Encinitas approves plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Encinitas will do its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lessen its impact on the environment by pursuing everything from adding a shuttle bus for high school students to eliminating the use of gas-powered leaf blowers, a newly adopted Climate Action Plan declares.

The City Council gave its unanimous approval Jan. 17 to the planning document, which took a year and many public meetings to produce.

"This is a milestone moment for us," Mayor Catherine Blakespear said moments before the vote.

Sophie Wolfram of the San Diego-based Climate Action Campaign organization said Encinitas is the fifth city in the region to adopt such a plan and it's likely to get a "gold medal" in her organization's annual report card because of the quality of its document.

Using state legislation as a starting point, the new document details the steps that Encinitas proposes to take over a 12-year period to cut its carbon emissions and thus help out locally to ease global climate concerns. The document contains carbon-reduction goals for the city's homes and businesses in addition to those for government buildings and vehicles.

The plan calls for Encinitas to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by a total of 13 percent by 2020, and 41 percent by 2030. The city's starting point is its 2012 greenhouse gas emission rate, which was estimated at just under 500,000 metric tons.

Crystal Najera, the city's Climate Action Plan program administrator, said that the plan's goals put the city on the right track to achieve state targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. State legislation calls for California to cut its emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

The city's goals for accomplishing its targets are broken into seven different categories, including transportation, building construction, water use and renewable energy. Individual goals within those categories include:

  • Establishing a Community Choice Energy program --- a nonprofit government entity tasked with procuring electric power, particularly solar and wind power, for residents and businesses;
  • Requiring solar, hot-water heaters in new homes;
  • Eliminating the use of two-stroke leaf blowers;
  • Starting several shuttle bus programs, particularly ones for La Costa Canyon High School and MiraCosta College students, to reduce the number of vehicles on the city's roadways;
  • Supporting water rate increases put forward by the city's two water district boards in an effort to reduce water use;
  • Completing a citywide transportation plan and improving vehicle traffic flow in town;
  • Transitioning all city government passenger vehicles and light trucks to zero emission vehicles by 2020 and having all of the city's heavy equipment running on renewable diesel fuel by 2030.

Blakespear said the city's new plan contains some "very ambitious" goals, particularly one that calls for reducing the amount of trash that the city sends to the landfill by 65 percent over a two-year period.

Council members said they were glad that the plan allowed them some flexibility about the individual goals, such as the trash reduction effort, as long as the city's overall targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions were met.

"I think we're agreeing that's the way it should be," Councilman Mark Muir said.

Councilman Joe Mosca said the city should plan to gradually get residents to phase out their use of gas-powered leaf blowers, rather than implementing an immediate ban on the devices.

--Barbara Henry is a freelance writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune

Copyright © 2018, Encinitas Advocate