Clean energy ideas must work for all Californians

By Jim Frazier, Special to CALmatters

Editor’s note: This commentary is a response to “When oil industry supports legislators, air quality suffers,” April 22, 2019.

Lobbyists who earn six figures working for elite environmental groups and their 1-percenter donors can afford to buy Teslas. But low and zero emission automobiles are still too pricey for most Californians.

I thought about that reality as I read the attack on me and other members of the New Dems Caucus by Kathryn Phillips, who heads Sierra Club California, for a bill that stalled in the Assembly Transportation Committee.

In fact, the Sierra Club California is responsible for the bill stalling.

Assembly Bill 40, sponsored by Sierra Club California, is a complex piece of legislation involving the eventual transition to zero-emission vehicles in California. It’s an important issue and should not be rushed.

All bills introduced in the Legislature go through an intensive evaluation process via committees. These committees have staff members who are experts and deeply experienced in their specific policy areas.

Part of this process includes committee members and their staff experts negotiating bill language with authors, who generally accept amendments suggested by committees.

On AB 40, staff of the Transportation Committee, which I chair, negotiated extensively with Sierra Club California’s author, Assemblyman Phil Ting of San Francisco.

The negotiations came down to a few words.

Committee staff and I were willing to compromise. But Sierra Club California, as the bill’s sponsor, would not meet the committee in the middle. Therefore, AB 40 became a two-year bill.

As chairman of the committee, I was disappointed the bill did not advance. But the author can move it forward next year, if he chooses.

Phillips also stated that as chair of the Transportation Committee I block “bills to advance clean transportation.”

This is simply false.

I authored AB 2061 last year, which clears the path for zero-emission and near-zero-emission large commercial trucks to start replacing gasoline and diesel fueled models in California.

So far this year, the committee has approved no fewer than five clean transportation bills that I recommended support and voted for in my committee, among them:

  • AB 1046 to add ambitious goals to the clean-energy Charge Ahead California Initiative.
  • AB 1418 to support shifting to zero emissions for school buses.

Earlier, the committee approved numerous other clean transportation bills:

  • AB 2127 to support the goal of putting at least 5 million zero-emission vehicles on California roads by 2030.
  • AB 1259 to help middle and low income families purchase electric vehicles.

As chair of the Transportation Committee, my objective has always been to take a practical approach to advancing transportation policy.

This includes ensuring we are all protected when the committee makes decisions that impacts California families financially.

We all want to move toward transitioning to a clean energy transportation future. But California can’t do it alone. The infrastructure must be developed nationally, guided by federal policy.

It doesn’t make sense to push Californians into vehicles that can’t be driven across state lines because the infrastructure isn’t there.

Phillips also accused me of having a “no-nonsense” style. She got this right. I’m big on common sense solutions that work for the majority of Californians.

Jim Frazier is a Democrat who represents Assembly District 11, in Solano, Contra Costa and Sacramento counties. [email protected] He wrote this commentary for CALmatters.

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