Carbon Offsets for Suburban Developments? The Courts Could Decide

The county of San Diego wants sprawling suburban developments to buy carbon offsets, billing the idea as a fix to the region's housing affordability crisis.

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July 26, 2018, 9:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Urban Sprawl

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The San Diego County Board of Supervisors is considering a collection of developments that would put a serious dent in its climate action plan.

"Citing the state’s desperate need for housing, it’s poised to adopt a potentially precedent-setting strategy that would allow developers to buy millions of dollars in carbon offsets in exchange for building projects that dramatically increase the number of cars on the road," reports Joshua Emerson Smith.

The Board of Supervisors could fast track seven new suburban housing developments, spread around the county and totaling 10,000 housing units. The new developments "would also generate enough greenhouse gases to cancel out all of county’s envisioned efforts, under its climate action plan, to reign in transportation emissions by mid-century."

To counteract those carbon emissions, the county will allow the developers "to purchase offsets to account for roughly 77 percent of all the potential greenhouse gases attributed to the nearly 10,000 new units. The rest of the emissions would be addressed through onsite efforts, such as solar panels and electric car charging ports."

The plan is controversial, and the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations have filed a lawsuit to challenge the use of offsets. More details on the political debate, the development proposals, and the potential precedent for the rest of the state are included in the article.   

Sunday, July 22, 2018 in The San Diego Union-Tribune

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