Green Operations

California Passes Clean Air Bill with $895M in Vehicle Incentives

September 21, 2017, by Michaela Kwoka-Coleman

$140 million will go toward incentivizing cleaner vehicles at California’s ports. Photo: Jim Park.
$140 million will go toward incentivizing cleaner vehicles at California’s ports. Photo: Jim Park.

The California Legislature recently passed a bundle of bills, known as the California Clean Air Initiative, aimed at reducing air pollution from vehicles and providing funding to incentive programs that cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The package allocates $250 million for the Carl Moyer program, $180 million for the Clean Bus and Truck program, which helps underwrite low-NOx natural gas engines, and $140 million toward incentivizing cleaner emissions vehicles at California’s ports. Funding for the programs will be provided by auctioning off carbon allowances.

In November, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the two busiest ports in the country, are set to vote on their own Clean Air Action Plan.

According to the California Sustainable Freight Action Plan, heavy-duty trucks contribute 33% of the state’s NOx emissions, and 26% of diesel particulate matter that can cause lung disease and other respiratory illnesses.

With funding from the Clean Air Initiative, the final version of the CAAP, which is being created with input from stakeholders in the shipping and trucking industry, can be more effective at removing diesel burning heavy-duty trucks and replacing them with renewable natural gas vehicles, the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition said in a press release.

“This time around, the process was much more inclusive, and thus, got a lot more input from stakeholders, such as the trucking community, on what works and what doesn't work,” Weston LeBar, executive director of the Harbor Trucking Association, said. “And I think that because of that, the Clean Air Action Plan will be one that is stronger in the sense that, for the trucking industry, I don't think it will be as financially burdensome.”

However, Joe Rajkovacz, director of governmental affairs for the Western States Trucking Association, said that the CAAP may pressure trucking companies to replace their units with trucks that are “still on the drawing board and insufficiently tested in real world use.”

LeBar agreed that a lot of the technology the ports would like to use doesn’t exist yet.

“It’s very aspirational at this point in time.”

He said that the ports are looking at conducting feasibility checks every three years, to monitor the implementation of the plan

“We've maintained that the trucking industry and all of the industry stakeholders need to be a part of the implementation of the plan after it's adopted,” LeBar said. “If technology doesn't exist or it's not commercially viable or it's just not affordable, we need to be able to pivot, delay things, or move in different directions.”

At the state level, Rajkovacz said that while a lot is promised to the average Californian with policies like the Clean Air Initiative, the promises of green technology creating jobs and economic growth hasn’t panned out.

LeBar echoed similar concerns, noting that when California regulations make it more difficult for a business to operate within the state, that business will often move out of state, where environmental regulations are not as strict.

“If you make it difficult or overly expensive for people to import or export out of the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach, and they move to a port in Canada or Mexico, not only have you lost that job and you've lost that economic growth, but you've sent them to a place that doesn't have the same types of air regulations,” he said. “And so from a global perspective, you're not really doing anything to help the environment.”

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