Saying that the future of the wine industry is at stake, Napa County and its cities should coordinate carbon-cutting efforts and the county should consider doing more to monitor winery greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Napa County Grand Jury.
The 2017-18 grand jury’s new report looks at the county’s ongoing, multi-year effort to create a climate action plan. Climate scientists believe greenhouse gases are the leading cause of climate change that poses significant health, environmental and economic threats, it said.
“The long-term viability of the local wine industry and the well-being of the area’s inhabitants are at risk,” the report said.
And, even if Napa County can’t turn around worldwide climate change challenges by itself, the grand jury wants it to do its part.
Napa County is creating a plan with steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions, be it by promoting carpools or keeping more waste out of landfills. This plan—which must be approved by the Board of Supervisors—covers only the unincorporated county.
Local cities have their own climate change undertakings. The grand jury prefers a coordinated, countywide effort, as opposed to the various jurisdictions “going it alone.”
A piecemeal approach complicates efforts to identify and reduce greenhouse gas emissions countywide in compliance with state environmental and Bay Area Air Quality Management District regulations, the report said.
“Many say their individual efforts are too far down the road now to make a joint project a reality and don’t want the possible recriminations of being thought to be the one(s) that put the brakes on the ongoing effort,” the report stated.
Still, the grand jury recommended the county in February 2019 bring all the jurisdictions to the table to discuss how they can coordinate greenhouse gas emission-cutting efforts.
Whether the Board of Supervisors will agree remains to be seen. Planning, Building and Environmental Services Director David Morrison doesn’t see a merged climate action plan as a legal requirement.
“The county’s effort is a document that can stand on its own,” Morrison said.
The grand jury also said the draft county climate action plan doesn’t consider all sources of greenhouse gas emissions, most notably winery operations emissions.
“I’m not sure what the grand jury really means by this,” Morrison said.
The unincorporated county in 2014 had a total of 484,283 metric tons of carbon dioxide and carbon-equivalent emissions, the draft county climate action plan said. The goal is to reduce this 2 percent by 2020, 40 percent by 2030 and 77 percent by 2050.
Emissions are broken into nine categories, among them building energy use, on-road vehicles, agriculture, solid waste and land use change.
Morrison said the plan looks at emissions from all vehicles, be they driven by winery employees, winery visitors or local residents. It looks at energy use in all buildings, not just wineries.
“We didn’t specifically segment out winery operations, any more than we called out emissions associated with lawn mowing or any other activity, such as school operations,” Morrison said.
The grand jury report said that wineries are a significant local commercial industry and their greenhouse gas emissions should be measured, reported and included in emission reduction targets. Tools exist to measure winery emissions, it said.
In 2017, Sonoma County lost a lawsuit involving its climate action plan that could affect Napa County. A court ruled that Sonoma County failed to adequately consider emissions created by global travel generated by its wine and tourism industries, the grand jury report stated.
In the wake of that case, another San Diego court case and public comments, Napa County canceled a September 2017 Planning Commission hearing on its climate action plan. Instead, the county decided to revise the plan to make certain it can pass legal muster.
Morrison said he expects a revised version in a month or so.