Richmond resident Cordell Hindler is already taking shorter showers and turning off the lights. He said he’s tired of seeing his water and heating bills shoot through the roof. “I live in a house where everything is not up to date,” Hindler said about his heater, stove and light fixtures. “My bills are getting out of control. I’m here trying to learn how to keep my utility bills down.”
About a baker’s dozen of residents like Hindler attended the Contra Costa County Climate Action Plan Open House on Thursday night. The event, held at the Richmond City Council Chambers, gave county residents the opportunity to provide input on what they believe would be the best measures for unincorporated parts of the county to increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gases.
Greenhouse gases are pumped into the Earth’s atmosphere by industrial processes and the consumption of fossil fuels, trapping infrared radiation, or heat, that would normally flow into outer space. The result of this process is known as global warming.
Patrick Roche, principal planner with the Contra Costa County Department of Conservation and Community Development Division, said suggestions from the open house would influence how the county makes policy or zoning code changes for unincorporated parts of the county.
The county’s climate action plan is being formulated by PMC, of Oakland. PMC is a consulting firm that offers environmental and urban planning advice to public agencies. They are working in conjunction with the community to create an evolving document that will be released at a later date.
The climate action plan is being created in response to California Assembly Bill 32, which passed the state legislature in 2006 and was signed by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The bill set a deadline of December 31, 2020, for the state to achieve a greenhouse emissions cap.
Roche said climate action plans are not required under state law and that Contra Costa County’s effort is funded by a federal grant. “All jurisdictions have some level of responsibility to address the potential threats from global warming,” he said.
Results of community input and the final form of the plan will be published this fall and available for public review and comment, Roche said.
After an introduction by Supervisor John Gioia, residents wandered about the city council chamber and filled out environmental surveys taped to the walls. Topics ranged from energy efficiency to public health and solid waste management. Consultants stood by each questionnaire and fielded concerns from residents.
Scott Davidson, project manager for PMC, said what they’re looking for during the open house is feedback on what would motivate people to support the action plan. “We’re hoping to get a feel for which of these measures seem to make the most sense to the community and, more importantly, to understand why,” he said. “We’re looking to find where there may be opportunities to have overlapping benefits—if it’s going to save the county money or if it’s going to improve health. We’ll pay more attention to those measures.”
Dr. Henry Clark, head of the West County Toxics Coalition, attended the open house. Clark said he believes climate change is real and that the county’s attempt to slow it down is a good effort. His concern is environmental justice for communities already dealt a bad hand. “Whatever the county comes up with, they need to make sure there’s no negative increase on the disproportionate impact many of our communities already experience,” he said about the unincorporated areas of the county. “Otherwise your climate action plan would not be consistent with the spirit of the law or consistent with any spirit of environmental justice.”
Christy Leffall, of Oakland, sold her car when she moved to the Bay Area. She said she’s trying to reduce greenhouse gases by living a more local life. She attended the climate action plan open house to learn if the community has the authority to ask the government to provide information about emissions levels from local refineries such as Chevron. “From what I can see on the board it’s not really clear, so I have more questions I want answered around that,” she said.
A Richmond attendee who wished not to be identified said he felt climate change is only going to get worse and only God can correct it. “It’s too far gone,” he said about the environmental blunders of the past. “Politicians wanted to control the universe and everything else. The United States didn’t have no [environmental] plan—politicians wanted people to pay for everything the United States used.”
If you would like to cast your vote on how to make countywide environmental changes, click here, or contact Patrick Roche at (925) 674-7807.