California Governor Signs First Bill to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions via Development Incentives

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorSacramento, Calif.–Calif. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed into legislation the nation’s first bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by curbing suburban sprawl.“When it comes to reducing greenhouse gases, California is first in tackling car emissions, first to tackle low-carbon fuels, and now with this landmark legislation, we are the first in the nation to tackle land-use planning,” Schwarzenegger said of the legislation. “What this will mean is more environmentally friendly communities, more sustainable developments, less time people spend in their cars, more alternative transportation options and neighborhoods we can safely and proudly pass on to future generations.”The new legislation, SB 375, builds on a 2006 bill, the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), by providing emissions-reduction goals and incentives for local governments and developers to follow new growth patterns and create walkable communities. The law will direct the Air Resources Board (ARB) to set greenhouse gas reductions targets throughout California and work with the state’s metropolitan planning organizations to align transportation, housing and land-use plans with greenhouse gas reductions.”The bill envisions the establishment of regional transportation plans that reflect long-range land use goals that meet quantifiable greenhouse gas targets,” says Stanley Young, spokesperson for ARB.Under SB 375, the ARB is directed to give regional planning organizations their greenhouse gas targets for transportation by September 2010, Young explains. “Once regional targets are established, the timing for the development of the sustainable community strategies for meeting the targets is based on the timing of each region’s next regional transportation plan. For most areas, this means by 2010.”Builders who follow the new strategies will receive relief under the California Environmental Quality Act. “If builders align their projects with the plans that flow from SB 375, their environmental review is eased,” Young tells MHN.