Environmental Law

Envt'l Law News Spring 2020, Vol. 29, No. 1

A CASE FOR REGULATORY AND BUDGETARY APPROACHES THAT MAXIMIZE PRIVATE INVESTMENT IN ZERO EMISSION EQUIPMENT TO SOLVE CALIFORNIA’S HEAVY-DUTY TRANSPORTATION POLLUTION CHALLENGE

by Timothy O’Connor* and Katharine Johnstone**

I. INTRODUCTION

California has long suffered from poor air quality. In the years preceding the COVID-19 crisis, vehicles in California burned about 19 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel every year, making transportation a main contributor to the state’s air pollution burden.1 As the economy rebounds, without an abundance of alternative fueled vehicles and alternative mobility options, fuel use is expected to rebound as well. One of the most toxic components of transportation pollution is diesel exhaust, a mix of gaseous and solid particles that is released from equipment like trucks, buses, ships and trains.

Over the last several decades, the state has promulgated some of the most comprehensive diesel exhaust reduction policies in the nation, has spent more public dollars than any other state to solve the problem, and as a result, has seen dramatic improvements in air quality.2 However, even with the reductions observed, diesel exhaust still significantly impacts California communities up and down the state, and in urban areas where shipping and goods movement operations are concentrated, diesel pollution is a contributor to the state’s non-attainment with federal and state ambient air quality standards. Further, diesel exhaust contains carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that impacts the climate.

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