California’s Air Resources Board Board Seeks $150M for Clean Trucks Program

May 24, 2016 by John O'Dell

Truck operators facing increasingly tough air emissions regulation in California would get some financial assistance under a new spending plan to be considered next month by the state’s Air Resources Board.

The air board’s staff is requesting more than $150 million in clean trucks programs funding, including $63 million in incentives to help operators pay for new advanced-technology equipment. The fiscal 2016-17 proposal is scheduled to be considered at the air board’s June 23-24 meeting in Sacramento.

Most of the funds are included in a $500-million Low Carbon Transportation and Fuels Project allocation plan that covers trucks, buses, off-road equipment and passenger vehicle programs aimed at promoting development and use of low-emission, fuel-efficient vehicles.

The Western States Trucking Association, generally skeptical of government regulatory programs affecting the trucking industry, said it was encouraged that the incentives funding can benefit independent truckers as well as large fleet operators.

“Generally, truck operators frown on government financial involvement in the marketplace,” said Joe Rajkovacz, the association’s government affairs director. “Given that, we believe that when government programs are created they must be equitable in disbursing funding to the small businesses that dominate the trucking industry.”

Bill Van Amburg, trucks program director for CalStart, a non-profit organization devoted to promoting clean transportation technologies, said that while the funding is limited to what was allocated for the air board in the governor’s budget proposal, “they’ve done a good job with the money they have available. We’d like to see more for zero-emission trucks, but overall the funds [proposed] are decent numbers.”

The truck spending proposal would help implement emissions reduction programs outlined in the recently released California Sustainable Freight Action Plan and the regulatory proposals that accompany it.

The freight action plan was developed by the major regulatory agencies charged with improving air quality in California and addresses the freight movement system starting with the ports of entry and following through to warehousing and local distribution. It includes calls for increased use of newly developed low-NOx natural gas engines and zero-emissions electric trucks and freight handling equipment.

The spending plan drawn up by the air board’s staff would set aside $23 million for low-NOx engine purchase incentives and $18 million to continue funding the state’s Hybrid and Zero-Emissions Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Plan. The request includes $5 million to continue voucher funding through the end of the present fiscal year and $13 million in funds for the 2016-17 fiscal period that begins Oct. 1.

An additional $22 million in clean truck purchase incentives would be funded from the separate Air Quality Improvement Program administered by the air board.

Funds for the bulk of the air board’s spending plan come from proceeds of the state’s cap-and-trade auction of greenhouse gas emissions credits. The Air Quality Improvement Project finding comes primarily from the smog abatement portion of vehicle registration fees.

The funding requires state legislative approval of the governor’s proposed 2016-17 state budget. Last year, the budget proposal sought $350 million in clean-transportation funds to be administered by the air board, but the Legislature ultimately appropriated only $95 million.

In addition to the various incentive plans, the new funding proposal sets aside $59 million for advanced technology demonstration projects, $18 million to fund a zero-emission truck pilot project, $5 million for zero-emission freight handling equipment at airports and seaports; $42 million for a zero-emission transit bus pilot program and $40 million in incentives for production of low-carbon fuels for trucks, transit and passenger vehicles.

In the advanced technology projects, $30 million of the funding would go to on-road truck programs including those aimed at introduction and use of zero- and near-zeroemission short haul and regional haul trucks, and development of advanced low-emission engines and powertrains and intelligent transportation systems using connected trucks that can communicate with one another and with the infrastructure.

The $18-million zero-emission truck pilot program would put 66 battery and fuel-cell electric trucks in the Class 4 and larger segments into service around the state and also would help finance electric truck charging and hydrogen fuel infrastructure and service and repair facility upgrades necessary to support electric and fuel-cell trucks.

Comments about the funding plan can be submitted electronically or in writing to the air board staff by June 20. The mailing address for written comment is: Clerk of the Board, Air Resources Board, 1001 I Street, Sacramento, CA  95814.

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