MACo Blog Series: Climate Change & Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Part 3) – Using California as a Model

This MACo post is the third in a series of blog articles that will examine proposals being considered by Maryland to address climate change.    Several of the proposals involve adopting policies that have been implemented in California and this post will examine and describe the California policies.

The State’s draft Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act (GGRA) Plan details proposed strategies for climate change.  The draft plan, developed by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) with input from various State agencies is designed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the State by 25% of their 2006 levels by 2020.  The State is also considering a longer-term reduction goal of 90% by 2050.  MACo and many local jurisdictions have submitted comments on the Plan.

The Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) has proposed a series of land use GHG reduction strategies in the Plan, including:  (1) reducing transportation emissions through Smart Growth and land use/location efficiency; (2) assigning vehicle miles traveled (VMT) targets to local governments and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs); (3) providing funding mechanisms that focus on Smart Growth; and (4) realizing GHG reductions through the use of PlanMaryland and other growth policies.  The Land Use-1 reduction strategy in the Plan includes the following language:

MDP and sister agencies will investigate the feasibility in Maryland of implementing California’s Senate Bill 375 bill and will develop sustainability criteria (e.g., a decrease or no net increase in VMTs) that local transportation plans and projects must achieve in order to receive State transportation funds.  MDP and sister agencies will investigate the feasibility of implementing Rule 9510 of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District in Maryland and perform a VMT Fee Pilot Project Study in Maryland.


SB 375 was adopted by California in 2008 and became effective at the beginning of 2009.    The bill creates regional VMT reduction targets that are tied to transportation planning and land use.  Local governments and MPOs must create a “sustainable communities strategy” that will meet the assigned VMT targets.  The sustainable communities strategy must incorporate transportation, land use, and housing elements, with a focus on compact, mixed-use, and affordable communities.  If California’s Air Resources Board determines that the proposed strategy will not meet the VMT target, the affected local and regional agencies must also prepare an “alternative planning strategy” to show how the VMT targets through “alternative development patterns, infrastructure, or additional transportation measures or policies.”  [SB 375]

Transportation projects must meet be consistent with the sustainable communities strategy in order to qualify for state funding.    Residential and mixed-use development projects that are consistent with the strategy are exempt from certain environmental review requirements.

SB 375 Fact Sheet (prepared by Southern California Association of Government)

SB 375 Summary (prepared by Housing California)


Rule 9510 was adopted by the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District in 2005 and became effective in 2006.  The Rule requires developers to offset indirect sources GHG, such as automobile pollution, produced by certain development and transportation projects.  From the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District Website:

The purpose of the District’s Indirect Source Review (ISR) Program is to reduce emissions of NOx and PM10 from new development projects. In general, new development contributes to the air-pollution problem in the Valley by increasing the number of vehicles and vehicle miles traveled. In 2005, on-road vehicles generated approximately 200 tons per day of NOx and direct PM10 pollution in the Valley. Although newer, cleaner technology is reducing the per-vehicle pollution, the emissions increase from new development putting more vehicles on Valley roads partially offsets the emission reductions gained from technology advances.

Generally, the Rule applies to development projects with 50 or more residential units or that contains more than a certain amount of commercial, industrial, medical office, educational, or government space.  The Rule also prohibits projects from being broken into smaller contiguous or adjacent sections in order to avoid compliance with the Rule.  Several types of projects are completely exempt from the Rule’s requirements, including reconstruction projects that resulted from a disaster and road modifications that will not increase single occupancy vehicle capacity.   Other types of projects are partially exempt from the Rule’s requirements, including  development projects that are below a certain mitigated baseline for NOx and PM10.

Rule 9510 Covered & Exempt Projects


Conduit Street Climate Change Blog Series Part 1 – Overview of State Efforts

 Conduit Street Climate Change Blog Series Part 2 – Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act Plan

Conduit Street Article on MACo Greenhouse as Reduction Act Plan Comments

MDE GGRA Plan Page

Transportation & Land Use Strategies Group Page (This workgroup is reviewing the Plan’s proposals as well as considering additional strategies the State could undertake.)

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