California Sues Municipalities for Bad Urban Planning

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USA Today reports on a new development in the fight against climate change:

California is pioneering what could be the next battleground against global warming: filing suit to hold cities and counties accountable for greenhouse gas emissions caused by poorly planned suburban sprawl.

The unprecedented action is being closely watched by states that have taken aggressive steps to combat climate change - including New York, Massachusetts and Washington. California Attorney General Jerry Brown has sued San Bernardino County, the USA's largest in land area and one of the fastest growing, for failing to account for greenhouse gases when updating its 25-year blueprint for growth.

"It's ground-breaking. California is just leading the way for other states and jurisdictions that will ultimately follow," says Richard Frank of the Center for Environmental Law and Policy at the University of California-Berkeley.

In New York, global warming is one of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's "top priorities," says spokesman Jeffrey Lerner. "He's very focused on it. He feels like we need to do everything we can to address that issue right away."

If the suit is successful, California cities and counties could be forced to take steps to limit sprawl, promote compact development, require builders to design energy-efficient houses that offer solar power, and encourage less driving, more mass transit and use of alternative fuels.

Photo: Dale Hameister/Flickr