clean 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. CEERT has been working to clean up CO2 from cars and trucks, promote electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and their recharging/refueling infrastructure, and bring about smarter transportation and development planning.

Recent Developments:

Advanced Clean Cars (ACC)
Federal Efforts
The US-EPA continues to work on its proposed updates to the regula­tions setting new emissions stand­ards to reduce GHGs and criteria pollutants pro­duced by passenger cars and trucks for the 2026 through 2032 model years (MY).

The EPA anticipates that if automakers were to meet the progressively increasing stringency for emis­sions over the six years beginning with MY 2026, its new proposed standards would reduce industry-wide fleet average tailpipe GHG emissions by 56% for light-duty vehicles and 44% for medium-duty vehicles.  The EPA’s proposed criteria pollution standards would reduce non-methane organic gases plus nitrogen oxides by 60% by MY 2032 for LDVs, 66% for MDVs, and 76% for both Class 2b and Class 3 vehicles.

In establish­ing a new particulate matter (PM) emissions standard of 0.5 mg/mile, the EPA estimates that the regula­tions could effectively reduce tailpipe PM emissions and associated air toxics by more than 95%, and re­sult in superior PM stringency requirements than California’s current PM standard of 1mg/mile.  A coali­tion including CEERT and a separate coalition of public health groups strongly support the EPA main­taining the 0.5mg/mile requirement in their final rule.

On July 28 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it would be up­dating the fuel economy standards for passenger cars and light trucks.  NHTSA proposes to have fuel econ­omy improvements of 2% per year for passenger cars, 4% per year for light trucks, and 10% for heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans (HDPUVs) during model years 2027-2031, and standards increasing at 2% and 4% per year for passenger cars and light trucks starting in MY 2032.  NHTSA projects these standards would result in a fleet-wide average for passenger cars and light trucks of roughly 58 miles per gallon (mpg) in MY 2032 and a fleet-wide average of roughly 38.5 mpg for MY 2038 for HDPUVs.

While CEERT is happy to see EPA and NHTSA undertake these updates, we support both agencies ap­ply­ing maximum stringency in all their vehicle emissions and fuel efficiency standards.  This could be achieved by including provisions for more zero-emissions vehicles and for requiring automakers to apply more fuel-efficiency and emissions-reduction-improving technologies to internal combustion engine vehicles.  In the case of especially NHTSA this could result in their achiev­ing “maximum feasible” stand­ards as recommended by an expert panel of the National Academies, and to the extent currently allowed by the US Congress under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act.

The US-EPA and NHTSA are expected to release the final set of their regulations in the spring.

California’s Work
CARB still awaits EPA’s approval of its waiver for the final Advanced Clean Cars (ACC) II regulations.

In October, CARB Staff began considering potential amendments to the ACC II regula­tions and ex­ploring where coordination with federal standards would be beneficial.  Staff are monitoring updated fed­eral cri­teria and GHG emissions standards for light- and medium-duty vehicles, and want to address im­proving the interoperability of electric vehicles with charging equipment, and what information should be in­cluded on vehicles’ window stickers in dealers’ lots.  They would also like to explore further ways that CARB could support implementation of the ACC II ZEV regulations, especially environmental justice provisions.  Staff held a workshop to kick off discussions on these issues on November 15.

CEERT believes that simply aligning with the proposed EPA passenger vehicle GHG standards will be insufficient for California to meet its goal of achieving at least an 85% reduction in fleetwide GHG emis­sions by 2045.  We are advocating for CARB to retain an indepen­­d­ent California program that sets ve­hicle GHG reduction targets that are stronger than the federal GHG standards.

CEERT is also strongly supporting CARB’s adopting any criteria-pollutant provisions in the EPA’s Emis­sions Standards for 2027-2032 MY passenger vehicles that are more stringent than in current ACC II reg­u­la­tions, such as the 0.5mg/mile PM standard, evaporative emissions and/or vapor recovery requirements, testing and certification procedure, and longer useful-life requirements.

CARB Staff will be holding further workshops and discussions on these issues in a rulemaking process to address modifications to current ACC II regulations and updated GHG emissions standards.

