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Sonora Climate Action Committee Lacks Support To Move Forward

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Sonora, CA — The item that garnered the most discussion time spent during this week’s Sonora City Council meeting was whether to create a Climate Action Committee.

The city has been participating in the regional Sierra Business Council’s Energy Action Committee since 2018, but PG&E has decided to pull its financial support for the effort. Councilmember Ann Segerstrom proposed the city now create its own Climate Action Committee to look at ways to attract available state grant money for energy savings efforts. She argued that Sonora can be a leader in this area.

Local resident Charles Segerstrom is one of the leading proponents and stated that an ad hoc energy action group has already been meeting regularly. In support of the new committee, he said, “We do not plan to become a burden on the city, and hope to use funds that the city has already paid in taxes to bring additional benefits into the city in the form of grants and projects.”

The state already has pots of money that are funded by taxes, and the committee could seek out different opportunities.

Sonora Councilman Mark Plummer stated he was unwilling to approve a new committee like this until the work of the city’s Social Equity Committee has concluded. That group is looking issues like racial disparities in Sonora. Plummer also stated that any energy/climate committee should focus on expanding nuclear power and forest thinning projects. Citing that the state is going to do away with the sale of new internal combustion engines in the coming decades, he stated, “Efficiency will not get us to powering cars.”

Councilmember Jim Garaventa also voiced concerns about the potential costs of moving forward with the committee, whether it be in the form of staff time to oversee grants or the potential need to hire a consultant at some point.

Councilmember Segerstrom countered that it could create new funding opportunities and local projects. Councilwoman Colette Such also indicated support for the committee. And she took issue with Councilmember Plummer’s connecting the new committee with the Social Equity Committee efforts.

Mayor Matt Hawkins indicated that he was still undecided. He said some people in the community would see the creation of a climate action committee as “anti-capitalistic,” but he said he does not feel that this falls into that category. However, he said he wants to see a committee like this have at least 4/5 support of the council, or a full majority. He pushed to delay action for 45-60 days. Councilmember Such said she does not want the idea of the committee to die off, so she supported the delay of action by a couple of months. The vote was 4-1 with Councilmember Plummer opposed. The council encouraged the current ad hoc energy group to continue to meet even though an official city committee has not been formed.