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Clean Transportation Gains Legislative Momentum

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May 7, 2018

The Coalition is seeing more support for clean transportation legislation than it did in 2017: Two Coalition-sponsored bills have passed their first major policy hurdle, moving on from their respective policy committees to appropriations committees by unanimous vote.

“It’s significant that these bills are moving forward. It shows that legislators are serious about clean transportation and how RNG can address our aggressive air quality goals,” said Coalition President Thomas Lawson. “And they are listening to alternative fuels advocates.”

Wins for alt-fuel weight allowances, RNG trucks

The first big win was with AB 2061, authored by Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay), which increases the weight allowance for near-zero-emission and zero-emission vehicles. The Assembly Transportation Committee passed this bill with universal support.

The second bill was AB 2506, the state vehicle procurement bill authored by Assemblymember Autumn Burke (D-Marina Del Rey). The Accountability and Administrative Review Committee passed it unanimously after amending it to specify that 15 percent of new heavy-duty trucks purchased by the state must be fueled by RNG. Previously, the bill stated that at least 30 percent of new vehicles must be near-zero-emission trucks.

“The Coalition supports the amendment because it specifies renewable fuel rather than a specific technology,” said Lawson.

The Coalition has also taken a position on two additional bills. It is supporting AB 2008, which provides a tax cut through Jan. 1, 2024, to taxpayers who use Carl Moyer Memorial Air Quality Standards Attainment Program incentive funds to purchase alternative-fuel vehicles.

It opposes AB 3201, which revises the definition of “zero- and near-zero-emission” to include infrastructure that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and improves air quality compared with conventional or fully commercialized alternatives. The Coalition opposes the bill because it would make large-scale transit bus and infrastructure projects eligible for the California Clean Truck, Bus, and Off-Road Vehicle and Equipment Technology Program, in order to help transit agencies fund CARB’s proposed Innovative Clean Transit (ICT) rule. However, CARB should adopt the ICT rule before setting funding amounts and sources. Furthermore, incentive programs designed to get emission reductions above and beyond current standards are barred from funding regulatory compliance. And AB 3201 will come at the expense of other SB 1204-eligible vehicles and equipment, including near-zero-emission buses, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and other equipment.  

Ongoing advocacy: engaging legislators and regulators

To ensure momentum (the Assembly must pass bills to the Senate by June 1), the Coalition will continue its advocacy work in Sacramento with the second annual Legislative Lobby Day on May 16.

As with the highly successful event last year, Coalition members will have small group meetings with legislators and their staff members to discuss the importance of clean transportation, how the current crop of bills can help California reduce mobile-source pollutants, and the economic value of those bills to the state.

At the same time, the Coalition will continue to work with CARB staff to improve the LCFS and AB 118 programs. “It’s just as important for us to remain deeply involved in the regulatory space as in the legislative space,” said Lawson.

The Coalition is working on a proposal to reinstate funding for the Natural Gas Vehicle Incentive Project of the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program.

“The current proposal turns the AB 118 program into just an EV charging program,” said Lawson. “We’re seeking a plan that includes biofuels for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, and I look forward to talking with the Governor’s office about it, before the budget is signed into law in June.”

Proposed LCFS rules would create more stability

The Coalition is also offering three alternative rules for the LCFS program that would help create more-stable LCFS markets and protect the program’s integrity. It has proposed changing the initial 2020 carbon intensity reduction target from 10 percent to 9 percent, rather than CARB’s 7.25 percent. Second, the Coalition would like CARB to allow biofuel producers to receive incremental credits through a true-up process instead of creating a buffer account for stranded LCFS credits; this would create an incentive for producers to continue reducing carbon intensity (CI). Third, the Coalition proposes that CARB create a more aggressive temporary fuel pathway CI for dairy digester pathways; the current pathway is too conservative and doesn’t create enough incentive for dairy producers who need to cover extremely high up-front capital costs. The Coalition is working to schedule a meeting with CARB regarding these recommendations.

Photo ©Westport Innovations, used by permission

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