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Sonoma County Board of Supervisors vote 3-1 in favor of
boldest community GHG emissions reduction target in the nation

All nine Sonoma cities have already set target of 25% below 1990 levels by 2015

vote to reduce emissions
Sonoma County Board of Supervisors
votes to reduce emissions

SANTA ROSA, Calif. On September 27, 2005, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 to establish a countywide greenhouse gas reduction target. The target is to reduce emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2015, the boldest goal of any community in the U.S. This summer all nine Sonoma city councils passed resolutions establishing the emissions reduction target. All city votes were unanimous except in Healdsburg.

"Our aim is for people in Sonoma County to achieve such resounding success that we inspire communities worldwide," said Windsor Town Council member Debora Fudge.

"Scientific and technological solutions exist for meeting the target," asserted Ann Hancock, Director of the Climate Protection Campaign. To substantiate this, the Campaign produced a white paper (pdf) describing solutions written by local scientists and other experts.

Sonoma County has set several national climate protection precedents. Sonoma is the first community where 100 percent of its nine cities and the County have pledged by resolution to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, the first where all municipalities have completed their baseline emission inventories for their municipal operations, and the first where all municipalities have set targets for their operations. Sonoma County local governments follow Cities for Climate Protection, an international program in which more than 650 local governments worldwide participate.

vote to reduce emissions

The 25 percent emissions reduction target does not meet the dramatic reductions scientists call for, but would move the county much closer to where scientists say we need to be. The Campaign calculated the greenhouse gas produced by all of Sonoma County and found that between 1990 and 2000 emissions increased by 28 percent-- double the national rate. Key reasons for the increase were a 43 percent rise in vehicle miles traveled and population growth of 18 percent.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the foremost scientific authority on the subject, current levels of greenhouse gases need to be reduced by 60 to 80 percent immediately in order to mitigate the greatest threats to our planet's ecosystems, climate cycles, and human existence. These threats include rising sea levels, desertification, and more frequent severe weather events such as hurricanes and drought.

Thirty-two representatives of business, local elected officials, youth, and civic leaders from each municipality recommended the 25 percent target at a workshop the Campaign held this May.

For more information, please call Ann Hancock, (707) 237-2696

Targets set by cities below. All targets are 25% from 1990 by 2015 except Cotati--30% from 1990 by 2015.

August 31, 2005
August 24, 2005
July 18, 2005
July 18, 2005
Rohnert Park
July 26, 2005
Santa Rosa
August 2, 2005
July 19, 2005
City of Sonoma
August 17, 2005
July 20, 2005


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Statement made by New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin months prior to Hurricane Katrina:
"The U.S. Council of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement is of particular importance to the City of New Orleans. The International Panel on Climate Change has warned that New Orleans is the North American city most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The rise of the Earth's temperature, causing sea level increases that could add up to one foot over the next 30 years, threatens the very existence of New Orleans. I have sent letters to the LA delegation urging them to support the McCain Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act. Also the New Orleans City Council has passed a resolution urging federal action on climate change. We will continue to collaborate and support efforts on global warming."

Published on May 31, 2005
© 2005- The Press Democrat PAGE: B1

Steve Ganey
Steve Geney, president of North Bay Construction

Sonoma County's developers and environmental activists agree on at least one thing -- the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent global climate change.

Along with a group of politicians, business executives and students, they set a goal to reduce emissions in Sonoma County to 25 percent below 1990 levels over the next 10 years -- the most ambitious plan yet in the Bay Area.

"I was kind of skeptical, but it's something that needs to be done,'' said Steve Geney, president of North Bay Construction, who was participating in the Climate Protection Campaign project. ``And if everybody takes it seriously, it can be done."

The group will now ask the county Board of Supervisors and nine city councils to adopt the targets and develop policies to cut emissions.

Leading scientists in the field say the planet's ecology, climate cycles and even human existence depend on the immediate reduction of greenhouse gases.

These gases, primarily carbon dioxide created by the combustion of fossil fuels, form a blanket in the atmosphere that traps heat and pollutants.

Global warming, rising seas and severe weather are some of the biggest threats, requiring an immediate 60 percent to 80 percent drop in emissions, according to the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

World leaders took a step in that direction in February with the Kyoto Agreement, which calls for a reduction in gases of 7 percent below levels in 1990, by 2012.

Although the Bush administration pulled the United States from the accord, cities across the country from New York to Seattle have committed to reducing their emissions.

In Sonoma County, all nine cities and the county have adopted resolutions to cut emissions. The city of Sebastopol has set a reduction goal of 30 percent and Windsor is aiming for a 20 percent drop.

Expanding the goal to the general public is the next step, said Ann Hancock, executive director of the Climate Protection Campaign, a Graton nonprofit working on solutions.

At a meeting earlier this month, 32 people from all walks of life heard a presentation on the problem and set the reduction goal and deadline.

The issue is particularly important in Sonoma County, Hancock said. Emissions of greenhouse gases in the county increased by twice the national average between 1990 and 2000 because of high car use and the rising population, she said.

Experts will determine ways to achieve the goal, such as use of hybrid cars, efficient building practices and water and electricity conservation, Hancock said.

"Once you set the target, it engages a part of people's brains," Hancock said.

Windsor Town Councilwoman Debora Fudge said her city will likely begin a public education campaign, sending out instructional materials on conservation with utility bills.

Healdsburg will be offering rebates of up to $5,000 for people who put up solar panels, Mayor Jason Liles said.

Sam Pierce, a Sebastopol city councilman and mechanical engineer who also attended, said a proposal for commuter rail could be an answer.

Voters in 2006 will decide whether to impose a quarter-cent sales tax to help pay for the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit system.

