Ready to End Air Pollution and Pushback on Climate Change Too?

The South Coast Air Quality Management District’s Legislative Committee has been discussing a draft expenditure plan for implementing its 2016 Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP)—expenditures that may be included in a 4-county ballot measure. This plan is a lot like what we believe such a ballot measure should include: It would provide significant incentives for zero-emission cars, transit and port equipment, as well as zero and near-zero emission trucks, off-road equipment, ships and aircraft. This is a plan that would be an excellent foundation for any ballot measure to clean the air and pushback on climate change.

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We’ve been talking with the SCAQMD and others for months about this idea, which would fully and finally finish the job of cleaning SoCal's air. The big air quality challenge for the SCAQMD and for all of us is emissions from diesel vehicles and equipment—and that is where a lot of the proposed funding would go.

Local agencies like the Air District cannot regulate emissions from heavy-duty diesel trucks because they are regulated by the federal government, so the only way to leverage real change is by incentivizing truck operators—many of whom are small-time businesses with 1-3 trucks—to buy cleaner trucks.

We are very pleased that the SCAQMD's vision for this ballot measure is so visionary! The most likely date for this measure is now November 2022—Vision 2022 anyone?

The SCAQMD meeting came just a few weeks after Move LA convened a large group of stakeholders—former mayors from all 4 counties, labor leaders, major environmental organizations, engineering companies and advocates for clean energy, clean vehicles, public health and active transportation—to talk about a possible regional measure. After 3 hours of conversation and questions, everyone at the table bought in.

The bill that would authorize the measure, SB 732 by Senator Ben Allen, awaits action in Senate, where it must pass Appropriations by Jan. 31 and then go to the Assembly, where it must pass by Aug. 31 and then be signed by Gov. Newsom.

Such a ballot measure would be a very big deal: It could double the investments the State of California is already making in clean vehicles, and Southern California is such a big market that the demand could prompt manufacturers to scale up production, which could create economies of scale that bring costs down. This could mean that clean vehicles and equipment become cost competitive with their diesel and gasoline counterparts, enhancing national and even international deployment—which really could be a dramatic push-back on climate change.

And here’s the secret sauce: If this becomes a voter initiative (and not just a measure placed on the ballot by a government agency), and enough signatures are collected to get the measure on the ballot, it may require a simple majority vote instead of a super-majority of two-thirds!

The discussion about what exactly the measure would fund is not over. We want to encourage SB 732 to allow funding for investments beyond the AQMP—to include GHG emission reduction strategies, and funding for a zero-emission Metrolink regional commuter rail system, as well as for clean transit and active transportation in all 4 counties. That funding would not only help clean our air, it would also help reduce traffic and create thousands of good-paying jobs that help support local economies.

We believe including such expenditures would make the measure more attractive to voters, and expand the coalition that supports the measure to include engineering and construction firms as well as organized labor. A larger coalition will be important if $3 million has to be raised to fund a signature drive to get the measure on the ballot.

Here's something else everyone should know: This measure would cost voters less than a dime a day. All 4 counties have passed transportation measures by super majorities in the past, and early polling has shown a measure like this could win.

Moreover, a SoCal ballot measure may be the only way to actually achieve clean air—not to mention push back climate change—because there is no other funding source of this magnitude! The state is providing funding incentives, but not nearly enough to implement the AQMP. A ballot measure would provide a much more reliable funding stream over a longer time period (20 or 30 years, for example) than either the state or federal government can guarantee—because they have to include the funding in their budgets every year and priorities change depending on who is elected to office.

Are you in? Please contact us with your questions and/or comments!

P.S. Why 2022 not 2020? We believe, as Virgil said, that fortune favors the bold. But building support for an ambitious 4-county ballot measure—there has never been one in SoCal—unavoidably takes time.


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