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Roberts speaks candidly on environmental issues

ENCINITAS — County Dist. 3  Supervisor Dave Roberts urged his colleagues to adopt a long-awaited climate action plan, urged regional planners to focus on public transportation and called on state regulators to be more “solar friendly” during a public meeting this week.

Roberts was invited to speak at the Feb. 16 meeting by a number of local environmental groups to discuss what the county is doing on the environmental front, including its efforts to combat climate change, sea level rise and drought and water shortages.

About 45 people attended the session, which was held at the Encinitas Public Library, and listened as Roberts fielded questions from Eve Simmons, a prominent local environmentalist who moderated the event.

Roberts spoke candidly about his frustration with the county on its failed legal battle to overturn the lower court’s decision that the county’s 2011 climate action plan did not achieve specific reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2020. The state Supreme Court in 2015 denied the county’s petition for review, but the county has yet to adopt a new climate action plan.

“I don’t understand why we are spending $1 million appealing this decision rather than just doing a climate action plan,” Roberts said. “Let’s get on with it, I just think that it’s been way too long.”

Roberts was also critical of the San Diego County Association of Governments 40-year regional transportation plan, which is also in the legal crosshairs after the courts ruled that the agency’s plan needed to look for greener alternatives to satisfying the region’s transportation demands.

Roberts said he believed SANDAG would have avoided lawsuits if the agency’s plan placed a higher priority on public transit and other forms of people moving, including bicycle paths and making communities more pedestrian friendly.

“If we had done that, I don’t believe the lawsuits we have faced would be as successful as they are,” Roberts said. “We just need to give a little.”

Roberts also discussed the county’s efforts toward improving accessibility to solar energy, including applauding the efforts of fellow supervisor Dianne Jacob and the Building Industry Association of San Diego for supporting a change in the county’s design guidelines that required new rooftops to be solar compatible.

But he also criticized San Diego Gas & Electric for its decision to saddle much of the cost of storing spent nuclear fuel rods at the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Power Generating Station on ratepayers as opposed to stockholders.

Roberts contrasted that to the utility’s decision to use ratepayer money to grow the number of electric vehicle charging stations throughout the region.

“To me, that is a how you use ratepayer dollars,” he said.

Roberts also said he supports the county’s exploration into community choice aggregation, which allows local jurisdictions to “aggregate” electricity demand within their jurisdictions and procure the energy from alternative sources. The model has become popular in recent years and a number of locales, including Encinitas, are exploring it.

He also supports U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa’s bill, H.R. 3643, that would move spent nuclear waste away from the San Onofre site.

The forum is the first sponsored by a group of local environmental groups, which have invited each of the supervisors to attend similar forums. Roberts was the first to accept                         the invitation.