California targets sprawl to reduce CO2

The California Assembly and Senate have passed legislation, SB 375, that would encourage local communities to control sprawl. This is seen as critical to California achieving its AB 32 cap on greenhouse gas emissions (reducing them to 1990 levels by 2020 — a 30% cut).

Transportation is California’s largest source of greenhouse pollution, with the sector accounting for 40% of emissions, and cars and light trucks representing almost 30%. Long commutes and congested highways contribute to the problem. California recognizes that fuel-efficient vehicles and its Low Carbon Fuel Standard are not enough, and that is necessary to reduce the number of miles driven as well.

The law would require that transportation planners must adopt a “sustainable communities strategy”. The California Air Resources Board will set 2020 and 2035 targets for each region of the state by 2010, and regional authorities would be required to take these targets into account when developing regional plans.

The legislation would steer public funds away from sprawling development, with projects that meet climate goals getting priority for the $20 billion a year spent on transportation.


The bill has not yet been signed by Governor Schwarzenegger, who has said he will not sign any bills until California’s budget impasse is resolved. California is one of only three states that requires a two-thirds majority to pass a budget in the legislature, and the Republican minority each year causes delays. This year’s delay is a record, caused by the rancor over how to close a $15–17 billion shortfall. SB 375 is one of approximately 870 legislative bills are in limbo without the Governor’s signature. The budget was due on June 30th.

— Earl K.

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