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Sustainable Development Update
February 7, 2018

Sustainable Development Focus

New state ballot measure would reward people who build rainwater collection systems

The Mercury News - Feb 1 Worried about California’s dry winter? Interested in installing a rainwater capture system from your roof? A new state ballot measure written by an East Bay lawmaker and signed by Governor Jerry Brown last Wednesday will put the issue before voters in four months. If voters approve Proposition 72, which became the fifth statewide ballot measure to qualify for California’s June 5 primary election, property owners who install rainwater capture systems won’t be required to have their property reassessed as the law now requires, saving them from paying higher property taxes. Similar measures were approved by state voters in the 1980s and 1990s to encourage the installation of residential solar power, fire sprinklers, and upgrades for people with disabilities.

First U.S. ski resort to operate on 100 percent renewable energy

Climate Action - Feb 5 The Lake Tahoe resorts in California will be the first ski facilities in the U.S. to operate on 100 percent renewable energy. The owner Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows has partnered with the electric service provider Liberty Utilities to identify and develop new renewable energy generation, storage, and efficiency projects to benefit the two Lake Tahoe resorts as well as the entire Olympic Valley area. After it meets 100 percent of its energy needs, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows expects to halve its carbon footprint. Currently, the ski resorts use 75 percent natural gas and 25 percent renewables. The plan to source 100 percent clean energy significantly scales-up its commitment, and is expected to be reached as soon as December 2018.

Use of PACE financing for renovations, construction growing for commercial buildings

Urban Land - Feb 2 Commercial property owners received hundreds of millions of dollars in PACE financing in 2017—more than twice the total amount of deals closed in 2016. It is now possible to arrange PACE financing in more than half the states in the United States. Also, as more property owners learn how to use this complicated financing tool, PACE deals are becoming larger. The amount of PACE financings that have been completed is growing quickly. For example, borrowers completed $222 million in PACE financings in 2017, up from $132 million in 2016, according to data from PACE Nation. PACE financing provides capital for building features that are specified by a local PACE program. Usually, these features cut the utility bill for the property by saving energy or water.

Why is L.A. expanding transit and losing riders?

CityLab - Feb 1 Los Angeles County, the most populous in the country, has been dramatically expanding rail transit connections for its 10 million residents. Yet across L.A. and five other counties that make up the heavily urbanized Southern California region—Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, and Imperial—ridership on public transportation systems has mostly declined since 2007, and quite steadily since 2013. That means more congestion, more smog, and more carbon emissions—a special concern in California, where statewide carbon reduction goals are pinned on getting more commuters on buses and trains. According to a new report by UCLA’s Institute of Transportation Studies, transit seems to be losing riders in L.A. County and its sprawling neighbors because of a dramatic increase in car ownership, especially among lower-income residents and immigrants, normally transit’s most loyal riders.  

New California legislation would make it easier to build projects that meet climate goals

Los Angeles Times - Feb 1 Assemblyman Tim Grayson (D-Concord) has introduced legislation that aims to make it harder for lawsuits filed under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, to stop construction of roads and public transit. CEQA requires developers and public agencies to disclose a project's environmental effects and take steps to reduce or eliminate them. But Grayson says the law could bring transportation projects that are needed to reduce the amount of cars on the road to a halt. His legislation, Assembly Bill 1905, would make it easier for road or transit projects included in a state-approved regional growth plan to begin construction before any CEQA litigation is resolved. But Grayson's approach is already attracting concerns from high-profile environmental organizations. Environmental groups often credit CEQA, which took effect in 1970, with preserving California's natural beauty, and argue it is complementary, not contrary, to the more recent climate change laws.

Efficient engine startup EtaGen attracts high-profile strategic investors

Greentech Media - Feb 2 A new type of ultra-efficient engine has been attracting the attention of several big-name investors. The startup EtaGen, founded in 2010, announced recently that it has raised an $83 million Series C round of funding, including from power company AEP, and the venture arms of oil giant Statoil and energy company Centrica. These new strategic investors join EtaGen's existing investors, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and Vinod Khosla’s venture firm Khosla Ventures. The company has now raised $133 million, according to a press release. EtaGen’s engines aren’t meant to be used in cars (yet), but rather to generate onsite power for companies, buildings, and microgrids. 

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Perry Patrick A Patrick A. Perry
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Renée Louise Robin Renée Louise Robin
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Environmental & Natural Resources | Land Use & Development
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