Changing the world, one electric truck at a time

Your guide to California policy and politics
Lynn La BY Lynn La May 1, 2023
Presented by Earthjustice, Dairy Cares, Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership and Southern California Gas Company

Changing the world, one electric truck at a time

Now that California has opted to phase out diesel trucking, the state will find out in the years to come which was right: the aspirations of environmentalists or the warnings of the trucking industry. 

On Friday the California Air Resources Board unanimously voted to ban the sale of new diesel big rigs, delivery and garbage trucks by 2036 and to require large fleets to reach 100% zero-emissions by 2042. The first-in-the-world move is as ambitious as it is controversial, according to CalMatters’ environmental reporter Nadia Lopez. While environmentalists cheered the board’s decision to loosen the diesel industry’s grip on the economy, truckers anticipated “economic chaos and dysfunction.”

  • Gideon Kracov, air board member and environmental lawyer: “Ten years from now, when we look back to this day…we can say that California has changed the world. We can say that California did this right.”
  • Jim Verburg, spokesperson for the Western States Petroleum Association: “We do not want to see this regulation compromise the delivery of essential goods and services to Californians or compromise the state’s economy.”

The decision will impact about 1.8 million trucks in California. In addition to cleaner air, especially for residents living near ports, railways, freeways and warehouses, the board calculated as much as $48 billion in economic savings for fleet operators, as well as $26 billion saved in health impacts over the lifespan of the rule.

But the expensive upfront costs and tight deadlines for trucking companies make the practicalities of implementing the board’s decision difficult. 

Diesel-powered engines are highly efficient and can carry heavy loads across long distances. Electric models, on the other hand, currently cost more than twice a diesel truck (a Tesla semi is about $250,000) and take hours to charge. They also can’t yet travel the long ranges necessary to move goods as quickly — an issue compounded by the state’s lack of a robust charging network.

California has more than 80,000 chargers. An additional 17,000 are to be installed, but the state will need 1.2 million for the 7.5 million electric vehicles expected on the roads by 2030.

Then there’s the issue of power: During the hot summer months, Californians are all too familiar with the rolling blackouts that try to cut down on the state’s energy consumption. As Nadia first reported in January, the state must triple its power-generation capacity if it wants to electrify vehicles and other sectors of the economy. But state officials said they were confident that the 12.5 million passenger cars and trucks hitting California roads by 2035 will not strain the grid. 

In response to these concerns, the board said it will revisit the rule as it rolls out, and scheduled a check-in on zero-emission truck availability and charging infrastructure by the end of 2025.

Electric vehicle primer: New from our engagement team — a version of our electric vehicle explainer, especially made for libraries and community groups, as part of the CalMatters for Learning initiative. Topics already featured: Wage theft, water and state government.


CalMatters covers the Capitol: CalMatters has you covered with guides to keep track of your lawmakers, explore its record diversity, make your voice heard and understand how state government works. We also have Spanish-language versions for the Legislature’s demographics and the state government explainer.


1 Can CA regulate social media, legally?

Facebook employees take a photo in front of the new Meta sign at the company headquarters in Menlo Park on Oct. 28, 2021. Photo by Tony Avelar, AP Photo
Facebook employees at the Meta company headquarters in Menlo Park on Oct. 28, 2021. Photo by Tony Avelar, AP Photo

A robust body of research finds that social media platforms surface content harmful to young people. But a California bill that would ban companies from doing just that could encounter a couple of legal roadblocks.

As CalMatters’ economic reporter Grace Gedye explains, state Sen. Nancy Skinner wants to ban social media companies such as Instagram and TikTok from showing users under the age of 18 content that leads them to develop eating disorders, “inflict harm on themselves or others or become addicted to the platform.” Companies would also be prohibited from showing young people content that gives information on how to die by suicide, or content that would facilitate the illegal purchase of guns or controlled substances.

Besides facing opposition from the social media companies themselves, the Oakland Democrat’s proposal would have to withstand the constraints of the First Amendment, which generally protects the “editorial decisions” of publishers. Just as newspapers can decide their front page layout, so too social media platforms have been able to decide how to display and promote their content.

A federal law also shields tech companies from any legal fallout over content posted by their users. Skinner counters that her bill would hold companies accountable for their own products — the features and algorithms they design — not user content.

Measures to regulate social media platforms have failed before. In 2021, state lawmakers killed proposals that would require companies to disclose retouched photos or report obscene content. An earlier version of Skinner’s bill also died last year. She remains hopeful, however, citing new laws in some other states to rein in social media companies, and increased awareness. California enacted a law last year to expand online privacy protections for users under 18.

