California budget crisis freezes diesel money

| 2/6/2009

California’s budget crisis may affect some truck drivers who were counting on diesel emission reduction funds from the Golden State.

California’s Proposition 1B includes hundreds of millions of dollars to be used, through the agency’s goods movement emissions-reduction program, to replace or retrofit engines and other devices that pollute the state’s air. California trucking companies were slated to receive some of those funds, but now are waiting on the state to fix its $42 billion budget deficit.

On Friday, about 200,000 California state workers were given the state’s first “furlough” and told to stay home without pay.

“State funding for bond programs remains suspended pending effective resolution of the current fiscal year budget crisis and a restoration of the state’s ability to access the bond market,” CARB stated this week.

Mary Fricke, a CARB spokeswoman, said the agency is essentially stopping all grant payments or equipment projects until the state’s money situation is sorted out.

“Until the state has the ability to access the bond market, the ARB cannot approve any new equipment projects,” Fricke said. “This also includes contracts that would be funded by Proposition 1B.”

Many funding projects are administered through local air quality agencies in California. Those programs also will be held up, Fricke told Land Line.

“Once the state budget crisis is resolved, the program can continue issuing funds through the air districts for projects,” Fricke said.

OOIDA’s 160,000 members include many interstate truckers who aren’t eligible for CARB’s in-state-only grants and monies.

Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA regulatory affairs specialist, said some of CARB’s most recently approved and most stringent regulations were approved with the understanding that CARB would be issuing millions in grants and other funds to be used to help small businesses comply with the state’s air quality regulations.

CARB had stated in 2008 that it wished to expand its diesel funding to help some interstate trucking companies.

“CARB has pushed through with the most onerous reregulation of the trucking industry since the motor carrier act of 1980 that deregulated trucking,” Rajkovacz told Land Line. “They have promised to help out many small businesses via Proposition 1B funds. Now those funds are on hold, but the regulations aren’t. This is really going to place a lot of small businesses in an extremely difficult position to comply.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer