Environmental workshop

Governor’s office visits to gather local input

Louise Bedsworth of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research was in town Tuesday for a workshop to gather local input to help the state develop environmental goals.

Louise Bedsworth of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research was in town Tuesday for a workshop to gather local input to help the state develop environmental goals.

photo by tom gascoyne

Every four years the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) prepares a report on the state’s environmental goals and the policies needed to meet them. The report looks 20 to 30 years into the future when the state’s population could reach 50 million.

The workshops are being held up and down the state to receive input from local regions and cities. On April 22, which coincidentally was Earth Day, a workshop was held in Chico at the Lakeside Pavilion to gather that input. About 30 people, including local environmentalists, were in attendance.

Louise Bedsworth, OPR deputy director, brought in the state’s perspective while the region was represented by Tim Snellings, director of the Butte County Department of Development Services. Adding a business perspective was Cheri Chastain, the sustainability manager for Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

The report’s general goals address “Decarbonizing the state’s energy and transportation systems; conserving and stewarding the state’s natural resources; building climate resilience into all policies and investments; supporting sustainable regions and communities; and improving cross-agency coordination and data availability.”

Bedsworth began the proceedings after being introduced by Snellings and noted “the glowing omission of water” among the stated goals.

She said water had been lumped in with other resources but that is likely to change given the current environment.

“With the current water action plan I think we’ll probably be pulling water out on its own,” she said.

The state’s vision, she said, is “grounded in having a strong economy, really thriving urban areas and prosperous rural regions.”

That future would include an increase in broadband communication, high-speed rail with tie-ins to local transportation service and an increase in renewable energies and clean fuels to meet state and federal air-quality standards.

She said it was important that state, regional and local agencies are on the same page and collaborating for mutual goals.

Sierra Nevada’s Chastain explained the brewery’s efforts to increase the operational sustainability of what is now the nation’s second-largest craft brewery and sixth-largest brewery overall.

“We’ve grown from this grassroots hippie mentality,” she began. “Ken Grossman, who started the brewery, is for sure a hippie at heart and he understands environmental resources. He understands our impacts on those resources and he’s chosen to run his business as responsibly as possible.”

She said the brewery operates as sort of a “closed loop taking a discard from one process and turning it into a resource for another process.”

The carbon dioxide created by the brewery’s fermentation tanks is captured and reused rather than released into the atmosphere. Food scraps from the restaurant are composted on site and then used to grow more barley and hops for the brewery. Sierra Nevada also has one of the largest private solar installations in the country, she said.

Snellings, the county’s director of development, put the workshop into perspective.

“It’s really neat to think about the context of our discussion today,” he said. “We’ve got the state looking out to 2050 with 50 million people and thinking, ‘Can we just let that happen?’ Or can we cast a vision for a target of what 2050 should look like?”

He said the ongoing workshops could invite criticism for the state getting into local governments’ plans.

“I don’t think that’s really what’s going on here,” he said. “They are working with locals and our general plans and businesses throughout California to cast this vision together and that is why they are here, to hear from us and our local businesses.”

The workshops began Feb. 19 in San Bernardino County and have since been held in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. Following the Butte County meeting, Bakersfield, Fresno and Modesto were next on the schedule.