Program to fight climate change can continue after Air Board’s vote


Originally posted on The Tribune

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — A state program that helps cities and San Luis Obispo County implement plans to fight climate change can continue for another two years after the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District board narrowly authorized its staff to seek $150,000 in matching funds.

The air board on Wednesday voted 6-4 to seek funding for the Civic Spark program, which pays AmeriCorps workers to help implement such projects as the installation of small-scale solar projects and energy efficiency audits and retrofits. Those types of projects reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change.

The three-year Civic Spark program began in late 2014 and will end in December 2017. Three AmeriCorps workers and a supervisor have been hired and have already performed several thousand hours of work, said Aeron Arlin Genet, who runs the program for the air district.

The program received enthusiastic support from county Supervisors Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson as well as San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx and Morro Bay City Councilman Noah Smukler. The county and each of its seven cities have developed climate action plans, and the Civic Spark program has been helpful in implementing those plans, they said.

“Dealing with climate change is integral to protecting quality of life,” Marx said.

County Supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton as well as Atascadero City Councilwoman Roberta Fonzi and Arroyo Grande City Councilwoman Barbara Harmon voted “no” on continuing the program.

Compton and Arnold said they were concerned whether the program was effective and wanted a cost-benefit analysis or some other way to track its success. Fonzi and Harmon wanted the program funded for one year rather than the full two years and re-evaluated after the first year.

After the meeting, Hill said in an e-mail that he was embarrassed by the 6-4 vote. Hill is chairman of the air board.

“Sad that four APCD board members resist anything to do with addressing climate change,” he said.

Arlin Genet said the district would seek the matching funds from a variety of sources, including state and federal grant program, regional foundations, local businesses and utilities such as Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Gas Co.