California is using the growing sums of money it receives from its emission cap-and-trade auction for good, including to tackle up some of the state's most egregious transportation polluters.

In mid-December, California announced it would invest $663 million in a plan to clean up particularly dirty fleets, especially those operating in low-income and disadvantaged neighborhoods.

“This investment will continue to drive the market for new vehicle technologies," said California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols, "and put more ultra-clean and zero-emission trucks, buses and cars into the communities across California that need them the most."

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CARB said in its release, "While diesel trucks account for only 2 percent of vehicles in the state, they emit the majority of the smog-forming pollution, and two-thirds of all diesel soot."

To tackle that problem, the bulk of the funding plan—some $398 million—is aimed at incentives for fleets to replace older clean heavy-duty trucks, buses, and freight carriers.

Of that, $190 million will be used for advanced-technology freight-related investments; $188 million will go to promoting the sale of clean trucks and buses; and $20 million will subsidize loans for clean trucks.

Starcraft e-Quest XL electric school bus

Starcraft e-Quest XL electric school bus

The rest of the $663 million fund will go to passenger-vehicle and transportation-equity projects in the state.

This includes replacing school buses with cleaner models, scrappage programs to replace older high-emission vehicles with newer ones, and electric car-sharing projects in disadvantaged communities.

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It will also fund continuation of the state's considerable Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, which alone will receive a $140 million slice of the pie.

The state's emission cap-and-trade program won't be the sole source of funding for the initiatives.

1970s Los Angeles smog depicted in the Honda short film

1970s Los Angeles smog depicted in the Honda short film

Other sources include penalties from the Volkswagen Dieselgate settlement, the new Zero- and Near-Zero Emission Warehouse Program, and the state’s Air Quality Improvement Program.

California has been the U.S. pioneer in clean-air legislation for more than half a century, largely driven by the geographical accident of smog accumulating in the Los Angeles Basin—an issue that even Conquistadors complained about in their journals.

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While state agencies are more than willing to fund alternative transportation options, its legislators are also looking at further ways to clean up the air within the state.

Earlier this month, Assemblymember Phil Ting, a Democrat representing much of the Bay Area, introduced a bill that would ban the sale of fossil-fuel passenger cars in the state by 2040.


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