Effort to lower fuel prices OK'd in California

| 3/6/2006

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill that will soon open the gates for sales of diesel from refineries outside California. Another bill before the Legislature would allow port truckers to collectively bargain.

Since 1993, strict emissions standards put in place by the California Air Resources Board have banned the sale of diesel made at refineries outside the state. Thus, the state has relied solely on so-called CARB diesel.

But supporters of the new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2007, maintain that newer diesel fuels burn as clean as or cleaner than the in-state fuels mandated by CARB and thus should be allowed in the state.

Such a move would circumvent the CARB regulations, creating a situation in which national diesel could be produced and sold in California.

Assemblyman Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, has said that allowing the sale of non-CARB diesel within the state would reduce the price of diesel as much as 25 cents per gallon when it takes effect.

The new law, previously AB679, also requires the state board to convene a panel of interested parties to develop a test protocol for the evaluation of CARB diesel, and to recommend to the board a subsequent test program to measure the emissions benefits of CARB diesel.

In addition, it requires the state board, no later than Dec. 31, 2007, to complete the test program and submit the results to specified committees of the Legislature.

Another bill of interest to truckers would give owner-operators whose trucks service ports in California the right to collectively bargain.

Sponsored by Sen. Joseph Dunn, D-Garden Grove, the bill would give port owner-operators in the state the right to collectively bargain.

The measure would extend to port owner-operators the right to organize and to collectively negotiate with port motor carriers regarding such matters as compensation and benefits.

In addition, it would extend to those drivers key benefits that many employees in the state have, such as the ability to withhold their services on a collective basis – in essence, the right to legally strike – and to be free from any coercion by port motor carriers regarding those rights.

“These hardworking Californians keep the state’s business moving but don’t have the workplace rights they deserve,” Dunn said in a written statement. “This legislation will give these truckers a measure of justice at the ports.”

Dunn’s bill – SB1213 – is in the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee.