County promises climate change action

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – Humboldt County has pledged to create a plan for reining in its carbon emissions and will strive for 100 percent renewably-sourced electricity by 2025.

A resolution to that effect was unanimously approved at the Sept. 11 Board of Supervisors meeting. Advanced by Supervisor Mike Wilson, the resolution also declares the county’s support for the international Paris Agreement, which the U.S. has withdrawn from.

Wilson said the timing of the resolution is appropriate, as the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco started the day after the meeting and he was there on behalf of the county.

Cities, counties and countries are working on an overall push to control the increase of average global temperature and keep it below two degrees Celsius. Wilson said that Humboldt County has “the potential to be a game-changer in this.”

He added that residents of the region are “feeling the effects on all sides,” with wildfires, sea level rise and ocean acidification.

Wilson also said that a “new economy” is emerging as changes are pursued, and Humboldt has the expertise and the resources to innovate.

He named the Schatz Energy Lab and Humboldt State University – which he said had the largest environmental engineering program in the world when he was a student there – as sources of knowledge.

The Redwood Coast Energy Authority is “leading the charge on renewables” and Humboldt is “on track” to be a renewable energy exporter.

“So we have not just the brainpower to effect change in this marketplace but we have the resources to do that,” Wilson continued, saying the county also has the “forest capacity” to sequester carbon.

Supervisor Rex Bohn suggested adding language to the resolution stipulating that all renewable energy be locally-sourced and created in the county.

That change was approved, along with Bohn’s request to state that biomass-derived energy will be included as a source of renewable energy.

The resolution’s call for creation of a Climate Action Plan by 2020 mirrors voluntary directives in Humboldt’s recently-approved General Plan. Planning Director John Ford said two plans – one for municipal governments and agencies and another for “the county as a whole” – are called for in the General Plan.

Inter-jurisdictional planning “will be explored,” he continued. There are multiple prongs of climate change action in the county already. The cities of Arcata and Eureka have adopted resolutions calling for 100 percent renewable energy by 2025 and the McKinleyville Community Services District has adopted a similar resolution.

An intern working on climate change action has been hired by the county through CivicSpark, an Americorps program that responds to “community resilience issues.” Ford said the county’s share of sponsoring the intern is $25,000 and he anticipates the costs related to climate change-related planning won’t go beyond an additional $25,000.

During a public comment session, several residents of Arcata supported the resolution and described action on climate change as being essential to the welfare of future generations.

Stephanie Tidwell of Friends of the Eel River said the county’s action responds to local effects. The Humboldt Bay area is spared from the effects of wildfires, she continued, but its “unique geology” opens the potential to make sea level rise more intense than anywhere else in the world.

Tidwell added that although some “pretty ambitious” goals have been set on the state level, “Locally, we can do better.”

“Today’s resolution matters,” said Amber Shelton of the Environmental Protection Information Center, adding that it builds on the General Plan’s content.

Colin Fiske of the 350 Humboldt clean energy advocacy group and the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities emphasized the need for setting emission reduction goals and “holding yourselves accountable to them.”

He also noted that “transportation is our largest source of greenhouse gases locally.”

Vehicle emissions are likely to rise, as the General Plan designates an increase in vehicle miles travelled as a significant and unavoidable impact.

California has two laws that call for greenhouse gas emissions reduction – AB 32 and the just-signed SB 100, which calls for achieving 100 percent emission-free electricity by 2045.

The trend is evident in Humboldt County, with onshore and offshore wind energy projects in the process of being advanced.

In addition to specifying that renewable energy should be locally-produced, the  resolution was also modified to include mention of Humboldt joining the County Climate Coalition, a newly-emerging coalition of counties seeking action on climate change response.






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