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California Attorney General Jerry Brown brought a lawsuit against San Bernardino County last month accusing the county of not properly considering the impact of rapid growth on global warming. This is the first time the State of California has sued a public agency for not taking global warming into account.
The AG’s action came only days after the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society filed lawsuits over the same issues.
The County's general plan projects more homes and increased traffic as the county's population, now 1.7 million, climbs to 2.6 million by 2030. The United States Census Bureau estimated that San Bernardino County was the tenth fastest growing county in the nation for the period between July 2005 and July 2006.
Both the state and the environmental groups say they want to see the county revisit its general plan to look at how its growth policies will affect global warming. Adam Keats, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, told reporters with The Press-Enterprise he hopes a trial can be avoided.
"We're not asking for the county of San Bernardino to solve global warming," Keats said. "That's not what we're trying to accomplish with this lawsuit. What we do think is the county can take some very reasonable, feasible steps to deal with that issue."
County planners have said they were a victim of timing, approving their general plan update in March, only months after the state adopted a law aimed at reducing greenhouse gases by 25 percent by 2020.
Brown said timing was a factor in the state's decision. He said the county isn't being singled out as being behind other counties in addressing global warming in their general plans.
"They were first in line," Brown said during an interview Monday in Washington, D.C.
The County Board of Supervisors has responded by boosted the amount of money it is spending on legal fees defending the plan to $325,000 and hired Michael Zischke, a partner with the San Francisco law firm of Cox, Castle and Nicholson.
"Cars are arriving faster than the humans," Brown said. “Many counties now experiencing fast growth are failing to plan for the increase in emissions that inevitably comes with population increases.
Brown suggested that counties need to do more to "shape the growth" with population density, topography and other factors in mind, so as to reduce the environmental impact of burgeoning communities like those in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
The largest county in terms of area in the United States, San Bernardino encompasses more acreage than the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island combined!
County planners have said that the plan includes policies that will help counter the effects of growth, but they also say the state provides no standards for measuring or reducing greenhouse gases.