CARB Looks to Future of Transportation with New AB 617 Communities

April 6, 2023

One hundred thirty years ago, German engineer Rudolf Diesel patented the design of his namesake internal combustion engine. Enthusiasts around the world celebrate Diesel Engine Day annually on February 23. Ironically, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) decided to spend the anniversary this year celebrating its fight against diesel pollution alongside California communities.

CARB looked to the future this February and welcomed two communities burdened by diesel pollution to the Community Air Protection Program. The Bayview Hunters Point/Southeast San Francisco Community and the North Imperial Phase 1 Community join a network of 19 communities statewide who take a multipronged approach to clean their air through air monitoring, emissions reduction, and stakeholder engagement.

Assembly Bill 617 (AB 617) ensures disadvantaged communities suffering disproportionately from the air pollution crisis benefit from state resources and collaborative, inclusive measures. Pursuant to AB 617, CARB created the Community Air Protection Program to identify ‘AB 617 communities’ which design community emissions reduction programs and community air monitoring plans with their local air district. Stakeholders harness their experience, knowledge, and thoughtful engagement to design incentives and regulations which target sources of pollution in their community, notably the transportation sector. As leaders, the communities devise and adopt measures that alleviate some of the nation’s worst air pollution.

Championing public health and welfare, AB 617 communities pay particular attention to reducing their exposure to hazardous diesel exhaust the goods movement industry emits. Diesel exhaust, likely to be a carcinogen, “can lead to serious health conditions like asthma and respiratory illnesses and can worsen existing heart and lung disease, especially in children and the elderly” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and American Cancer Society.

Diesel truck idling at the Port of San Francisco and diesel truck traffic across the U.S.-Mexico border rendered the Bayview Hunters Point/Southeast San Francisco Community and the North Imperial Phase 1 Community a perfect pair to qualify for CARB’s Community Air Protection Program. What does inclusion of the Bay Area and Imperial County AB 617 communities mean for medium- and heavy-duty (MHD) transportation?

Importantly, the transportation sector will benefit from targeted incentives from air districts: since AB 617’s passage in 2017, “the California Legislature has budgeted $1.2 billion” for such funding according to CARB. Designed and informed by the communities themselves, these incentives fund novel technologies to clean the air. CARB’s CommunityHub shows the funding for all AB 617 communities, categorized by criteria including incentive type and fiscal year. Replacing diesel-powered vehicles with clean transportation alternatives like battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will clean the air and save lives from the Mexican border to San Francisco Bay. But what is the timeline for these new incentives?

Within one year of selection, the communities are required to work with their air districts to adopt a community emissions reduction program which includes strategic incentives. Be sure to follow CARB’s CommunityHub for real-time updates because the incentives will come fast.  Also, check out Community Air Protection Program Events for upcoming CARB board meetings to consider the community emissions reduction programs. Stakeholders like local environmental justice organizations and community advocates will inform these forthcoming programs, and their incentives, applicable to the transportation industry.

Could your firm, agency, or organization use some help navigating the incentives, regulations, and policies coming to AB 617’s newest two communities? GNA, North America’s leading clean transportation and energy consulting firm, is here to help. Reach out if you would like to strategize around environmental justice and clean transportation. Here’s to a season full of transformational clean transportation — and human — investment.