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Governor Signs Coalition-Sponsored Bill, Key Transportation Legislation

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In the final bill signing of his four terms as California’s governor, Gov. Jerry Brown approved a number of clean transportation bills that underscore the state’s commitment to NGVs. At the top of the list are AB 2061, the weight exemption bill co-sponsored by the Coalition, and SB 1440, which creates an in-state biomethane procurement program.

“Together, these bills will produce real-world greenhouse gas emission reductions that Californians will benefit from as soon as they go into effect,” said Thomas Lawson, Coalition president. “Their passage shows not only that California continues to embrace RNG, but also that the state needs a variety of clean transportation options. When it comes to reducing mobile pollutants, NGV and EV stakeholders don’t have to be locked in an us-versus-them battle.” Lawson notes that over 60 companies, including engine manufacturers, utilities, and environmental organizations, came out in support of the weight-exemption bill.

AB 2061, authored by Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay), chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee, allows zero- and near-zero-emission heavy-duty trucks to exceed California’s weight limits by as much as 2,000 pounds to accommodate the extra weight of clean truck fuel systems, creating a level playing field for NGVs versus diesel trucks. AB 2061 will make it more financially feasible for fleets to switch from diesel to natural gas trucks; when regulations allow the trucks to weigh as much as 82,000 pounds, the switch to natural gas no longer has to result in a reduced carrying capacity.

“Allowing NGVs to haul the same weight of goods will cut down on NGV truck trips, reducing emissions even further. It also eliminates a disincentive to switch to natural gas,” Lawson explained.

SB 1440, introduced by Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), authorizes the state to adopt a biomethane procurement program if it’s found to be cost-effective and beneficial to ratepayers and if it advances California’s environmental and energy policies. SB 1440 also seeks to further develop a pathway for the injection of renewable biomethane into the gas pipeline system, displacing fossil gas. The bill requires the California Public Utilities Commission, working with CARB, to consider adopting procurement goals for each of the gas corporations that would equal 32 billion cubic feet of biomethane across the state.

The CPUC will determine the timeline—SB 1440 has set no deadlines—and Lawson said the Coalition will work to ensure that the program doesn’t languish.

“We’re pleased to see the Legislature support the alternative fuels industry with policies that may help strengthen the state’s transportation markets,” said Lawson, noting that the bill is likely to create a market for in-state RNG, which is necessary for meeting California’s clean energy goals. 

Highly successful session for clean transportation

In one of the most successful legislative sessions for clean transportation, Gov. Brown signed into law all but one of the bills the Coalition tracked through the session (see Legislation Watch for details).  CNGVC did not take formal positions on any of these.

Enacted bills include AB 1879, which requires the CPUC to provide reports on natural gas service connection moratoriums; AB 2006, which establishes the Charge Ahead California Initiative to place a million zero-emission and near-zero-emission vehicles in agricultural worker vanpool programs; SB 100, which revises the goals of the California Renewables Portfolio Standard Program; SB 957, which extends HOV identifiers, for low-income owners only, of several types of low-emission vehicles; SB 1014, which creates the California Clean Miles Standard and Incentive Program for zero-emission taxis; and SB 1119, which authorizes transit agencies that service disadvantaged communities to spend 50 percent of CARB Low Carbon Transit Operations Program funds on initiatives that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Gov. Brown vetoed AB 1945, which would have required CARB to give specified communities preference when allocating grants from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

All approved bills will take effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

Photo ©Westport Innovations, used by permission