A Continent Uniting
After more than five years of advocacy work by CEERT and a coalition of Canadian NGOs and federal agencies, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) released Canada’s ZEV regulations, the “Electric Vehicle Availability Standard,” on December 19.  The EV Availability Standard is modeled on California’s ACC II regulations.  While the Canadian government has been supporting programs for ZEVs, challenges remain, and further public-private partnership backing will be needed to real­ize Canada’s ZEV targets.  Canada’s EV Availability Standard, together with the growing number of ACC II states, represents a market approaching half of North American new vehicle sales.

Parallel International Developments
On December 18, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement on the EU 7 vehicle emissions standards, which are weaker than those originally proposed by the European Commission on November 10, 2022.  The provisional agreement needs to be endorsed and adopted by both institutions before the regulations can take effect.

Clean Truck Regulations
Advanced Clean Fleet Regulation
On August 30, CARB submitted final Advanced Clean Fleet (ACF) regulations to the Office of Adminis­tra­tive Law, which ap­proved them on October 1.  CARB will hold enforcement of the regulations in abey­ance until the US-EPA grants them a waiver.

Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) Rule
The EPA granted California a waiver to begin enforcing these regulations on April 6.  As with many new CARB rules, the ACT regulations are currently the subject of state and federal lawsuits.

Low-NOx Omnibus Rule
The EPA has still not issued California a waiver for Low-NOx Omnibus regulations, and it is unclear how negotiations on implementing the recent Clean Truck Partnership (CTP) agreement might affect the waiver process.

As part of ongoing discussions about the design and implementation of the CTP, CARB Staff hosted an online workshop on November 28 about the role of hydrogen in California’s medium- and heavy-duty on-road vehicles.  Workshop discussions were led by experts from CARB Staff and other agen­cies, the EMA (Truck & Engine Manufacturers Association), and other representatives from industry and research groups at Argonne and Sandia National Labs and Southwest Research Institute.  Discussions focused on the technologies and market for trucks using electric fuel cells or hydrogen combustion engines (HCEs).

On behalf of the advocates in the Advanced Clean Truck Coalition, CEERT and colleagues from UCS, NRDC, and the American Lung Association raised concerns about including HCE trucks in either the Advanced Clean Trucks or the Advanced Clean Fleets regulations, because any combustion engine technology will produce NOx emissions.  (HCE trucks are already eligible to participate under the Low-NOx Omnibus Truck Rule as long as they can meet its emissions performance standards.)

CEERT raised other concerns about the use of HCEs, pointing out inconsistencies in the trucking indus­try’s claims that including HCE trucks in California’s Advanced Clean Trucks rules could accelerate devel­opment of a hydrogen fueling network and lower the cost of hydrogen as a transportation fuel.  Many concerns CEERT and our colleagues raised were confirmed by the experts from the National Labs.

CARB plans to continue negotiations with the industry partners in the CTP, and will be holding future workshops that include the broader stakeholder community on the design and implementation of the CTP.

Federal Clean Truck Regulations
After receiving testimony in May 2-3 hearings and written comments through June 16, the US-EPA continues to work on its proposed updates to the GHG standards for MY 2028-2032 heavy-duty trucks (the “Phase 3” rule).  EPA anticipates releasing the final regulatory package sometime in the spring.

CEERT and others in the Advanced Clean Trucks Coalition are concerned about the proposed regula­tions’ lack of greater strin­gency, which would lead to increased deployment of zero-emission trucks.

Clean Trucks in Canada
Now that ECCC staff have completed final regulations for zero-emission passenger vehicles, they are focusing on regulations for Canada’s medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, which have been the sub­ject of discussions at the ZEV Council, an expert advisory body.  ECCC will likely release a frame­work document in the spring about the design of Canada’s zero-emissions truck regulations, which we expect will be modeled on California’s Clean Truck rules.

CEERT continues to work with Canadian advocacy organizations to encourage the fed­eral govern­ment to adopt the most effective and stringent advanced clean truck regulations possible.

