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Trucking Industry Provision In Transportation Deal Draws Fury From Environmentalists

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Gov. Jerry Brown and Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León announce a transportation funding deal on the steps of the California state Capitol on Wednesday, March 29, 2017.

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

Environmental groups are furious over a piece of the transportation funding deal reached this week by California Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders that would delay stricter air quality regulations on commercial trucks.

The provision was tucked into the transportation deal to win the neutrality of the trucking industry, which would bear the brunt of the two diesel tax increases in the legislation.

This did not go over well with environmental advocates.

“We’re opposed to a last-minute dirty deal,” says Bill Magavern with the Coalition for Clean Air.

“To have this poison pill emerge at the 11th hour, it’s just incredibly disappointing,” adds the Sierra Club's Kathryn Phillips.

Environmentalists say reducing truck emissions is crucial to improving California’s air quality. But under the proposal, the state would not be able to require the truckers to retire, replace or retrofit their vehicles until the trucks are 13 years old, or have either reached 800,000 miles or 18 years old.

“This could cause a big problem if our air agencies are trying to clean up the trucks on the road that are causing pollution,” Magavern says.

In fact, the California Air Resources Board already requires truckers to replace their older, dirtier vehicles with cleaner ones. The board’s Stanley Young says that existing regulation won’t be affected. And there’s good reason, he says, to give the industry financial certainty.

“For truckers that have invested in this technology to ensure that they comply with the current regulations,“ Young says, “there isn’t this requirement for them to re-up and get a new truck.”

The deal also includes another provision: It requires the DMV to block the registration or sale of any commercial truck that does not meet the existing clean truck standards – currently about 30 percent of the trucks registered in California, or nearly 200,000 vehicles.

The California Trucking Association declined comment for this story, saying it's waiting to see the final legislative language, which is expected to be released late Thursday night.

The deal is likely to face its first vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee Monday morning. Legislative leaders have said they hope to win passage from the full Senate and Assembly next Thursday –  the final day before lawmakers adjourn on spring break.

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio