Investigative Hearing on Climate Resiliency in Orange County

On August 30, 2023, Orange County Supervisors Katrina Foley, Fifth District, and Vicente Sarmiento, Second District, hosted an Investigative Hearing on Climate Resiliency in Orange County, during which experts provided testimony and recommendations on addressing climate change in Orange County and shaping the formation of Orange County’s first Climate Action Plan, which is currently in development through a federal Climate Pollution Reduction Grant (CRPG).  

“Orange County must lead on confronting climate change for the sake of our economy, communities, and way of life,” said Supervisor Katrina Foley, Fifth District. “On one side of the Fifth District, we’re seeing the impacts of coastal erosion, while on the other, we’re facing threats of worsening wildfire seasons. For the health and safety of our communities, we must think globally and act locally to become a greener, more sustainable Orange County.” 

“Orange County is one of the world’s top leaders in organizing sustainable initiatives,” said Supervisor Vicente Sarmiento, Second District. “As we listened to the panelists and public today, we saw how climate change and environmental justice and equity go hand in hand, compelling us to consider the conditions of workers and residents along the journey of protecting the environment.” 

“I remain grateful to the participation from our local officials and panelists for their valuable recommendations for how our county government can serve as a better partner and leader as we prepare for the changing climate impacts,” added Supervisor Foley. “We received several excellent recommendations on preparing Orange County for the future: planning sustainable transportation options, using our flood channel sediment to restore sand supply for our eroding beaches, building zero-emission vehicle fueling infrastructure, improving water quality, and how we can accomplish these goals in a collaborative, equitable manner.” 

Specific recommendations included:  

  • Addressing coastal erosion hot spots in South Orange County through investments in consistent sand replenishment, nature-based solutions, and flood channel infrastructure to improve sand and sediment capture. 
  • Utilizing existing grant programs to build resilient infrastructure to protect communities from wildfire threats. 
  • Investments in electric vehicle charging infrastructure to meet the estimated need for 182,829 public and shared private chargers by 2035. 
  • Participation in an upcoming OCTA forum on transitioning municipal fleets to zero-emission vehicles.  
  • Exploring new and existing opportunities for stormwater capture and infiltration to decrease dependence on imported water in South Orange County where 90% of the water is currently imported.  
  • Identifying funding for climate adaptation and mitigation projects. 
  • Planning with the consideration of the adverse and disproportionate impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations, especially heat island effects, lead remediation, exposure to chemicals in manufacturing jobs, air pollution and water quality challenges. 
  • Consider supporting legislation that supports transitioning to cleaner energy jobs, while taking worker retraining into consideration. 
  • Supporting expansion of a pilot program for Recycle from Home to increase recycling efforts across Orange County, and pay residents to help. 
  • Working alongside disadvantaged communities to remove lead & toxic chemicals utilizing bioremediation through native plants. 
  • Provide cities with increased resources to implement adaptation plans.  

Supervisors Foley and Sarmiento hosted the following panels and participants during the hearing:   

Panel: Moving Towards a Sustainable Future 

  • Congressman Mike Levin (CA-49) 
  • Jennifer Bergener, CEO of Orange County Transportation Authority 
  • Dr. Kathleen Treseder, Irvine City Councilmember and Vice Chair of the Orange County Power Authority 


Panel: Climate Adaptation Needs in Orange County 

  • Brian Fennessey, Fire Chief of Orange County Fire Authority  
  • Professor Brett Sanders, UCI Flood Lab 
  • Michelle Anderson, Director of Orange County’s Emergency Management Division 
  • Amanda Carr, OC Public Works 

Panel: Building a Healthier & More Equitable Orange County 

  • Gloria Alvarado, Executive Director of Orange County Labor Federation 
  • Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, Orange County Health Officer and Chief of Public Health Services  
  • Patricia Jovel (PJ) Flores, Orange County Environmental Justice's Project Director 
  • Ryan Bloom, Recycle from Home 

Panel: Climate Action Plans 

  • Lilly Simmering, Deputy CEO of County of Orange 
  • Tom Koutroulis, Director of OC Waste & Recycling 

Panel: City Perspectives, Plans, and Obstacles 

  • Bob Whalen, Mayor of Laguna Beach 
  • Farrah Khan, Mayor of Irvine 
  • Jessie Lopez, Mayor Pro Tem of Santa Ana 
  • John Stephens, Mayor of Costa Mesa