2 Lineage debate takes center stage

A Reparations Task Force Meeting during the public comments section at San Diego State on Jan. 28, 2023. Photo by Ariana Drehsler, CalMatters
A Reparations Task Force Meeting during the public comments section at San Diego State on Jan. 28, 2023. Photo by Ariana Drehsler, CalMatters

From Wendy Fry of CalMatters’ California Divide team:

The debate over who would be eligible for reparations took center stage at a listening session in San Diego on Saturday. 

The Coalition for a Just and Equitable California and San Diego City Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe, one of nine state-appointed members of the Reparations Task Force, hosted the event. The task force studied the history of slavery and anti-Black racism in California and is slated to recommend possible reparations by July 1.

In March 2022, the task force voted to limit potential compensation to descendants of free and enslaved Black people who were in the United States in the 19th century, narrowly rejecting a proposal to include all Black people regardless of lineage.

Chelsey Birgisdóttir asked the group Saturday how the U.S. is being defined in the eligibility criteria, and if U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands would be included in that definition.

Chad Brown, a member of the coalition, said reparations for Black Americans do not diminish the harm done to other people around the globe. 

  • Brown: “I think we, collectively, as Americans have to understand that just because Black Americans get reparations does not mean that other groups cannot petition for reparations.”

Cheryl Grills, a task force member who voted against the lineage requirement, explained in an interview with CalMatters last month that she is concerned about children who cannot identify their lineage because they are raised in foster care or by a single parent. Also, all Black people, regardless of lineage, can face racism and discrimination in California, she said. 

  • Grills: “If the police officer pulls someone over, and they’re in a bad mood, and they’re going to do their thing. They’re not going to say ‘Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Before I beat you down, let me make sure — are you a direct descendant or are you an immigrant?'” 

The task force is scheduled to meet again next Saturday, May 6, at Lisser Hall in Oakland.

3 Forcing cities to house the homeless

Muhammad, who declined to provide his last name, warms his hands at a fire next to his tent in Sacramento. Feb. 24, 2022. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters
Muhammad, who declined to provide his last name, warms his hands at a fire next to his tent in Sacramento. Feb. 24, 2022. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

As pressure ratchets up on California to remedy one of its most visible and confounding crises, state and local officials are squaring off over who should be held responsible, and therefore pay up, for combating homelessness.

As CalMatters’ homelessness reporter Marisa Kendall reports, the state already requires cities and counties to plan for 2.5 million new homes over the next eight years. But because there is no current provision for cities and counties to consider its homeless residents, a new bill would require them to plan enough beds for its unhoused population.

Some parts of the bill still need to be ironed out: The type of homeless housing required is unspecified — whether they be permanent apartments, temporary shelters or a mix of both. And if cities and counties don’t comply, it’s not clear what the penalties would be. 

The measure, authored by state Sen. Catherine Blakespear, a Democrat from Encinitas, is backed by housing advocates and has some tentative support from mayors in big cities,  where the housing crunch is especially acute. Los Angeles County has 69,000 homeless residents and a little over 21,000 beds in shelters and temporary housing programs; Sacramento County has 9,300 unhoused residents and 3,000 temporary beds. 

  • Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, in an emailed statement: “The final details in the bill matter, but any bill that moves the state and cities closer to making housing and services for the homeless a mandatory obligation for government is a step in the right direction.”

With a looming state budget deficit of at least $22.5 billion and much state-mandated housing still to be constructed, critics wonder how these housing initiatives would be funded.


CalMatters Commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Just as rules changes in sports can affect the final score, three bills would affect what happens to local and state ballot measures.

Gov. Newsom should keep Chuckawalla Valley State Prison open and instead shutter the California Rehabilitation Center in Riverside County, write Blythe Mayor Joey DeConinck and Norco Mayor Robin Grundmeyer.


Other things worth your time

Some stories may require a subscription to read

Projected losses from a major California earthquake soar. Here’s why // Los Angeles Times

Tech-rooted groups seek to shake up San Francisco politics // AP News

Many California hospitals are near wildfire danger zones, study says // The Washington Post

For CA teen, Medi-Cal coverage of early psychosis treatment a lifesaver // California Healthline

Newsom’s proposed cuts to CA foster program anger advocates // The Sacramento Bee

Two Escondido teachers sue district, state leaders on gender identity privacy policy // The San Diego Union-Tribune

Report shows just how bad traffic is in San Francisco with Uber, Lyft // SFGATE

Fed faults Silicon Valley Bank execs, itself in bank failure // AP News

TV and movie writers could go on strike Monday. Here’s what’s at stake. // LAist

First man wrongfully arrested by facial recognition testifies as CA weighs new bills // The Guardian

Lawsuit: California prisons illegally send prisoners’ info to ICE // San Francisco Chronicle

COVID detected in mule deer, first CA wildlife case // Los Angeles Times

S.F. drug dealing crackdown: Here’s when CHP officers will arrive // San Francisco Chronicle

See you tomorrow


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