"That's going to be key to helping us with this goal," Pierce said. "That's part of the solution."

Geney, whose company has a fleet of close to 400 vehicles, said he will look at ways to reduce the use of fossil fuels -- the biggest culprit in creating greenhouse gases.

Just how that will happen will be decided, in part, by emerging technology.

"Obviously, there are a lot of changes that need to take place," Geney said.

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 521-5250 or

Photo of Steve Geney

Published on June 2, 2005 back to top
© 2005- The Press Democrat PAGE: B4

"If everybody takes it seriously, it can be done."
-- Steve Geney, president, North Bay Construction, on local efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

The terms "construction company'' and "climate protection'' aren't often used in the same sentence.

But Steve Geney, who heads one of Northern California's largest construction companies, was one of 32 local leaders who participated in a Climate Protection Campaign project in May. The group is now committed to reducing local greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels.

This would be an ambitious goal anywhere, but it's especially far reaching in the United States, where the federal government provides few incentives to cut fossil fuel consumption. Hopefully, this will change if efforts like those in Sonoma County force national politicians to pay attention.

The local actions should be boosted by the United Nations' World Environment Day conference that opens in San Francisco today. In addition to the signing of a global warming accord by the mayors of 68 cities worldwide, there will be demonstrations of practical ways to reduce emissions.

Now it's time for the rest of us to take global warming seriously.

Published June 27, 2005, Q&A, The Press Democrat

Steve Geney, president and co-owner of North Bay Construction in Petaluma, the county's largest contractor, discusses his company's efforts to reduce global warming.

PRESS DEMOCRAT: You recently joined environmentalists, politicians and other businesses to agree to help reduce emissions in Sonoma County to 25 percent below 1990 levels over the next 10 years. How did an engineering construction company that builds roads, sewers and other large infrastructure projects get concerned about global warming?

GENEY: It all started when I attended a City Council meeting for the city of Petaluma about a job that (North Bay Construction) was being awarded and Ann Hancock, coordinator of the Climate Protection Campaign, was giving a presentation on the status of greenhouse gas emissions in Sonoma County. Ann's report showed that in the last 10 years, greenhouse gas emissions in Sonoma County had increased 28 percent, double the national average. I was impressed with the way Ann had presented her information and how her supporting documentation seemed to be very trustworthy. One other thing that impressed me was she seemed to present her information without all the doom and gloom environmental scare tactics or rhetoric. She did it professionally and factually. She made it believable.

PRESS DEMOCRAT: What kinds of things can your company do to reduce global warming?

GENEY: We are just starting to look into how NBC can operate in ways that would have a more positive outcome and possibly a reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions that are generated from our construction operations. We are currently looking at the feasibility of using solar energy as an alternative energy source to offset our ever-increasing PG&E bills. We are also looking into how we could utilize biodiesel in our trucks and off-road equipment in lieu of 100 percent fossil fuels so we can reduce the amount of greenhouse emissions that are generated from this equipment.

PRESS DEMOCRAT: A recent Sonoma County report said the county will soon be unable to supply its own gravel because mining in the river will end in April and hillside quarries haven't been allowed to expand to take up the slack. Why did this make you think about global warming?

GENEY: Sonoma County has always been fortunate to have a good local reserve of high-quality rock, sand and gravels needed for use in maintaining our local streets, highways, sewer and water systems. So when the state geologist gave his report that Sonoma County would be out of locally produced concrete-grade aggregate by April 2006, it makes you ask the question of where this rock is going to come from. The answer is: It's going to be unloaded in the San Francisco Bay from barges that come down from British Columbia and then trucked back up to Sonoma County or it will be trucked in from gravel pits in the Yuba City/Marysville area. Either way, it's going to require an additional 500 trucks on the road to ship it here instead of using our local resources with far fewer trucks. You can only imagine the impact this additional trucking will have on the greenhouse gas emissions in our county.

PRESS DEMOCRAT: Among green advocates, businesses are sometimes the bad guys. How can businesses be enlisted in the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

GENEY: First and foremost, green advocates need to accept the fact that the business community will always be around. And that most businesses, even those in construction, are concerned about the environment and the future of our communities. Secondly the business community needs to realize that most green advocates have good intentions and there have been a lot of good results because of their efforts. Once you get rid of the "us and them" stumbling blocks, you will be able to put a more pragmatic plan together that will provide for a better universal buy-in. You might call it a Global Business Plan.

PRESS DEMOCRAT: What role can business play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

GENEY: In order to survive in business you have to be creative and willing to try new things that will provide you with an advantage over the competition. If we tackled the greenhouse gas issue with the same vigor and creativity that we use for our daily businesses I believe the business community would actually come up with emission-reducing ideas and innovations that would also make good business sense to implement. Having the participation of local businesses would also give more credibility to the issues and would certainly allow us to meet our goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Sonoma County.

PRESS DEMOCRAT: Businesses are all about profits. Why would they put efforts into reducing global warming?

GENEY: Because businesses are all about profits! Most businesses are only going to implement those policies or procedures that make business sense and have a positive effect on the bottom line. From what I can see "green business" has become a profitable way of operating. Look at the soda cans now days. They are all made from recycled materials. These multinational beverage producers did not start using recycled materials just because it only benefited the environment. The business community will always find a way to meet the needs of the consumer. This is why businesses need to be brought into the loop. They will find ways to become more environmentally sound and at the same time more profitable.

PRESS DEMOCRAT: What's one thing every business can do to help prevent climate change?

GENEY: Look at the way you are currently doing business and then look to see if there are alternative methods that can be more environmentally friendly and don't be afraid to venture into the "green side." Heck, I spent a whole day there and I never once felt like I was going to be strung from a tree because I was a grading and paving contractor.

© The Press Democrat.

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