California aims to put dirty trucks in rear-view mirror
California’s environmental regulators have been on a tear lately. Late last month, the California Air Resources Board introduced a new rule banning the sale of new gasoline-powered cars in California, starting in 2035.
This week, the board turned its regulatory gaze to the state’s fleet of big-rigs.
As CalMatters’ environment reporter Nadia Lopez writes, California aims to phase out the use of fossil-fuel burning medium- and heavy-duty trucks. The deadline: 2040.
Transportation is the state’s largest source of planet-warming emissions and trucks make up about a quarter of those tailpipe emissions nationwide. In addition, they’re also a prime source of smog and asthma-causing particulates that disproportionately choke the air of low-income neighborhoods in California.
California prides itself on being first to roll out aggressive climate policies and this is a worldwide first. That has truckers worried.
- California Trucking Association’s Chris Shimoda: “We’re flying blind into some pretty major questions about the practicality of actually implementing this rule.”
Not that California is short on aggressive climate policies. Today, Newsom signed a package of bills that a press release referred to as “some of the nation’s most aggressive climate measures in history.”
The signing ceremony in Solano County was “clean energy-powered,” no less.
- AB 1279 will put into state law the existing policy goal of reaching statewide “carbon neutrality” by 2045.
- SB 1020 will set benchmarks that the state electric grid has to hit before sourcing all of its power from renewable sources by 2045.
- SB 905 will require the Air Resources Board to come up with regulations for projects that capture, reuse and store carbon emissions.
- SB 1137 will ban the drilling of any new oil and gas wells within 3,200 feet of homes, schools, nursing homes and hospitals, effectively banning the activity from most developed areas in the state
You can keep tabs on the hot-button proposals that Newsom has and hasn’t signed with CalMatters’ updating tracker.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 10,354,899 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous report) and 94,747 deaths (+0.2%), according to state data now updated just once a week on Thursdays. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
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1 Eighteen billboards outside Sacramento, California
But Thursday, Gov. Newsom rolled out a very different kind of state tourism campaign: In seven states with complete or near-bans on abortions, the governor has rented 18 billboards touting California as a reproductive health care haven.
- The message in one billboard ad: “Need an abortion? California is ready to help.”
The billboards then direct drivers-by in Indiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas to visit a new state website that includes information about how to find a provider in California.
Side note: There are apparently no plans to erect a 19th billboard in Temecula, though a city councilmember proposed a ban on abortions in the Riverside County city on Tuesday.
These billboards are not funded by taxpayers, but by the governor’s reelection committee. Newsom campaign spokesperson Nathan Click said the total cost works out to roughly $100,000.
Evidently, the governor isn’t particularly concerned about his reelection chances. A statewide poll out this week found him leading his Republican opponent, state Sen. Brian Dahle, by 27 percentage points.
When news of this billboard gambit broke on Thursday, the California press corps was as surprised as anyone. The Washington Post, a newspaper with a nationwide readership, got the exclusive.
Though critics of the governor might call this grandstanding, at least the governor was only placing billboards in other states and not human beings.
This week, Republican Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas took credit for sending migrants from South America to liberal enclaves to the north in an apparent effort to penalize self-proclaimed “sanctuary” jurisdictions such as Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.
No such buses or planes have arrived in California yet, though it may be only a matter of time. Newsom responded by calling upon U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate his Republican counterparts for kidnapping, racketeering and civil rights violations.
- Newsom: “Clearly, transporting families, including children, across state lines under false pretenses is morally reprehensible, but it may also be illegal.”
2 ‘Eye-popping’ health costs
From CalMatters health reporter Ana B. Ibara:
Health care advocates took to Thursday’s Covered California board meeting to express their discontent with Gov. Newsom’s veto of a bill aimed at expanding financial assistance for people who buy health insurance from the state’s marketplace.
On Tuesday, Newsom rejected a bill by state Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento that would have required the state to use about $304 million to reduce cost-sharing, such as deductibles and copays, for people enrolled in a Covered California plan.
Some Californians who buy a standard plan could see their annual deductibles rise by $1,000 for a total of $4,750 in 2023. Pan’s bill would have helped reduce that cost, said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a sponsor of the bill.
- Wright: “That is an eye-popping number…What that means is someone who needs a hospital stay has to pay nearly $5,000 before their coverage kicks in.”
On Covered California plans, deductibles only apply to hospital and skilled nursing facilities admissions, and not to primary care or specialists visits, said James Scullary, a spokesperson for Covered California.
Pan’s bill would have directed the state to draw on the $304 million currently sitting in a reserve fund created in case that the federal government did not renew its enhanced premium subsidies. But with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, those federal subsidies were locked in for another three years.
That also means that the state’s subsidy reserves will go unused. In his veto message, Newsom said the purpose was “laudatory,” but said this new use of funds would be unsustainable in the long-term.
- Newsom: “Rather, the funds should be reserved to ensure that state-only premium subsidies are available again when they are most needed.”
Still, advocates say that because California requires people to be insured — or face a tax penalty — the state should be taking all available opportunities to make coverage more affordable.
More health news: If there’s one upside to living through a pandemic, it’s that it leaves us all better prepared for the next hyper-contagious illness — at least in theory. As Mallika Seshadri of CalMatters’ College Journalism Network explains, California’s colleges are applying the hard-learned lessons from COVID-19 to keep monkeypox in check on campus.
3 Deal and no deal
The governor, the state’s major ports and anyone who relies on goods shipped by rail (i.e. pretty much everyone) can rest a little bit easier after major rail companies and rail worker unions reached a tentative deal on Thursday.
That averts — at least for now — an economy-shuttering labor action that would have corked up California’s already constricted supply chains.
At last count at the Port of Los Angeles, 28,000 containers are now waiting for a train, 16,000 of which have been waiting for more than nine days, the Long Beach Post reported.
- Port executive director Gene Seroka: “Under normal conditions, that number should be zero.”
The state of industrial relations is not quite so kumbaya in Northern California. Negotiations between Kaiser Permanente and its mental health care workers resumed on Wednesday after nearly a month of brinkmanship.
They broke down almost immediately.
According to the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents Kaiser’s striking employees, the health care giant refused to consider its proposal to increase staffing, reduce therapist caseloads and cut the time that patients spend waiting for a follow-up appointment.
In a statement, Kaiser said it offered wage increases and tweaks to workload rules, but called the union’s primary demands unrealistic.
- Kaiser Permanente: “The union offered no formal proposal whatsoever that would demonstrate movement from its original position demanding therapists spend less time seeing patients.”
Today marks the 32nd day of the strike. The impasse has left patients across the Bay Area and the Central Valley unable to make behavioral health care appointments.
Shoring up the coastline: The governor should sign a bipartisan bill to establish the Ocean Corps to protect our coast and support workforce development for our most disenfranchised populations, write Katharyn O. Muñiz, CEO of the Orange County Conservation Corps, and Terry Tamminen, former secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency.
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