ride during the week, and interviews with a half-dozen commuters offered overwhelmingly positive reviews.

Read more at: Commuters find joys, pains of using new SMART rail system | The Press Democrat –

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Op-Ed: Sonoma County needs a more honest plan for cutting greenhouse gas emissions

Jerry Bernhaut, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Our lawsuit has overturned the Climate Action Plan as a basis for enabling new development with inadequate greenhouse gas mitigations. It has not prevented the cities or the county from proceeding with greenhouse gas reduction measures in the plan.

The basic issue in the lawsuit that overturned the approval of the Sonoma County Climate Action Plan was the failure to account for emissions from vehicle miles traveled in the global distribution of wine and other products and travel to tourist destinations in the county from around the world.

In a recent article (“Battling climate change at the local level,” Aug. 11), Supervisor David Rabbitt made the following claims:

1) The lawsuit argued for a growth moratorium for wine and tourism. A moratorium is not enforceable.

What we actually called for was consideration of a moratorium or significant limitation on new wineries/vineyard expansions and/or tourist destinations to provide an adequate assessment of feasible measures to reduce Sonoma County’s greenhouse gas emissions. State law allows a county or city to adopt an interim ordinance prohibiting any uses that may be in conflict with a plan or proposal the city or county intends to study. The statute allows an interim ordinance of 45 days with provisions for extensions to a total of about two years.

We were advocating for just such a measure to evaluate some controls on additional growth in high emissions land uses. We argued this was a legitimate request for relevant information under the California Environmental Quality Act. The court agreed. The simple reality is that an economy dominated by global tourism and production for global export generates enormous travel-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Read more at: Close to Home: Sonoma County needs a more honest plan for cutting greenhouse gas emissions | The Press Democrat –

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Agency won’t appeal successful legal challenge of Sonoma County climate action plan

Jerry Bernhaut, the lead attorney for River Watch, said his client did not want to block the entirety of the regional climate plan, which he said contained some “perfectly valid measures” for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“There’s nothing stopping the cities and the unincorporated county from going ahead with measures that were described in the climate action plan,” Bernhaut said. “The legal force of the climate action plan is now null and void.”

But stronger, substantive progress would require a more dramatic reshaping of an economic system that includes international product distribution and a “tourist industry on steroids” where people travel from all over the world, Bernhaut said.

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A settlement reached between Sonoma County’s regional climate agency and a Sebastopol environmental group with a history of suing local governments has left the countywide plan for curbing greenhouse gas emissions legally toothless.

Under terms of the settlement with California River Watch, the county’s Regional Climate Protection Authority agreed this week not to challenge a court decision that struck down the environmental document underpinning its blueprint for fighting climate change.

A Sonoma County judge sided this summer with River Watch, which sued the agency and argued its climate plan did not properly account for emissions generated outside county borders, including from tourism and the wine industry.

Read more at: Agency won’t appeal successful legal challenge of Sonoma County climate action plan | The Press Democrat –

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Santa Rosa begins installing solar panels on parking garage roofs

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa has begun installing nearly a thousand solar panels atop four city parking garages, modules that will both shade vehicles from the sun and reduce the city’s energy costs.

“I’m excited to see a much smaller PG&E bill,” said Luke Morse, the city’s parking supervisor as he helped organize the delivery of the panels on Tuesday.

A huge crane began hoisting the photovoltaic panels and the steel canopies that will support them onto garage roofs Tuesday morning.

If all goes well, the installations should take about a month per garage, with the project completed in a few months.

The city estimates the $1.4 million project will pay for itself in about 11 years and save $1.4 million in power costs over the 25-year life of the arrays.

That should help the city achieve about 10 percent of its 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction target, said Kim Nadaeu, parking district manager.

Read more at: Santa Rosa begins installing solar panels on parking garage roofs | The Press Democrat

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Zipcar coming to Santa Rosa

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa residents who don’t want to own a car but might like to zip around in one sometimes are in luck — Zipcar, the nation’s largest car-sharing company, is coming to town.

The City Council today is expected to sign off on a deal allowing the company to operate two of its rental cars from city parking lots — one at the downtown SMART train and the other next to the Russian River Brewery.

The hope is that the service will give people yet another reason kick their fossil-fuel burning cars to the curb in favor of more environmentally friendly options like bicycling or public transportation.

“We’re looking for ways to reduce vehicle miles traveled and the car-share concept is a way to allow people to eliminate car ownership, or at least reduce the number of miles they need to drive,” said Kim Nadeau, the city’s parking manager.

The service, which began in the Boston area in 2000, is already available in 500 cities around the nation. After a period of rapid growth, the company was sold in 2013 for $500 million to Avis Budget Group. The company first rolled into Sonoma County in March 2016, when it began renting out two cars at Sonoma State University.

The expansion to Santa Rosa was made possible by a $170,130 grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to the Sonoma County Transportation Authority providing subsidies to Zipcar and SCTA for administration of the program for two years.

Read more at: Zipcar coming to Santa Rosa | The Press Democrat