Sierra Club files appeal on Walt Ranch


Napa County what do you have against science and facts?


P.O. Box 5531
Napa, CA 94581
December 13, 2016
Chair Pedroza
Board of Supervisors
1195 Third St., Ste. 310
Napa, CA 94559
Re: Walt Ranch Appeal
Dear Chair Pedroza:
The Sierra Club is writing to protest the last minute inclusion of the AES memorandum of December 2 without allowing adequate time for appellants to
 review, or opportunity for response. We are also responding to misstatements made during the hearing by a  planning  staff member and a representative of AES.
We have two major objections to the material in the AES memorandum.  First, AES claimed to have redone their calculations on GHG emissions
related  to loss of woodland according to the “Leff methodology”. Here is the  response of  Ron Cowan, the chief developer of the “Leff methodology” :
“The authors of the Leff GHG biogenic emissions analysis vehemently reject the AES  misrepresentation that Walt Ranch incorporates the GHG biogenic
emissions methodology  applied to the Leff vineyard conversion project.”  12/5/2016 email, Re: new GHG memo, from Ron Cowan, Quercus Group,
Forest & Greenhouse Gas Consultants, Expert consultant to Napa Sierra Club.  To note some of AES’s deviations from the Leff model:  The Leff methodology appropriated for this memorandum was from the draft  Sierra Club, p. 1 of 4  EIR; the methodology had been modified for the final EIR.  The Leff methodology analyzed the biogenic GHG emissions according to the  tree disposal method of the project. The County still refuses to  specify the  tree disposal method of the Walt Project.  The Leff project calculated the carbon which would be emitted as methane  and nitrous oxide, both of which are much higher in GHG equivalent impact  than carbon dioxide. The Walt project does not provide any projections or
analysis for methane and nitrous oxide emissions.  The Leff project only used replanting of trees as mitigation for tree loss. The  Walt project uses only conservation easements as mitigation.
Secondly this document cites California Cap and Trade rules as support for  allowing conservation easements as mitigation. However, California Cap and
Trade requires that any land being placed under protection as carbon mitigation  meet the criteria of the Compliance Offset Protocol, US Forests. This  protocol
requires a thorough assessment and documentation that the land  fulfills the  requirements of the protocol, the first and central one being that  “It can be demonstrated that there is a significant threat of  conversion of  project land to a non-forest land use”.

As we have already argued, the land placed under conservation easement for  the Walt Project mitigation of loss of woodland GHG services has not been
 shown to meet this requirement.  This misinformation was reinforced in the hearing, both by a Planning  Staff  employee, (not introduced by name, but in the minutes identified as
Annalee  Sanborn) and Erin Quinn of AES. Both gave the distinct impression in their  remarks to the Board that the conservation easements of the Walt  Project meet
the requirements of the CARB Cap and Trade program. Since the required  assessment of the characteristics of the lands placed under protection  has not  been performed, it is a falsehood to maintain that Walt meets the Cap and Trade criteria.  Specifically, Ms Sanborn stated that the Cap and Trade Program “also  allows  conservation easements on existing woodlands… as valid mitigation… there is a  very clear route to use this as mitigation”. Indeed there is a clear route which  requires an assessment of the land, and the EIR did not take that route.

Erin Quinn of AES then also stated “voluntary markets have provided protocols for years which were adopted by CARB… we have seen a progression for years
 Sierra Club, p. 2 of 4 of this type of mitigation”. Mr Quinn is correct, CARB has a protocol, (again, Compliance Offset Protocol, US Forests) but the Walt project did not 
follow it.  Ms. Sanborn also made other errors of fact related to GHG analysis. We had testified that CalEEMod, the model used for GHG sequestration, did not 
allow land conservation as mitigation. She responded that we were in error, that  CalEEMod does allow land conservation as mitigation, it just didn’t supply the
 relevant calculations, so they had to take the calculations from someplace else.
Here is the text from the CalEEMod Appendix A, section 11.1, page 50: Overall change in sequestered CO2 is the summation of sequestered CO2 from  initial land use type multiplied by area of land for initial land use  type subtracted by the summation of sequestered CO2 from final land use type multiplied by area  of land for final land use type. There is no reduction in GHG emissions associated with preservation of a land.  (boldface not in original). Translation: CalEEMod says that if you have 100 acres of trees, and fell the trees on 50 acres, you are down 50% on carbon sequestration. End of  story. No credit for putting the other 50 acres under a conservation easement.  In point of fact, the County has not cited a single example of policy by any state agency which allows mitigation for loss of woodland carbon sequestration by placing a conservation easement on any old patch of trees.  Ms. Sanborn also baldly stated that black carbon only acts as a climate warmer when it covers ice or snow, therefore it is not a problem in Napa, which rarely  sees snow. This is untrue. Airborne black carbon is actually rated as one of the  strongest “climate forcers” which captures and holds heat in the atmosphere. It doesn’t have to land on snow or ice to hasten global warming.

Finally, she stated that methane is only emitted from decaying wood under anaerobic conditions, therefore since the Walt trees would not be buried in a swamp, it would not be a factor. On the contrary, wood chips/sawdust emit varied amounts of methane depending on how they are stored or distributed. I am not qualified to argue correct calculations for determining amounts of  methane emitted by tree decay. That is for the experts. And since the EIR does  not reveal the fate of the downed trees, there are no calculations to
be made  anyway. But the remark about “swamps” runs counter to scientific research.  These misrepresentations by staff/consultant served to reassure the  Supervisors
that the County is on solid legal ground by a) allowing non-protocol  conservation  easements as mitigation for woodland destruction and b) not analyzing the  biogenic emissions of tree disposal methods – in fact, even refusing  to specify  the tree disposal method. My lay opinion is that the county’s legal terra is not so  firma with this approach.
Sierra Club, p. 3 of 4
It is just plain wrong to find County Staff and consultants paid by  the County  asserting such glaring misstatements of scientific and technical fact  during an
official hearing, errors which even a layperson can spot. This  performance did  not enhance the credibility of PBES.
Nancy Tamarisk
Chair, Napa Sierra Club
Cc: Supervisors Dillon, Wagenknecht, Caldwell, Luce;
Laura Anderson
David Morrison
Brian Bordona
Sierra Club, p. 4 of 4

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