Atmosphere-Friendly California Legislation in 2021

(This is the second in our series of three articles on 2021 California legislation. The first is on whether 2021 will be the year California’s Legislature moves forward on transportation policies.)

California is blessed this year with a bumper crop of bills that would significantly reduce air and climate pollution. Here are some of the bills Coalition for Clean Air is supporting:

Taking on the Big Polluters

A fracked oil well less than 1,200 feet from Sequoia Elementary School in Kern County. Photo credit: Brooke Anderson

Sen. Scott Wiener has never been afraid to author controversial bills, and this year he has two that are likely to attract long lists of both supporters and opponents. SB 260, the Climate Corporate Accountability Act, would require public and private US-based corporations who do business in CA to publicly disclose their full carbon footprint and publicly commit to emission reduction targets. SB 467, End Fracking and Dangerous Drilling, jointly authored with Sen. Monique Limón, would ban the worst types of oil and gas extraction and require 2500-foot buffer zones to protect humans from new and modified drilling permits. The bill reflects a growing recognition that being a global leader against climate change means that California must also protect front-line communities from the adverse health impacts of fossil-fuel production and plan for a just transition for those communities and the workers employed in the oil and gas industry.

Electrifying Transportation

When that oil is burned in vehicles, it accounts for 80% of California’s air pollution; fortunately, the technology for cars, buses and trucks that run on electricity — from both batteries and fuel cells — has advanced to the point that clean movement of people and goods is on the horizon. A number of bills would bring us closer to that era of exhaust-free transportation.

AB 970, authored by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty and sponsored by Coalition for Clean Air and Electrify America, would streamline the process of permitting charging stations for battery-electric vehicles. A recent report by the Energy Commission found that the state needs to do much more to install charging infrastructure, but many local governments are dragging their feet. The Governor’s Office of Business Development reports that most of California’s cities and counties have not streamlined their permitting processes, even though it’s required by law.

Mr. McCarty also has a bill, AB 1218, that would require car manufacturers to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of the new vehicles they sell in California. Carmakers that fall short would pay penalties into an Equitable Access to Zero-Emissions Vehicles Fund, which would enable lower-income drivers to buy clean cars. CCA, as a leader of the Charge Ahead California campaign, has for many years been working to provide clean mobility to all Californians.

AB 1346 aims to address a dominant source of smog-forming pollution: small engines like lawn and garden equipment

Freshman Senator Dave Min is getting out ahead of technological progress with SB 500, which would assure that all autonomous vehicles would emit no pollution. This is a very smart policy, because automation of internal combustion cars would drive emissions up by making more trips possible.

Trucking without Diesel Fumes

Legislators are seeking to help not only cars, but trucks, to transition away from petroleum. SB 372, by Senator Connie Leyva, would help truck fleets finance that transition away from petroleum, and AB 1110, by Assemblymember Robert Rivas, would assist public agencies like school and transit districts in moving to zero-emission fleets. SB 542, by Senator Limón, and AB 365, by Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, would lower sales taxes for the lowest-polluting heavy-duty trucks.

Relief from those Noisy, Smelly Leaf Blowers and Lawn Mowers

Shockingly, the smog-forming emissions from small off-road engines like lawn and garden equipment are higher than from all the cars in California. Assemblymember Marc Berman’s AB 1346 would tell the Air Resources Board that it’s time to phase out sales of the gas-powered versions in favor of much cleaner – and quieter — electric alternatives.

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