General plans: blueprints for our future

Can a small climate-oriented nonprofit make a dent in the world's most urgent problem?

You bet.

We subscribe firmly to Margaret Mead's theory that a thoughtful band of citizens is always the beginning of every movement. The push for policies that will slow the catastrophic effects of climate change needs to begin everywhere and at once.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change clearly warned that we have only a few years in which to make a rapid transition away from our reliance on fossil fuels if we are to preserve even a medium chance of avoiding devastating climate impacts. And what better way than to advocate for policies that affect this transition than general plans, the blueprints for how communities grow?

We have seen in California that our early, groundbreaking policies to reduce emissions have spread to other states, the nation and the world. The Chinese looked to California policymakers for advice on setting up their own cap and trade program.

And so we are pushing, and pushing hard for Ventura County's planners to join us in working for real, measurable goals that the county can set and look back on to reduce emissions. We have brought in our experts, including Kevin Bundy, from the prestigious environmental law firm of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, to comment and instruct local groups on best policies for asking for change. On our advisory board is nationally recognized air quality expert Dr. Steven Colome and he has submitted his own set of comments on our behalf.

As Dr. Colome wrote, "While the emission reduction goals of the draft General Plan are laudable, and in accord with goals of the State of California, the draft Climate Action Plan is essentially a business-as-usual plan that fails to provide enough emission reduction to meet, or even make a sizable dent, toward the state-mandated climate goals."

With this in mind, we propose big, bold steps:

• New oil and gas development should be prohibited and existing oil and gas production should be phased out over the 20-year life of the General Plan.

• In the absence of a complete prohibition on new wells, the county should require all new oil wells and proposed expansion of existing wells to apply for discretionary permits which will provide more complete oversight under the California Environmental Quality Act.

We've asked for many changes — including in the Ojai Valley which is in non-compliance for both state and federal air quality standards — and you can find them here and here.

If you want to submit your own comment, go here.