The Air Resources Board on Friday approved a sweeping regulation requiring all medium- and heavy-duty trucks sold in 2036 to incorporate zero-emission engines. Companies with truck fleets of 50 or more must convert all those vehicles to zero-emissions by 2042.

The agency passed a regulation in 2020 requiring half of all heavy-duty trucks sold in the state to be ZEV by 2035. But Gov. Gavin Newsom, incensed by the unprecedented and destructive 2020 wildfire season, ordered CARB back to the drawing board to make this regulation and others more aggressive and to put California back in the national lead for clean energy mandates.

CARB’s board members agreed the new Advanced Clean Fleets rule would be considerably more disruptive than its ban on gas-powered passenger vehicles. The technology and costs are still evolving for zero-emission long-haul trucks and uncertainty lingers over how quickly the state’s energy grid operators can ramp up the electricity supply in time while rapidly installing high-powered chargers throughout the state. The ruling affects 1.8 million trucks operating in California.

Board members were confident the many issues raised during multiple lengthy hearings on the proposal—along with various stakeholder workgroups and countless individual meetings—would be addressed in the implementation process for the regulation.

Chris Shimoda, senior vice president of government affairs at the California Trucking Association, testified during the hearing that the regulation is not feasible for several reasons. He urged the board to limit it to trucks well-suited for electrification, such as drayage trucks that can return to a docking station for overnight charging. He pointed to the staff analysis indicating the state needs more than 300 DC fast chargers installed every week. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach need more than 100 megawatts by 2025 to meet the charging demand, though the state is uncertain how many projects are in the works.

Shimoda called it unfair to the truckers who will rely on retail infrastructure for charging but cannot access it to plug in their trucks.

Similarly, Chris McGlothlin, who directs technical services for the Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA), expressed the existing difficulties with connecting to the electric grid in rural regions—and even some urban settings. One food processor runs on two natural gas engines while it waits years for Pacific Gas & Electric to connect their system. A grower has waited six years to add just 40 kilowatts of power. Another major processing facility has sought to replace four diesel motors with electric ones to reduce their emissions but their service provider will not be able to meet that demand for several years.

“All of these situations within our industry—and agriculture specifically—only mean that a rule like this will have severely negative impacts to the achievement of the rule,” said McGlothlin. “We’ve sat through plenty of these meetings where they said everything was fine. But in reality for our industry, we're constantly under delays.”

In a letter to the board, Manuel Cunha, president of the Nisei Farmers League, said his members who already face strict air quality regulations in the San Joaquin Valley are experiencing wait times up to 18 months for replacement parts and lower-emission tractors.

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Jacob DeFant, public policy coordinator at the Agricultural Council of California, feared the regulation would create a cost burden on producers and deepen a competitive disadvantage with other states. DeFant added that the specialty vehicles used on farms are untested for ZEV models and farmers would wait up to an additional three years for first-generation models.

Taylor Roschen, lobbying on behalf of rice, citrus and fresh fruit growers, added that such burdens will drive more farms out of state. She pushed for the regulators to work with the Newsom administration and lawmakers to appropriate funding to support ZEV adoption in the agriculture community.

Katie Little, a policy advocate for the California Farm Bureau, worried the added charge time, along time for farmers to travel to charging sites, would disrupt the industry and jeopardize food security. She explained how pandemic disruptions led international consumers to seek new suppliers in different markets.

CARB will continue to consider all these issues as agency staff now embark on workgroup sessions specific to the issues of agriculture in the implementation of the Advanced Clean Fleets rule.

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