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Big Wins Mark Watershed Legislative Session for NGV Industry

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Governor Jerry Brown signing SB 1383

September 26, 2016

Clean transportation advocates are celebrating major victories in a California legislative session marked by heated controversy over the Low Carbon Fuel Standard program and big spending by big oil on opposition campaigns. Despite that opposition, the Legislature passed ground-breaking climate change bills that support alternative fuels and vehicles and cement California’s place as a leader in the fight against climate change.

“We made significant leaps forward this session. The Legislature has shown the market that California is committed to making ongoing investments in the production of clean fuels and supporting infrastructure,” said Coalition President Thomas Lawson, who attended the governor’s signing ceremonies for each of the three bills.

“These new state laws, such as SB 1383, SB 32, and AB 197, lay the foundation for a more robust conversation in 2017 and 2018 about natural gas’s role in protecting the environment,” he added.

The Legislature passed all five of the bills the Coalition actively supported: SB 1383, which requires CARB to reduce short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) by 2030; AB 1613, a 2016 budget bill that appropriates cap-and-trade auction proceeds from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, including $150 million for the heavy-duty truck sector; AB 2722, an environmental justice bill that creates the Transformative Climate Communities Program; SB 32, which extends California’s greenhouse gas emission targets to 2030; and AB 197, a companion to SB 32 that gives the Legislature more oversight on CARB.

Cleaner Engines, Greener Communities

According to Lawson, the most groundbreaking new law is SB 1383, which Brown signed on Sept. 20 in a Long Beach playground that sits in front of an oil refinery. The law establishes the nation’s toughest restrictions on SLCPs by requiring a 50 percent reduction in black carbon and a 40 percent reduction in both fluorinated gases and methane from 2013 levels by 2030.

SB 1383 is also the first California law that requires regulatory agencies to encourage the use, production, distribution, and development of RNG as a way to reduce toxic emissions. By adding RNG to the conversation, said Lawson, SB 1383 should boost in-state production of the renewable fuel.

On Sept. 14, Gov. Brown signed AB 1613, along with environmental justice bill AB 2722, at a ceremony in Fresno. The budget bill commits $900 million in cap-and-trade funds to greenhouse gas–reduction programs that benefit disadvantaged neighborhoods and support clean transportation. CARB’s allocation includes $150 million for investments in heavy-duty trucks and off-road equipment, most of which will provide incentive funding for low-NOx natural gas engines in class 7 and 8 trucks. The Coalition aggressively advocated for the $150 million throughout budget negotiations—and it was one of the few budget items that was not trimmed, Lawson noted.

“The transportation sector is responsible for the majority of NOx and GHG emissions that are damaging the communities around California’s trade corridors. These laws come ten years after AB 32 was signed—communities have waited long enough for cleaner air,” said Lawson.

Highly touted by the environmental justice community and supported by the Coalition, AB 2722 aims to provide additional aid to the communities most impacted by pollution and poverty. The Transformative Climate Communities Program invests money from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund in projects that will both clean up the environment and create new local jobs.

Extending Air Targets, Creating Market Certainty

On Sept. 8, in the first urban public park built in downtown Los Angeles in 100 years, Gov. Brown signed SB 32 and AB 197, double-joined bills that extend California’s aggressive GHG emissions targets to 2030, continue the Low Carbon Fuel Standard program, and establish additional legislative oversight of CARB.

As a longtime proponent of the LCFS, the Coalition supported SB 32 in part by showing members of the Legislature that the bill is more than a critical environmental policy. It also provides significant economic advantages to cities that are investing in alternative fuel projects, many of which rely on LCFS credits for economic viability.

“The economic piece of fighting climate change is jobs. SB 32 protects the jobs that have already been created—like those at the $100 million anaerobic digester facility being built in Riverside—and that will be created by establishing market certainty,” said Lawson, pointing out that investors will have more confidence now that they know the state will support clean transportation projects through at least 2030.

AB 197 creates a legislative committee on climate change policies that will help guide CARB as the agency determines how to spend its funds to cut emissions. Lawson hopes the new oversight will make CARB’s actions more transparent and ensure more equitable distribution of funds.

The table is set now for alternative fuel and vehicle industries to think beyond vying for a bigger piece of a limited pie. “This is the beginning of the end for the ‘us against them’ mindset. There is room for everyone to innovate new technologies and contribute solutions to meeting the state’s air quality goals through 2030,” said Lawson.

He added, “We are all alternative fuels, and if we work together, we can accomplish great things for California.”

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