CARB’s Environmental Justice Revamp

December 11, 2023

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California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 617 (AB 617) into law in 2017 to accelerate environmental justice in the Golden State. The legislation initiated the Community Air Protection (CAPP) Program to create resources such as grant incentives that deliver emissions reductions to state-approved priority populations — low-income and disadvantaged communities. The California Air Resources Board (CARB), which manages CAPP, made news in October when it approved its five-year Blueprint 2.0 Strategy.

Clean transportation stakeholders and decision makers should take note of Blueprint 2.0 Strategy’s launch because the California Legislature has encouraged air districts to prioritize “zero-emission technologies wherever feasible.” Since 2017, the CAPP incentives have awarded approximately $470 million across nearly 3,700 projects through May 2023, with nearly $100 million of program dollars going to on-road transportation projects.

The incentives fund projects ranging from zero-emissions school buses in West Oakland to the nation’s first pair of electric mobile harbor cranes in San Diego’s Portside Environmental Justice Communities. These California neighborhoods comprise two of the 19 statewide communities on the AB 617 Selected Communities List. The Selected AB 617 Communities received a nomination and approval to join the list, enabling air districts and local leaders to create emissions reduction and air monitoring action plans to benefit these neighborhoods.

The revamped strategy enhances CAPP with increased flexibility “in the use of incentives funds to meet community goals,” which is mutually beneficial for both priority populations and clean transportation stakeholders.  Blueprint 2.0 will afford more than 60 communities comprising the Consistently Nominated Communities list opportunities for decarbonization with next-generation clean transportation solutions. That is, “the updated strategy both reinforces the commitment of CARB and air districts to reduce air pollution in the 19 communities currently in the program and creates new pathways to support the over 60 communities that have been consistently nominated for the program.”

Come April 2024, CARB will replicate successful incentive projects from AB 617 Communities statewide. Replicating successful projects incubated in the 19 selected AB 617 communities will multiply triple-bottom-line benefits with positive social; environmental; and economic impacts for millions of Californians.

Clean transportation leaders can work alongside environmental advocates to conceptualize projects that improve the health and well-being of Californians in their air district. For example, Chiriaco Summit in Los Angeles was placed on the Consistently Nominated Communities by its air district and local community. The unincorporated community lacks a municipal apparatus to advocate on behalf of residents. Instead, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and local leaders have advocated for the community situated along Interstate 10, a major freight corridor in the Inland Empire, home to more than 4,000 shipping warehouses.

Environmental justice leaders should review Bluepoint 2.0’s final draft and anticipate the April 2024 finalization of the new criteria and expanded program. Clean transportation and community-based leaders can use these new guidelines to ideate new projects that build on the success of projects launched in selected AB 617 communities.

Could your fleet, firm, agency, or organization use support in navigating the incentives, regulations, and policies coming to your fleet due to these new policies?

GNA, North America’s leading clean transportation and energy consulting firm and a TRC Company, 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.