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New Year’s Review—2016 Successes and 2017 Opportunities

by Thomas Lawson, Coalition President
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January 17, 2017

The Coalition heads into 2017 with great momentum from a big legislative year and a real opportunity to grow and strengthen the NGV industry in 2017.

In 2016, the Coalition successfully championed important clean transportation policies, such as an expanded Low Carbon Fuel Standard; supported the environmental justice movement; and ensured significant heavy-duty vehicle incentives for near-zero-NOx natural gas engines. This y­ear, we plan to intensify our efforts to clean up the heavy-duty truck sector and partner with state agencies to meet California’s aggressive air quality goals, while putting a fresh focus on the full range of NGVs and educating a new group of legislators.

Highlights of 2016

Legislative successes The Coalition and its allies worked closely with the Legislature and the governor’s office throughout the year to help push through several climate change bills that promote cleaner transportation, and the Legislature passed all five of the bills that the Coalition actively supported. Those bills represent several policy advances: SB 1383 requires CARB to reduce short-lived climate pollutants by 2030. The 2016 budget bill, AB 1613, appropriates $150 million for the heavy-duty truck sector from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. AB 2722 is an environmental justice bill that creates the Transformative Climate Communities Program. And SB 32, with its companion bill, AB 197, extends California’s greenhouse gas emission targets and the LCFS to 2030.

New incentive funds Possibly the biggest news of the year for the NGV industry is that the Legislature approved $23 million for low-NOx engine incentives, including funds for fleets that run low-NOx engines on a renewable fuel. The next step is demonstrating to CARB the high demand for these incentives, and continuing to advocate for the money to get dispersed as planned.

Mergers and acquisitions The year 2016 also saw unprecedented M&A activity in the NGV sector, including deals involving several Coalition members. Trillium CNG was acquired by Love’s Travel Stops, Questar Fueling was acquired by American Natural Gas, and Agility Fuel Systems merged with Hexagon Composites’ CNG Automotive Products Division to create a new company called Agility Fuel Solutions. In each case, the companies have improved their ability to serve and strengthen the natural gas industry. One result is that the network of natural gas stations is poised for faster growth.

Looking Ahead to 2017

California’s climate change and other environmental protection programs have always been light years ahead of federal programs, and the state has already begun taking steps to defend them from potential federal challenges. These steps include moves to boost federal expertise on the state’s legal team, with the Legislature hiring former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as its legal advisor and Gov. Jerry Brown nominating 12-term congressman Xavier Becerra to be state attorney general. The Coalition also remains committed to supporting the state’s pioneering clean air and greenhouse gas reduction programs, as well as to gaining full recognition of natural gas–powered transportation as an effective, affordable way to meet air targets now.

In 2017, the challenge will be to not only maintain, but also build on last year’s advances. Cleaning up the heavy-duty truck sector will require significant ongoing efforts. And as we work toward that goal, we also aim to play a role in reducing emissions in the light- and medium-duty vehicle sectors. Heavy-duty trucks are the dirtiest vehicles on the road, but we need to have a holistic conversation about decreasing pollutants from all vehicles. And we need to clearly demonstrate the benefits of RNG, which should be the alternative fuel of choice for California’s fleets.

We have already identified several initiatives and issue areas as priorities for 2017. We will continue to push for more support from regulatory bodies, the Legislature, and the governor’s office for zero-NOx–equivalent technologies: these are cost-effective solutions for clean transportation right now. We will also turn our focus to cleaning up the state’s ports, including the Port of Oakland, and advocate for devoting a portion of the Volkswagen settlement to this effort. Additionally, we will support environmental justice legislation, especially bills that align with the NGV agenda and engage CARB and other state agencies as partners.

My motto for 2017 is “Be strategic, be surgical, and be creative.” All of us in the NGV sector need to work together to create a more robust market, educate new legislators, and make the NGV industry a real commercial presence in California.

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