cleaner transportation and alternative fuels

Gasoline and diesel transportation fuels represent a major share of America’s most pernicious air pollution, water-borne toxins, and climate emissions. While we presently have better technological choices for cleaner electricity production than for transportation fuels, there is still significant progress available from more fuel-efficient vehicles, hybrid technologies, and alternate fuels. There is also much future promise in hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle technologies. CEERT has been working to clean up CO2 from cars and trucks, promote smarter transportation and development planning, and help develop an alternate fuel-distribution infrastructure as near-term means to reduce the impacts of fossil-fueled transportation.

Recent Developments:

Advanced Clean Cars Program
Shortly before the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB’s) March 24 hearing, at which it unanimously approved the continuation of the Advanced Clean Cars regulations that set vehicle emissions standards and ZEV sales targets through model years (MY) 2022-2025, US-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the EPA’s intention to reconsider its final determination of January 12, in coordination with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as part of a renewed Mid-Term Evaluation process. This move was in response to a letter to Administrator Pruitt from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers requesting such an action.

On July 26 NHTSA issued its Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Model Year 2022–2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) Standards, and asked stakeholders to submit data and comments by August 25 on the scope of the EIS. The process of reconsidering the EPA’s GHG emissions standards was launched on August 21, and the agencies asked stakeholders to provide data and comments on the need for reconsideration by October 5. In an unprecedented move, the agencies have rolled back the period of consideration to include the MY 2021 standards as appropriate. NHTSA’s EIS and EPA’s reconsideration of the GHG emissions standards must both be finalized by April 1, 2018, following which the agencies could begin to make changes to the mileage and/or GHG standards through a new rulemaking that would likely be finalized during 2019.

In a separate but parallel rulemaking, in 2016 NHTSA was to raise the penalties for auto industry violations of the CAFÉ mileage standards. (CAFÉ penalties have only slightly increased while aggregate inflation has been in excess of 100%.) In response to petitioning from the auto industry, NHTSA agreed to reconsider the CAFÉ penalties and repeatedly delayed its final determination, finally announcing on July 12 that it was again requesting stakeholder feedback (by October 10) and was reconsidering the civil penalties issue, having already agreed to delay the revised penalty levels from MY 2015 to MY 2019.

Taken together, these developments suggest that the Trump administration may be working to roll back one of the country’s, and California’s, most successful programs for fighting air pollution and climate change, and possibly freezing them at 2021 fleet average emissions levels as being the maximally feasible target, despite detailed analysis from CARB, the Obama administration EPA, and the International Council on Clean Transportation all strongly indicating that continuing with the original program to MY 2022-2025 is entirely feasible.

CEERT is coordinating with state and national NGOs to defend the 2022-2025 vehicle emissions standards and will be submitting written comments on the US-EPA reconsideration of the vehicle GHG emissions standards, the scope of NHTSA’s CAFÉ EIS, and the civil penalties that NHTSA should charge car companies for failing to meet the annual mileage targets.

Electrifying Transportation
CEERT continues to monitor the CPUC’s Alternative-Fueled Vehicles rulemaking (R13-11-007) and the IOU transportation electrification plans (pursuant to SB 350) submitted as applications on January 20: A.17-01-020 (SDG&E), A.17-01-021 (SCE), and A.17-01-022 (PG&E). Several CEERT affiliates are active parties in these proceedings.

On April 13, the CPUC issued a scoping memo that consolidated the three applications into a single proceeding: A.17-01-020. The Commission ruled that all PRPs (priority review projects—ones costing less than $4 million and lasting less than a year) would undergo expedited review based on their potential to accelerate transportation electrification, per SB 1275’s Charge Ahead Initiative, while serving as testbeds for minimizing costs and maximizing benefits (e.g., contributing to renewables’ grid integration, reducing criteria and GHG emissions, providing benefits to disadvantaged and low-income communities, avoiding unfair competition with non-utility enterprises) of SRPs (standard review projects—ones costing more than $4 million and lasting 2-5years) and other transportation electrification projects.

In lieu of evidentiary hearings, the Commission held a May 17 workshop on the review of PRPs. Parties submitted concurrent opening briefs on the PRPs on June 16 and concurrent reply briefs on July 10. Based on the briefs, the Commission will issue one or more proposed decisions on the PRPs in September, and after receiving stakeholder input, will issue a final decision (or decisions) by October 26.

