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Legislative Roundup: Few NGV Bills Move Forward, but Coalition Raises Profile in Legislature

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June 19, 2017

Only two of the seven bills the Coalition supported in this legislative session have passed out of their originating house, but the NGV industry nonetheless made progress on its long-term agenda of advancing clean transportation in California. AB 1073 and AB 1683 have moved on to the Senate. AB 302 and AB 476 have become two-year bills that will be fine-tuned and heard again in 2018.

“We had some success with bills that will drive the development of zero- and near-zero-emission technologies. We will build on that momentum with the two-year bills by educating legislators and their staffs on the role that natural gas vehicles should play in meeting California’s clean-air goals and why RNG is an important fuel,” said Coalition President Thomas Lawson.

While some bills did not get as far as the Coalition had hoped they would, he added, the Coalition’s advocacy for an aggressive package of clean-transportation legislation has raised its profile in the Legislature and created new allies in the fight for immediate alternative fuel policies.

“Our goal this year was to be more proactive and more aggressive, and we’ve done that,” Lawson said. “We will continue to do that with an upcoming RNG advocacy day, additional lobby days, and one-on-one in-depth technical discussions about alternative fuel technologies.”

Legislative Successes

The Coalition-sponsored AB 1683 and Coalition-supported AB 1073 are moving forward in the second half of the legislative session. AB 1683 requires the Strategic Growth Council, which awards competitive grants through the Transformative Climate Communities Program, to report to the Legislature on investments made, specific projects funded, and locations selected by Jan. 1, 2019. The aim is to provide greater accountability and oversight as well as examples of successful projects. AB 1073 extends funding for early commercial deployment of zero- and near-zero-emission heavy-duty truck technology to Jan. 1, 2023.
Two of the Coalition-supported bills that didn’t pass their house on June 2 may return in the second half of this two-year legislative session. The Coalition-sponsored AB 302 gives the South Coast Air Quality Management District additional tools to meet its especially challenging air-quality goals. According to Lawson, the bill stalled due to concern that it would give local agencies more control over policy than the state has.

AB 476, which the Coalition also sponsored, would redefine the weight of heavy-duty vehicles as having a manufacturer’s maximum gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds or more. That would better reflect the trucks on the road than existing law, which defines a heavy-duty vehicle as 6,001 pounds or more. The lower weight classification does not line up with current state programs and can mean that funding doesn’t go to the biggest, dirtiest vehicles. AB 476 failed by just one vote, so Lawson is hopeful that it will pass next year with bipartisan support.

“We’ll focus on addressing the concerns raised about these bills as we work to move them forward,” he said. “We will make sure the Legislature understands that AB 302 is designed to help the SCAQMD address its local attainment issues without overriding the state’s regulations, and that AB 476 would make funding available for all alternative fuel technologies, not just NGVs.”

Stalled Bills and Cap-and-Trade Uncertainty

Both SB 53 and AB 151 failed to pass from their originating houses. SB 53, which would have increased the allowable weight of NGVs, was an especially disappointing loss because other states, including Pennsylvania and Michigan, recently passed similar legislation, Lawson said.

AB 151, which would have extended the cap-and-trade program to run past 2020, died as well; however, it could be revived if an urgency clause is added. Another cap-and-trade extension bill, AB 378, became a two-year bill. The debate about the cap-and-trade extension bills centered on how the program should be altered. Gov. Jerry Brown is still pushing to get a two-thirds vote in favor of a cap-and-trade extension bill by Sept. 15, the end of this year’s session.

“The Coalition is carefully following these developments because changes to the cap-and-trade program could impact the trucking incentives that are funded through this program,” said Lawson. “Because of the uncertainty around cap and trade, the program continues to generate less funding than expected.”

Photo ©Westport Innovations, used by permission

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