I applaud our elected officials in the Town of Truckee for taking steps to ensure a brighter, more sustainable future. In addition to specific projects, the town has also begun discussing the development of a Climate Action Plan (CAP) that would provide comprehensive guidelines for actively reducing the carbon footprint of our community. Most municipalities in California have completed, or are developing a CAP, and I am pleased that the town has chosen to develop this valuable tool.

Despite all the positive projects that Truckee is taking on, there are others that are of great concern, especially the proposed Canyon Springs development on the eastern edge of town.  With the final environmental impact report likely to be released in the next couple months, it is an opportune time to consider the project’s impacts, particularly with regards to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. The draft environmental impact report (DEIR) boldly states that “GHG emissions emitted individually at the project level would not result in an adverse climate impact.” Considering this is a large development on the outskirts of town, this claim appears too good to be true, which indeed it is. With this lofty goal in mind, the DEIR states that the California Air Resources Board recommends that proposed residential development projects should limit GHG emissions to 1,600 metric tons of CO2 per year; however, its analysis indicates that the project would generate 3,025 metric tons.

With GHG emissions far exceeding recommended levels, the DEIR discusses the two primary mitigation methods of the project. First, the siting of homes and green design features for the homes will be considered. The second would be the reduction in recreational trips thanks to the extensive trail system within the development. While these are good things to consider, they do nothing to mitigate the impact of more than 2,500 new vehicle trips from Canyon Springs to shops, work, school, and general life, especially considering the proposed development is 7 miles from the core of town.  

In fact, the DEIR recognizes the meager impact of these mitigation measures, stating that “it cannot be determined which exact features would be incorporated into the final project design, nor can the exact reduction in GHG emissions be calculated for incorporation of each measure.” Thus, the GHG emissions reductions for the project are determined to be a robust 0 percent. Considering a major part of the environmental review process is helping a developer identify concrete, quantifiable measures to limit a project’s impacts, it is appalling that the Canyon Springs project and the environmental analysis do not even attempt to produce such results. Instead, it relies on the fact that the state regulatory emission limit is only a recommendation and not an officially adopted rule. This is entirely unacceptable. Truckee and our mountain environment deserve better.  

With the effects of climate change becoming more visible, we, as both local and global citizens, must actively strive to limit our contributions of CO2 to the atmosphere. This does not mean completely curtailing the development of our community, but approaching it in a responsible, sustainable manner that preserves the character of our town, the natural areas surrounding it, and the climate. I ask the Town of Truckee to mandate greenhouse gas reductions on the Canyon Springs project and any other development that may be proposed. Our livelihood and the place we love depend on us to take action now.

~ Tim Green is Cottonwood Restaurant’s office manager and interns at Mountain Area Preservation. He has a B.S. in environmental science and anthropology from Tulane University, and plans to enter a graduate program for urban planning.