Gov. Brown Helps Make California’s Transportation Sector Cleaner Before Sailing into the Sunset

September 27, 2018

Although California is still embroiled in a decisive fight with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the future of its motor vehicles GHG reduction requirements, it has been a fairly good year for clean transportation legislation in California. In what may well be his clean transportation swan song, Governor Jerry Brown signed a parcel of good bills during his Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco the week of September 10th. Flanked by several of the lawmakers who introduced and shepherded some of the most prominent and important bills of the 2018 legislative session, Governor Brown signed an assortment of these bills aboard the Enhydra, the first-of-its kind plug-in hybrid electric ferry to go into commercial operations in San Francisco Bay.

The raft of legislation penned by Governor Brown includes bills that should dramatically reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector by increasing the number of zero-emission vehicles and electric charging stations in California and by promoting the removal of higher polluting cars and trucks from the state’s streets and highways. The package also increases the state’s efforts to support the interests of Californians with the least means, by directing the state agencies that administer grant and rebate programs to set aside funds to support consumers in disadvantaged communities so they can have more assistance in joining the clean transportation revolution. “Whether we travel by car, bus, or boat the need to move to zero-emission transportation is urgent. These bills will help get more clean cars on the road and reduce harmful emissions,” said Governor Brown.

California Transportation Bills Signed at the Global Climate Action Summit

The most prominent of the bills signed by Governor Brown in San Francisco include:

  • SB 957 (Lara) – This bill opens carpool lanes to low-income drivers (those whose income is at or below 80% of the state median income) who own or operate certain low, ultra-low, and zero-emission vehicles, including used such vehicles.
  • SB 1000 (Lara) – It has long been a concern of social equity advocates that electric vehicles and EV charging infrastructure will be disproportionately distributed in high-income communities where the need for emission reductions are often not as acute and immediate as in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color that are more often than not located near the worst sources of air pollution. SB 1000 requires the state to assess whether vehicle-charging infrastructure is disproportionately deployed and, if they find that it is, to use ARFVTP funds to provide underserved neighborhoods with sufficient chargers to encourage the purchase of electric vehicles. The bill also ensures that both plug-in electric vehicles and zero-emission vehicles have equal access to charging infrastructure, and prohibits cities from restricting what kind of EVs have access to publicly accessible chargers that have been even partially funded by state or ratepayer monies.
  • SB 1014 (Skinner) – Ride-hailing services, such as those provided by Lyft and Uber, have transformed transportation throughout the country, and are only growing in popularity. Although these services provide Californians with more transportation choices, the growth in their popularity is not without consequences. Air quality, transportation and climate protection experts are concerned that such services add to congestion and emissions by diverting people away from public transportation. SB 1014 directs the state to develop climate emissions reduction targets for ride-hailing services, which will get progressively more stringent over time, and requires these targets to include increasing the number of zero-emission vehicles and pool-passenger trips these services provide.
  • SB 1403 (Lara) – It should be well known to the readers of ACT News that diesel-fueled medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (M&HDVs) are the source of most of the smog-forming NOx in California and nearly all of the deadly diesel particulates. Although great strides have been made over the last two decades to reduce emissions from M&HDVs, these technologies still lag behind the light-duty vehicle sector in the pace of emission reduction. It is critical that the state’s scarce funding for the transformation of its transportation sector is re-prioritized to support zero and near-zero emission heavy-duty vehicles. SB 1403 increases the likelihood that the state’s incentive dollars are invested strategically and are incentivizing the adoption of zero and near-zero emission heavy duty vehicles and equipment, including school buses. The bill requires CARB to develop three-year investment plans for these vehicles starting in 2019, with the goal of increasing investment in zero and near-zero emission heavy-duty vehicles and equipment.
  • AB 193 (Cervantes) – As noted, new zero-emission vehicle (ZEVs) and near-zero emission vehicles (NZEVs) are often beyond the means of most middle- or lower-income Californians, particularly those who live in disadvantaged communities. These consumers more often than not purchase used vehicles, and thus have limited access to the newest, cleanest technologies. AB 193 creates the Zero-Emission Assurance Project, which will provide a rebate for the purchase of a replacement battery, fuel cell or related components for an eligible used ZEV or NZEV for qualified consumers (Annual household income is at or below 80% of the statewide median income). The bill is intended to provide greater access to zero and near-zero emission vehicles in disadvantaged communities, and should build consumer confidence in the purchase of a used zero-emission vehicle by providing resources to replace the battery or fuel cell component of the used vehicle.
  • AB 2006 (Eggman) – California agricultural workers often live in underserved, remote, disadvantaged communities, where they lack access to safe, reliable and clean transportation options. AB 2006 makes permanent an existing agricultural worker vanpool program, requires CARB to allocate at least 25% of the money from this program to serve low-income communities, and requires hybrid vehicle technology to remain an eligible recipient of agricultural vanpool program funding until CARB determines there are cleaner options.
  • AB 2127 (Ting) – In 2012, Governor Brown signed Executive Order B-16-12, which established a goal of putting 1.5 million ZEVs on California’s road by 2025. The Governor revised California’s ZEV deployment target in January 2018 through Executive Order B-48-18, which increased the ZEV target to five million ZEVs in California by 2030. The order also increased ZEV infrastructure targets to a goal of installing 200 hydrogen fueling stations and 250,000 EV chargers, including 10,000 direct current fast chargers (DCFC), by 2025. These two orders led to the ZEV Action Plan, which outlines the state’s efforts to achieve these ZEV deployment targets. AB 2127requires the California Energy Commission to assess the EV charging infrastructure need to support the levels of EV adoption sought in the Governor’s EO B-16-2012, including freight and off‑road vehicles.
  • AB 2885 (Rodriguez) – One of the many programs that California has implemented to reduce pollution from the mobile sector is the Air Quality Improvement Program (AQIP), which includes the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP). The CVRP provides a rebate of up to $5,000 for purchasing or leasing a new ZEV or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. AB 2885 continues the legislative priority of ensuring that California’s incentive programs serve all communities, by extending the requirement that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) conduct outreach to low-income households and communities as part of the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project. The bill also requires CARB to continue to prioritize rebates to low-income applicants until Jan 1, 2022.
Other Transportation Bills Signed