On July 11 the CPUC held a stakeholder workshop on the review of SRPs. Given the breadth of issues to be resolved, the Commission will be holding evidentiary hearings on stakeholder testimony. On July 25, August 1 and August 7, stakeholders filed opening testimony on fast-charging infrastructure and rates; medium/heavy-duty and fleet charging infrastructure and commercial EV rates; and residential charging infrastructure and rates. Concurrent rebuttal testimony is due September 5, and evidentiary hearings will be September 25 – October 13. The CPUC will seek briefs and reply briefs on the three utility SRP applications toward year-end, and plans to issue a proposed decision on the SRPs during the first quarter of 2018. The Commission has determined that the consolidated application proceedings are ratesetting.

Low-Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS)
CEERT continues to participate in advocacy efforts to improve and extend the LCFS. CARB is holding public workshops to update aspects of the LCFS program, including enhancements and program amendments to strengthen the carbon intensity reduction targets consistent with realizing the goals of SB 32. Systematic improvements under consideration include changes to the pathway carbon intensity application and evaluation process, improvements to reporting and credit generation processes, integration of mandatory third-party verification requirements, inclusion of new fuel types, and updates to lifecycle assessment modeling tools and the fuel pathway certification process.

Pursuant to SB 1383 and the reduction of methane emissions, CARB has also started work on a pilot financial mechanism for dairy-related projects producing low-carbon fuels, and CARB staff plan to present a revised regulatory package to the Board in late 2018 or early 2019.

Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program
CEC staff is developing an initial draft of the 2018 – 2019 Investment Plan Update for the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, which will be released in October or November for review by the Advisory Committee (on which CEERT serves) and the public.

Volkswagen Diesel Settlement
Research conducted in 2013-2014 uncovered the fact that certain Volkswagen (VW) and Audi diesel vehicles were employing sophisticated computer code to cheat state and federal emission certification tests, resulting in real-world on-road nitrogen oxide emissions as much as 40 times higher than what was legally allowed for their approximately 85,000 vehicles in California (600,000 vehicles nationwide).

After a more thorough investigation by CARB staff, and in the face of incontrovertible evidence, VW officials finally admitted to the widespread use of the cheat devices in many of the company’s diesel cars. As part of a settlement and related Consent Decree, VW is to pay penalties to mitigate damages to public health, and to invest at least $800 million during four investment cycles over 10 years to accelerate development of a market for zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) in California.

CEERT helped lead NGO advocacy on VW’s transgressions and what VW should be required to do with its prescribed investments. This advocacy began with a coordinated response to a letter that Elon Musk and 44 other individuals in the clean-tech and investor communities had sent to CARB.

CEERT hosted two meetings of California NGOs with Volkswagen/Electrify America (VW/EA), at which we offered constructive criticism of their $200 million Cycle 1 ZEV Investment Plan (C1ZIP), the first draft of which was released March 14. We helped mobilize advocates on the C1ZIP’s failure to address fuel-cell electric vehicles or hydrogen fueling infrastructure, and its inadequate treatment of disadvantaged communities, especially in the Central Valley. CEERT and Valley LEAP then submitted comments to CARB expressing our concerns about the lack of a long-term vision in the C1ZIP and how it treated disadvantaged communities, among other issues.CEERT and Valley LEAP worked with mayors from the Central Valley and with the Fresno Council of Governments on a letter highlighting Valley communities’ misgivings about the C1ZIP. CEERT also took part in drafting joint comments to CARB from a large group of California NGOs, many of which are part of Charge Ahead California.

On May 24, in response to our comments, CARB requested that VW/EA revise its C1ZIP to address the identified shortcomings. VW/EA’s revised C1ZIP, which was released on June 29, highlighted the many opportunities that VW/EA now sees for accelerating the deployment of electric vehicles in the Central Valley. Hydrogen is still overlooked, but VW/EA has assured the stakeholder community that they will explore that subject more extensively in the three subsequent investment cycles. With the support of many NGOs, CARB approved VW/EA’s revised C1ZIP during its July 27 Board Hearing.