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June 1, 2016  |  Written by Brenda C. Bass

Air Resources Board Releases Draft California Sustainable Freight Action Plan

On May 19, 2016, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) released a discussion draft of its California Sustainable Freight Action Plan (Freight Plan), which is the first step to California’s movement toward a zero-emission freight transportation system. The Freight Plan makes recommendations on setting goals and targets for 2030 and 2050, and on pilot programs for more efficient freight transportation, among other tasks. The Freight Plan is a joint effort between multiple state agencies (the ARB, California State Transportation Agency, Natural Resources Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency, California Department of Transportation [CalTrans], California Energy Commission, and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development) to implement Governor Brown’s July 2015 Executive Order B-32-15, which aims to “improve freight efficiency, transition to zero-emission technologies, and increase competitiveness of California’s freight system.”

The Freight Plan makes recommendations to the Governor and state agencies about how to invest and craft policies related to the freight industry. As a recommendation document, the Freight Plan is not a regulation. However, it does provide insight to the kinds of programs or policies that agencies might adopt as regulations.

The Freight Plan includes numeric efficiency targets for the three main goals of the Executive Order: efficiency, emissions reduction, and economic growth. For system efficiency, the numeric target is to improve efficiency such that the value of goods transported and services produced by the freight industry will increase by 25 percent, relative to the amount of carbon produced, by 2030. The freight industry is defined as transportation by air, rail, truck, and pipeline, as well as support activities for such transportation, and warehousing and storage. Progress toward this target will be measured through a calculation comparing the gross domestic product attributable to the freight sector and the emissions generated by that sector.

The target set for the transition to zero-emission technologies is to deploy at least 100,000 freight vehicles and other equipment capable of zero-emission operation by 2030 and, concurrently, maximize the number of near zero-emission freight vehicles and renewable energy-powered equipment. The Freight Plan assumes that regulatory or other incentives will increase the availability of these vehicles and equipment.

Finally, for economic growth, the target is to develop and implement state policies and programs that encourage efficiency and best business practices in the freight industry in California.

The Freight Plan also includes goals for affected state agencies to achieve over the next five years. These actions include planning for “modern freight corridors” (i.e., infrastructure for electric charging stations for heavy duty vehicles and infrastructure for hydrogen fuel cell refueling), and making improvements to existing corridors as feasible to relieve traffic congestion. For rail and air freight transportation, the Freight Plan includes actions focused on rail efficiency and air freight safety improvements. Many of these actions contemplate creating incentives for making changes and advancing technology. The Freight Plan also includes a stakeholder participation process to better gather data on the freight system’s competitiveness, and to assist in marketing campaigns.

The Freight Plan also includes several pilot programs to achieve goals in the nearer future. These programs include:

  • Using dairy biogas generated at a cluster of dairies in Kern County as natural gas fuel for freight vehicles in the San Joaquin Valley. This project may include a commercial-grade compressed natural gas fueling station, supplied by the gas produced at the nearby dairies.
  • Using advanced technology along major truck corridors in Southern California, which would include eco-routing and traffic monitoring as well as efforts to incentivize zero-emission technologies.
  • Using advanced technology for border crossings at Mexico border, focusing on traffic management and eco-routing, as well as border crossing planning collaborations.

The Freight Plan also provides opportunities for agencies and stakeholders to explore other actions or programs not specifically named in the Freight Plan.

The Freight Plan is available online at http://www.casustainablefreight.org/. Comments on the draft plan will be accepted through July 6, 2016 via the Freight Plan’s website. For more information on the Freight Plan, please contact Brenda Bass at bbass@somachlaw.com.

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