In addition to the package of bills that was signed into law during the Governor’s Climate Summit, several other important bills have also become law in California. These include:

AB 2061 (Frazier) – This bill increases the weight limit for zero and near-zero emission heavy-duty trucks from 80,000 to 82,000 pounds. This is important to operators of these vehicles, because the components that enable such ultra-clean truck technology often weigh much more than conventionally fueled vehicles. In vocations where every pound of truck means that the operators must forego a pound of revenue-generating cargo, this can be a significant disincentive to the purchase of the cleaner technologies. This weight limit exemption will help mitigate this barrier.

SB 1440 (Hueso) – One of the cleanest truck technologies on the road today are heavy-duty trucks that are equipped with near-zero natural gas engines and fueled by renewable natural gas.  In fact, nearly 70% of the natural gas used as a transportation fuel in California is renewable. Unfortunately, almost all of this RNG is imported from outside the state. This bill directs the California Public Utilities commissions (CPUC) to consider the development of a renewable gas procurement requirement for the state’s natural gas utilities. Should the CPUC establish such a requirement, it should dramatically increase the incentive for developers to build in-state capacity to produce and inject low and negative carbon renewable gas in to the state’s gas grid.

All of these bills that were passed by the California legislature and signed by Governor Brown will advance the cause of climate protection and clean air. They will also support a more equitable distribution of the state’s GHG reduction and air quality improvement resources to communities that disproportionately experience environmental insult. All in all, a good legislative year for clean transportation in California, and another admirable effort from Jerry Brown, California’s greenest governor ever, as he winds down his 16th and last year as the Golden State’s chief executive.