Environmentalists angry over truck provisions in California transportation bill

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Environmentalists in California are fuming over a state senate bill which proposes blocking a state requirement calling for truckers to upgrade to lower-emission vehicles as a trade-off for higher fuel taxes.

Proposed funding to repair California’s roads and bridges in Senate Bill 1 (SB1), the “Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017,” comes from a 20 cents per gallon tax increase on diesel fuel, a 12 cents per gallon tax increase on gasoline and increased vehicle fees.

As a concession to truckers over proposed fuel tax hikes, Governor Gerry Brown (D) along with leading state legislators agreed to the following ‘truck provision’ in SB1, the latest draft of which was published Monday:

“This bill would prohibit, except as specified, the requiring of the retirement, replacement, retrofit, or repower of a self-propelled commercial motor vehicle during a specified period. The bill would require the state board to, by January 1, 2025, evaluate the impact of these provisions on state and local clean air efforts to meet state and local clean air goals, as provided.”

The provision would prevent the state from forcing the retirement or retrofitting of commercial trucks before they’re 13 years old or reach 800,000 miles, according to scpr.org. Under SB1, some trucks would be able to stay on the road for up to 18 years.

Environmentalists say if passed the trucker provision in SB1 will lead to greater pollution problems.

Katie Valenzuela Garcia, an environmental consultant and co-chair of a California Air Resources Board advisory committee, told the Senate Appropriations Committee that SB1 places road repair revenue interests above health concerns.

“Our communities cannot breathe, and we thought that our right to breathe would be worth more than a few billion dollars in transportation improvements,” Katie Valenzuela Garcia told the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The California Trucking Association informed the Senate of its support for SB1. CTA has also backed the bill through social media.

In a hearing at the state capital on Monday, State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), told Brown that while he mostly supports SB1, he remains concerned about truck pollution.

Brown was quick to defend the bill’s truck provisions.

“There’s a good example of the problem. If we don’t help the truckers, then they oppose. If we help the truckers, then the enviros say ‘Hey! Why are you helping those truckers? You’re giving them more time to comply,’” Brown told Wiener and other legislators.

“So, we are trying to be reasonable, and I think most of those trucking companies are Republicans anyway, so there’s a little Republican buy-in there, although not as much as I’d like to see from elected officials.”

This week, Brown has been traveling the state in an effort to build support for SB1 which calls for raising roughly $50 billion over the next ten years for road and bridge repairs. The bill’s passage requires a two-thirds super majority. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill Thursday.