In what may signal the beginning of the end of alarmism over climate change, a group of civil rights activists is suing the California Air Resources Board. The issue is CARB’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by effectively limiting new housing construction. The lawsuit says this is driving up the cost of housing, worsening poverty and particularly victimizing minority communities.
The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Assembly Bill 32), signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, committed California to a goal of reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions. The California Air Resources Board was required by AB 32 to write “scoping” plans every five years detailing how the specified GHG reduction targets would be met.
The 2017 scoping plan includes “guidelines” for new housing that the lawsuit calls “staggering, unlawful and racist.”
The group that is suing is called The Two Hundred. It’s a Bay Area organization made up of longtime civil rights advocates who have spent decades fighting against discrimination. They say CARB’s new GHG housing provisions have a “disparate effect on minority communities,” which is illegal and unconstitutional.
CARB’s provisions “increase the cost and litigation risks of building housing,” intentionally worsen traffic congestion and raise fuel and electricity costs, the activists contend.
The lawsuit says CARB’s scoping plan calls for new housing in “California’s existing communities (which comprise 4 percent of California’s lands).” The idea is to reduce “vehicle miles traveled” by limiting sprawl. But the civil rights activists say this is leading to resegregation of California’s urban areas as older affordable housing is demolished to make way for high-density housing that is unaffordable.
A better solution, the group says, is to build homes on land that is outside the current urban boundaries, but CARB’s 2017 scoping plan is preventing that. Its “guidelines” are helping to block new housing developments.
CARB tried unsuccessfully to get the lawsuit thrown out. Fresno County Superior Court Judge Jane Cardoza issued an order in October allowing it to go forward.
Unless there’s a settlement, the courts will decide whether “California’s climate change policies, and specifically those policies that increase the cost and delay or reduce the availability of housing, that increase the cost of transportation fuels and intentionally worsen highway congestion to lengthen commute times, and further increase electricity costs, have caused and will cause unconstitutional and unlawful disparate impacts to California’s minority populations.”
Not to mention their impact on everybody else.
There are four “GHG Housing Measures” at issue. They attempt to limit “vehicle miles traveled,” set a “net zero” GHG standard for new housing developments and add a “CO2 per capita” measurement to local “climate action plans.” There’s also a set of policies to encourage “vibrant communities.”
CARB says these “GHG Housing Measures” are only “guidelines,” but the lawsuit calls them “unlawful underground regulations” that were imposed without a formal rulemaking process.
Something else that CARB skipped, the lawsuit charges, is the legally required economic analysis that “accounts for the cost of these measures on today’s Californians.”
Yes, civil rights activists are demanding that climate regulations meet the law’s required standard of cost-effectiveness.
But California’s climate regulations can’t meet any standard of cost-effectiveness.
As the lawsuit explains it, “California’s reputation as a global climate leader is built on the state’s dual claims of substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously enjoying a thriving economy. Neither claim is true.”
The statewide economic growth numbers are misleading, the lawsuit says, because the averages are boosted by capital gains in the wealthy Bay Area tech sector, while most of the state struggles with low wages and high costs. And while Californians were paying too much for housing, fuel and electricity in order to achieve greenhouse gas reductions, other states actually had greater GHG reductions without doing anything.
“California’s climate policies guarantee that housing, transportation and electricity prices will continue to rise while ‘gateway’ jobs to the middle class for those without college degrees, such as manufacturing and logistics, will continue to locate in other states,” the lawsuit states.
This is something new in California. Civil rights activists are attempting to hold climate activists accountable for worsening the housing crisis and increasing poverty.
Maybe it’s the political climate that’s changing.