Events & Media

The Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
at the University of California, Santa Barbara



"California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Assessment:
The Wild West"

Michael Conrardy
Environmental Consultant
Bren School Alumnus, MESM 2010

Wednesday, Oct.. 9, 2013
11:30 - 12:30
Bren Hall 1414

"Michael cut his teeth in thinking about strategies for reducing GHG emissions as a participant in an outstanding Bren MESM Group Project; he's been building advanced expertise in this field ever since." — Oran Young, professor emeritus and Michael Conrardy's Bren School Master's Group Project advisor

GHG emissions are found in nearly every process and utility that is associated with modern infrastructures and society. The global consequences of GHG emissions are distinct from other air pollutants in that there is an impact regardless of where GHGs are emitted. In 2009, guidelines were adopted requiring the consideration of GHGs under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Since then, the overwhelming majority of discussions on CEQA GHG assessment have revolved around threshold limits for significance determinations. However, because of the unique attributes of each GHG inventory, a discussion of simple thresholds is not adequate to address the environmental impacts of GHG emissions. While the assessment of GHG emissions is a scientific endeavor, the selection of inventory boundaries to account for GHGs is subjective and political in nature. Therefore, for effective regulation of GHGs as pollutants, the scientific nature of GHG assessment cannot be divorced from opinions, politics and the current legal infrastructure.

CEQA GHG significance determination must be addressed in a robust way to ensure that a project does not adversely impact the environment while ensuring that low/no impact projects can proceed. Separately from CEQA, a variety of legitimate GHG inventory methodologies have been established by multiple organizations to account for emissions at industrial, local, state, and international levels. To understand any GHG inventory, one must understand the various assumptions made in the protocol used. Understanding the uniqueness of each GHG inventory will provide the basis for appropriately addressing GHG emissions impacts through CEQA. In this presentation, two case studies will provide background to demonstrate issues with regulating GHG emissions through CEQA threshold analysis, and aim toward a discussion based on solutions. The first case study involves large scale solar and the second a natural gas turbine installation.

While at the Bren School, Michael Conrardy (MESM 2010) worked at Conservation International researching the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change policy and economic analysis for REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation "plus" conservation). Later he participated in a collaborative effort analyzing low-carbon communities at the University of Nanjing in China. Currently, Michael works as a technical team leader and project manager at AECOM Environment, focusing on GHG assessment and sustainability. He collaborates with engineers, policy analysts and scientists to assist clients in multiple sectors, including agriculture, energy, water, and waste. His client list includes the Los Angeles Community College School District, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Early in 2013, Michael he co-authored an article titled ???Why Doesn???t the Public Respond to Climate Change??? published at Ecology Global Network. This past summer, he presented his work about exploring the effectiveness of current California policy in addressing GHG emissions, at the annual Air & Waste Management Association conference in Chicago. His Bren School talk expands on that effort.

NOTE: Community colloquia are generally talks of broad interest geared toward a diverse, sophisticated audience. Their purpose is not only to enhance knowledge and understanding, but also to bring people together and promote interaction that will strengthen the community.


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