Clean Transportation Investments
On October 7, Governor Newsom signed AB 126 (Reyes 2023) into law.  This bill reauthorized the Clean Transportation Program (CECCTP), extended its funding to 2035, and added new require­ments:

  • Program investments must focus on zero-emission technology projects where feasible, and near-zero-emission projects elsewhere.
  • At least 50 percent of CECCTP funds must directly benefit low-income Californians and members of low-income and disadvantaged communities.
  • Award recipients of funding for hydrogen fueling stations and EV charging stations must report fuel carbon intensity data, operational data, reliability data, and uptime data to the CEC.
  • The CEC must provide scoring preferences to projects that dispense “clean and renewable” hydrogen when awarding grants for hydrogen fueling stations.

AB 126 changes the required funding allocation for hydrogen refueling stations to 15% of designated funds annually through 2030, until there is a sufficient network of these stations to support hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles of all types (light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles), con­sistent with the state’s GHG reduction goals.

On November 1, the CEC released a Revised Staff Draft for its proposed Clean Trans­por­tation Pro­gram 2023–2024 Investment Plan Update.  The Revised Proposal increased CTP funding from $1.7 billion to $1.85 billion at the following levels through fiscal years 2026 and 2027:

  • Light-Duty EV Charging Infrastructure: $658 million (constituting $13.8 million in AB 118 Program funding and $370 million from General Funds per the State Budget).
  • Medium- and Heavy-Duty ZEV Infrastructure (including hydrogen refueling): $1.14 billion ($13.8 million in Program funding and $645 million from state General Funds)
  • Emerging Opportunities: $46 million from state General Funds
  • Low-Carbon Fuels: $5 million in Program funding
  • ZEV Workforce Development: $5 million in Program funding

Advisory Committee members remained strongly supportive of the Staff’s revised proposal, especially its greater focus on disadvantaged communities.  Many Committee members highlighted their con­cerns that CECCTP funding is needed to support accelerated development of ZEV charging and fuel­ing infrastructure, as deployment for these vehicle segments has been lagging.

On November 16, the CARB Board adopted Staff’s Proposed 2023-24 Low Carbon Transportation Investments and Air Quality Improvement Program (Clean Transportation Incentives) Funding Plan, totaling nearly $624 million.  The Funding Plan will provide $80 million to support zero-emission passenger vehicles (especially in disadvantaged and low-income communities) and $60 million in support of sustainable transportation and mobility equity projects. The Funding Plan will also provide $483.6 million to support investments in the heavy-duty vehicle segment:

  • Clean Truck ($80 million) and Bus Voucher ($375 million) Incentive Project: $455 million
  • Innovative Small E-Fleet: $14.3 million
  • Clean Off-Road Equipment: $14.3million

2024-2025 State Budget
On January 10, Governor Newsom released a $291.5 billion 2024-2025 budget proposal that addresses a nearly $38 billion estimated deficit in state revenues.  Funding for the state’s climate programs suf­fered a roughly 7% cut from last year’s $52.3 billion, to $48.3 billion.  The proposal makes $2.9 billion in climate program cuts and $1.9 billion in spending delays, and shifts $1.8 billion from the General Fund to other revenue sources such as the GHG Reduction Fund.  The Governor proposes cutting $38.1 million from funding that encourages purchases of zero-emission passenger cars and trucks, re­placing $475.3 million from the General Fund with revenues from the GHG Reduction Fund, and de­fer­ring $600 million in investments for ZEVs, including critical programs for dis­advan­taged commu­nities such as Clean Cars 4 All in CARB’s Clean Transportation Incentives funding.  These cuts risk Califor­nia falling short of its goal of all passenger cars sold in California being ZEVs by 2035, a criti­cal step in the state achieving its clean air and climate goals.

Moreover, the proposed budget cuts provide no funding for California’s two new groundbreaking climate disclosure laws, which are estimated to cost roughly $16 million.  Under the Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act (SB 253 Wiener, 2023), the more than 5,300 companies operating in Califor­nia with revenues in excess of $1 billion annually would begin reporting their emissions data in 2026.  The Climate-Related Financial Risk Act (SB 261 Stern, 2023) requires the roughly 10,000 companies doing business in California with gross annual revenues in excess of $500 million, excluding insurance companies, to begin reporting on their climate-related financial risk every two years, starting in 2026.

Much work and many hours of negotiation between the Governor’s Office, the legislature, and key stake­holders will reshape the details of the 2024-25 budget before the June 15 – July 1 closing period for completing the final budget.