June 17, 2014

Merced climate meeting set

Merced plans the first of five focus group meetings Thursday on the city’s programmatic climate action plan to reduce greenhouse gases.

The first of five focus group meetings to discuss Merced’s plan to reduce greenhouse gases is scheduled to take place Thursday.

The roughly three-hour meeting is open to the public and starts at 1:30 p.m. in the Sam Pipes Room of the Merced Civic Center, 678 W. 18th St. The meeting will be an introduction to the city’s programmatic climate action plan, geared to help new developers reduce emissions.

Merced’s general plan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, a process tied to global climate change.

Bill King, principal planner for the city of Merced and project manager for the city’s climate action plan, said the focus group will be charged with prioritizing 150 ways to reduce emissions listed in the city’s climate action plan. Making improvements to the city, such as adding bike lanes, could help decrease emissions and encourage residents to exercise, King said.

The plan is also meant to do much of the California Environmental Quality Act work that can sometimes tie up development. In theory, developers could use the plan to get through the CEQA process faster.

Beyond addressing climate change, the plan is meant to improve quality of life in Merced. “The spirit of the adopted Merced Climate Action Plan focuses on community values like healthy communities (and) quality natural resources like water and air,” King said.

Peter Padilla, who sits on the focus group, said he expects the meeting will be introductory for the group’s members.

“Whatever position you take on it (pollution), we all benefit from clean air,” he said. “The cleaner our air is the less asthma we have, the less allergies we have, the better our lifestyle is.”

According to a 2010 survey by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is man-made.

In October, the city hired Rancho Cordova-based PMC Inc. at $190,550 to develop the city’s climate action plan. No Merced or neighboring area consultants submitted proposals, according to city records.

Lori Flanders, Merced County Association of Governments spokeswoman, has said Merced County is also making moves to reduce greenhouse gases. Merced County is working with eight other counties across the San Joaquin Valley to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent by 2020 and 10 percent by 2035.

She has said counties need to work in tandem to make a measurable dent in emissions.

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