California State Legislature OKs bills supporting NGV industry
The Legislature adjourned Aug. 31 after passing all the alternative fuel-friendly bills on the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition’s watch list. Two bills in particular represent major victories for green transportation and tear down barriers to NGV fleet expansion: AB 2061, the weight exemption bill co-sponsored by the Coalition, and SB 1440, for the creation of an in-state biomethane procurement program. The deadline for signing—or vetoing—bills is Sept. 30. Those that become law will take effect Jan. 1. “NGV industry stakeholders didn’t have to make substantive concessions,” said Coalition President Thomas Lawson. “And, unlike last year, none of the legislative members suggested any last-minute changes to the bills. “Considering the positive conversations we’ve had with Gov. Brown’s office, we expect him to sign these bills into law.” Policymakers have supported alternative-fuel funding mandates before, but in recent years they haven’t passed bills that benefit the NGV industry as directly as AB 2061 does. This weight-exemption rule, authored by Sen. Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay), allows a near-zero-emission or zero-emission vehicle to exceed California’s weight limits for heavy-duty trucks by as much as 2,000 pounds, allowing for the extra weight of natural gas fuel systems. This means fleets no longer have to haul less freight—and take a hit to the bottom line—in order to switch to cleaner fuels. Some policymakers questioned allowing heavier trucks on the road; however, the conflict wasn’t enough to stall the bill. With its passage, California will join 27 other states in codifying the federal weight exemption for clean trucks. SB 1440 (author: Assemblymember Ben Hueso, D-San Diego) requires the CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission) to establish a state program for renewable natural gas procurement by July 1, 2019. The goal is for gas corporations to collectively procure 32 billion cubic feet of biomethane across California annually. “Although the Coalition didn’t take a position on this bill, we’re pleased to see the Legislature pass laws that support the alternative fuels industry and that may help strengthen the state’s transportation markets,” said Lawson, praising the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas for its persistent advocacy for the bill.