California fuel-cutting bill crumbles; Brown vows to move forward

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 9/11/2015

Advocates for an effort to reduce pollution in California and cut the state’s oil consumption have temporarily abandoned their pursuit.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles; Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego; and Gov. Jerry Brown held a news conference on Wednesday, Sept. 9, to announce they were pulling the plug on a measure that mandated a 50 percent cut in the use of petroleum in large trucks and personal vehicles by 2030.

Also included in the bill are provisions to mandate a 50 percent increase in sales of renewable electricity, and doubling the energy efficiency of buildings by 2030.

The legislative effort comes on the heels of an executive order this spring from the Democratic governor that calls for a 40 percent cut to the state’s emissions from 1990 levels by 2030.

The leading lawmakers made the decision to drop the petroleum provision in an effort to save the energy policy bill before the session wrapped up on Friday. The group blamed “big oil” for the provision’s demise.

“While the governor chooses to blame oil companies for opposing this reduction, there’s no doubt that this targeted reduction would have hit Californian’s middle class and working poor the hardest,” Sen. Bob Huff, R-San Dimas, said in prepared remarks.

Others opposed to the effort are Republicans and some Assembly Democrats. Opponents, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said the mandate would have severe ramifications for professional drivers and other highway users.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s director of state legislative affairs, wrote in a letter to members of the California Legislature at the end of August that SB350 would give the state’s Air Resources Board additional authority to issue more emissions reduction mandates.

“New mandates could potentially jeopardize current and future investments that owner-operators continue to make to comply with existing ARB regulations, as well as the viability of small-business trucking in California altogether,” Matousek said.

He said the Association’s more than 155,000 members nationwide and nearly 5,000 residing in the state support a cleaner environment. However, he said environmental changes can and should be achieved without unpredictable, costly, and crippling mandates.

Instead, Matousek urged lawmakers to reject SB350 in its current form; consider alternatives that have a more balanced cost-benefit analysis; and ensure that past, present, and future investments in ARB-certified equipment are adequately protected from new regulations.

Gov. Brown said on Wednesday he is not going to back down in his pursuit to achieve lower-carbon fuels and lower-carbon pollution.

“My zeal has been intensified to a maximum degree. And nothing – nothing is going to stop this state from pushing forward” on climate change efforts, said an impassioned Brown. “We might get another bill next year. We might just keep doing it by regulation.”

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