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Legislature Passes Landmark Funding for Clean Transportation

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September 25, 2017

Acting just before the close of this year’s legislative session, California lawmakers passed a package of bills devoting an unprecedented $900 million to existing clean transportation programs and to providing continued support for clean trucks.

The State Budget Act of 2017 bills, AB 109 and AB 134, allocate $560 million from the state’s current pot of $1.5 billion in cap-and-trade program revenue to programs that NGVs qualify for. Lawmakers also approved AB 1073, which extends CARB funding for zero- and near-zero-emission trucks through 2020.

“Heavy-duty trucks account for more than a third of California’s NOx emissions and a quarter of the diesel particulate matter in our air. So the Legislature’s focus on funding mobile source programs that will get diesel trucks off the roads is very timely—and long overdue,” said Coalition President Thomas Lawson of AB 109 and AB 134, which Gov. Brown signed into law the day after they were passed.

“This historic level of funding will go a long way toward getting cleaner trucks on our highways and in the ports,” said Lawson.

The remaining $340 million will go toward programs that support cleaner light-duty vehicles and funding for clean-air and other programs in low-income areas, such as the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project and technical assistance grants for community organizations. A portion will also cover program implementation costs.

CARB, air districts, ports get slices of $560 million
State agencies already know how the cap-and-trade windfall will be divvied up. The State Budget Act of 2017 allots $250 million for the Carl Moyer program, which will be divided among three air districts plus CARB: 43 percent goes to the South Coast Air Quality Management District; 32 percent to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District; and 20 percent to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Each agency is allowed to use as much as 40 percent of its portion to provide clean vehicle incentives. CARB will receive 5 percent of the $250 million to distribute among other state districts and will hold a workshop on Oct. 4 to start developing a detailed spending plan.

The San Pedro Bay Ports will receive $140 million to spend on a variety of mobile source projects to clean up the air in and around the ports. AB 134 specifies that the projects must be “human operated” and use either zero- or near-zero-emission equipment or infrastructure.

“This is the first time that Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds from the cap-and-trade program have been specifically allocated to the ports—it’s exciting,” said Lawson. “Having these financial resources will help the ports more successfully realize the goals set forth in the updated Clean Air Action Plan and target diesel trucks where they’re most heavily used.”

Finally, $180 million will go to the Clean Bus and Truck Program, which provides funding for low-NOx natural gas engines. AB 134 requires that when distributing funding for this program, CARB consider new technological advancements in heavy-duty truck engines as well as market demand for low-NOx vehicles expected to become available next year.

Coalition-supported bill continues funding for ultraclean NGVs
Also good news for the NGV industry is the passage of AB 1073. Strongly supported by the Coalition, AB 1073 extends funding for the early commercial deployment of zero- and near-zero-emission heavy-duty vehicle technology to Dec. 31, 2020. CARB must continue allotting at least 20 percent of California Clean Truck, Bus, and Off-Road Vehicle and Equipment Technology Program money to provide incentives for technologies such as new and retrofitted ultra-low-NOx vocational trucks, short- and long-haul trucks, buses, and off-road vehicles. The Coalition is now lobbying the governor to sign the bill.

Two other Coalition-supported bills have been held until next year: AB 302, which allows the SCAQMD to require fleet operators to purchase zero-emission and near-zero-emission vehicles, and AB 476, which redefines the maximum gross vehicle weight of heavy-duty vehicles as more than 26,000 pounds. The final two bills the Coalition weighed in on passed, but without the Coalition’s recommended changes. AB 544, the high-occupancy vehicle lane bill, was approved without including single-occupant NGVs as a near-zero-emission vehicle allowed in the HOV lanes. Similarly, AB 739 passed without including near-zero-emission options for mandated clean truck purchases by the state.

Lawmakers show historic support for clean transportation
Nevertheless, lawmakers showed bold support for California’s clean air initiatives, making this one of the most positive sessions ever for alternative fuels and vehicles.

“We advocated aggressively for the legislature to support California’s existing clean transportation programs and to keep the funding in this year’s bills fuel neutral,” said Lawson. “When alternative fuels advocates are forced to fight amongst ourselves for scarce funding, diesel wins. When these programs are funded equally for all alternative fuels, everyone gets a piece of the pie—and the market can choose the right alternative fuel for each mobile source application.”

Photo ©Westport Innovations, used by permission

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