June 11, 2018
CARB Approves VW Mitigation Plan to Invest Heavily in Zero-Emission Vehicles
At its May 25 board meeting, CARB approved the Beneficiary Mitigation Plan for the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust, pledging $423 million for various zero-emission transportation projects over the next 10 years—but it was not a unanimous decision. Some board members argued that CARB is too focused on EV development to the detriment of programs that would immediately reduce NOx emissions. Members Judy Mitchell of southwest Los Angeles County—who suggested shifting more funds to natural gas retrofit programs—and Ron Roberts of San Diego County voted against the plan. Only $59 million, or 14 percent of the total funding, will be spent on low-NOx vehicles, including NGVs.
However, said Ryan Kenny, senior public policy and regulatory advisor for Clean Energy Fuels, “There was an unexpectedly lengthy debate on the dais, with several members expressing support for increasing low-NOx funding to $89 million. This bodes well for the future of the VW funding and possibly other issues, and indicates an undercurrent of understanding by some board members of the value of low-NOx vehicles in delivering substantial NOx reductions.”
The approved mitigation plan will invest primarily in zero-emission replacements for heavy-duty trucks, buses, and equipment. Per SB 92, at least 35 percent of the investment must benefit disadvantaged communities, and the approved plan invests about 50 percent of available funds in those communities. The plan provides $130 million for zero-emission shuttle buses, school buses, and transit projects, and $90 million for zero-emission heavy-duty freight and drayage trucks.
Federal Natural Gas Parity Act Introduced in Congress
Reps. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) and John Larson (D-Conn.) have introduced a bill (HR 5959) designed to bring equity to the sale, purchase, and use of natural gas as a transportation fuel. The Natural Gas Parity Act aims to “promote national security and jobs through the use of natural gas to fuel heavy-duty trucks and fleet vehicles.” According to Rep. Mullin, the bill will “level the playing field for natural gas and give the consumer the power to choose a cheap and efficient fuel source.”
CEC Announces New Grants for Replacing Aging School Buses
The CEC has announced a new $78.7 million grant funding opportunity (GFO-17-607) through its School Bus Replacement program as well as a $2.4 million opportunity for CNG fueling infrastructure through its SB 118 grant program. All of the state’s public school districts and county offices of education are eligible for the GFO, but the CEC will give priority consideration to those operating school buses in disadvantaged communities. Applications are due Sept. 20, and the CEC is holding a pre-application workshop June 12.
Federal Highway Administration Revokes 2017 Carbon Emissions Rule
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has revoked the 2017 Federal Greenhouse Gas Measure that required state and regional transportation agencies to set and meet targets to reduce tailpipe emissions when planning transportation improvement projects. The FHWA said that the repeal of the greenhouse gas measure would save almost $11 million. State agencies are free to adopt their own GHG measures.
Los Angeles Metro Offers Guidance on How to Increase Local Transportation Funding
The LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has released a new report to help other transit agencies increase local transportation funding by supporting new legislation. Called How to Pass a Mega Transportation Measure, the report documents how LA Metro was able to get Measure M, which levies a new half-cent sales tax, approved in 2016 by more than 71 percent of LA County voters. It emphasizes the agency’s work to engage all cities in the county by conducting frequent public surveys to determine citizens’ needs and shape messaging, using performance-based metrics to prioritize projects, and implementing a program to educate the public about the importance of improving transportation.
NASA Satellite Data Shows California Clean Air Programs Work
A new scientific study using 15 years of data collected by a NASA satellite shows that California’s rigorous clean air programs are reducing pollution across the state, particularly in Southern California and the Central Valley. Scientists from Emory University, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and CARB analyzed satellite data to determine the 15-year trend of the fine particle pollution called PM2.5. They found a decline in PM2.5 in both heavily trafficked urban areas and rural areas, including disadvantaged communities, according to CARB Research Director Bart Croes. Using the data, the study was able to link clean air programs to locations with reduced emissions. For example, pollutants decreased significantly near Los Angeles transportation corridors due to CARB’s various programs controlling NOx emissions from mobile sources.
Coalition News: Total Partners with Clean Energy Fuels to Drive Natural Gas Truck Adoption
Total SA and Clean Energy Fuels have entered into a broad strategic agreement to drive deployment of new natural gas heavy-duty trucks. Total will purchase more than 50 million shares of Clean Energy’s common stock for $83.4 million, which will equal 25 percent of the company’s outstanding shares. The partners are also hammering out a plan for a new leasing program that will enable fleets to purchase heavy-duty trucks with the Cummins Westport 12-liter natural gas engine at costs comparable to those of diesel trucks. The program is expected to include a discounted natural gas fuel price similar to the cost of diesel fuel. According to Clean Energy, Total will provide as much as $100 million in credit support for the leasing program, expected to launch later this year.
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