We want to take a moment to highlight some the Environmental Council of Sacramento’s (ECOS) accomplishments this year and inform you about current activities and challenges moving into the New Year. We know these are challenging times but we hope you can find some encouragement in how our local advocacy makes a difference throughout the Sacramento Region.
For the countless number of Californians affected the horrendous wildfires or threatened by too little or too much water, this year has not been a happy one. ECOS usually focuses on guarding against environmental assaults unique to Sacramento County, but climate change is increasingly impacting everyone, whether local residents or not. Over the past year, ECOS has been increasingly proactive in building our relationships with, and holding accountable, our local elected officials, while educating them about environmental problems and effective solutions.
2017 began with ECOS’s participation and advocacy in support of a package of ethics reform ordinances that the City Council adopted on March 21. The reforms include the creation of an independent Ethics Commission, adoption of an Ethics Code and Sunshine Ordinance to increase the accountability of elected and appointed City officials.
In response to the national debate on the role of science in federal actions, ECOS joined a coalition to organize the April 22 Sacramento March for Science that had over 15,000 participants advocating for the value of the scientific method and the need to act upon the science of climate change to accelerate the pace of greenhouse gas emission reductions.
On the implementation side, ECOS advanced our climate protection commitment by:
- Successfully advocating as part of a local government, business, and nonprofit coalition for the award of $44 million from the Volkswagen settlement agreement to the City of Sacramento for the construction of electric vehicle charging stations and acquisition of EV fleets to be stationed in disadvantaged neighborhoods and managed by local nonprofits in car sharing programs;
- Participated in the planning and production, led by 350 Sacramento, of the “Leading the Way to Carbon Zero Community Forum” on May 13; and
- Tracked and provided testimony on the development and updating of climate action plans by the County of Sacramento and local cities.
With the economy continuing to improve, land use projects of increasing size and adverse environmental impact were proposed within the county in 2017. Some are new – such as the Natomas North Precinct community proposal (5,700 acres, 55,000 proposed new residents) – and some are novel configurations of previously defeated proposals, such as the latest Elk Grove Sphere of Influence application. With the increasing need to accommodate new residents in ways that will limit increases in greenhouse gas emissions, these business-as-usual land use designs undercut the gains made by a growing number of residents who are investing in climate change solutions through the retrofitting of residences with solar panels and the replacement of fossil fueled vehicles with electric cars.
In addition to highlighting the adverse environmental impacts of these proposals, ECOS is working hard to protect high value lands before they become targets for development. We have played a major role in pushing adoption of the South Sacramento County Habitat Conservation Plan to the finish line after more than a decade in development. Furthermore, in conjunction with our member partners, we protected the Greenbriar settlement agreement through tough negotiations to ensure that the integrity of the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan was preserved.
Via our settlement agreement that protects against leap-frog development along the proposed Elk Grove – Folsom Connector, we acquired funding for the mapping of important habitat and open space lands in Sacramento County. To further this effort, we have partnered with UC Davis through a U.S. EPA grant in the development of a habitat inventory and health benefit assessment project. When the regional natural resources data inventory and modeling project is complete, and as funds become available, it will facilitate the identification of critically important lands to protect through future acquisition or conservation easements.
In the transportation arena, ECOS is similarly working proactively to increase mobility while reducing environmental impacts. When Caltrans failed to correct deficiencies in its review of impacts from the construction and operation of additional lanes on Highway 50 between I-5 and Watt Avenue (despite our repeated comments), we challenged the project’s environmental impact report in court.
The above matters represent only a portion of our 2017 activities. We remain engaged on many fronts including issues such as future transportation funding options, Phase 2 hearings on the California WaterFix, and engagement on local implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and many more.
Our annual events like Sacramento Earth Day, Environmentalist of the Year and the Wild and Scenic Film Festival represent the core of our annual funding but we need your help to bridge the final budget gap. Although dedicated volunteers complete much of our work, we are significantly enhanced by the logistical support provided by two part-time paid staff. Our work is made possible by your generous commitment to our region and a desire to make it a healthier and more sustainable.