Before driving off in a new plug-in hybrid, Jose Mendoza watched with mixed feelings as his old pickup truck was crushed Wednesday morning on the west lawn of the Capitol.
“You never want to get rid of those old cars that helped you through the hard times,” he said. “I didn’t realize it was going to get emotional.”
Mendoza, a father of six from Stockton, is the first participant in a new California Air Resources Board program that aims to put clean cars in the hands of families in the poorest, most polluted parts of the state. Individuals in disadvantaged census tracts who make up to four times the federal poverty level will be able to trade in their pre-1994 models and receive as much as $12,000 toward the cost of a new or used fuel-efficient vehicle.
A $4.8 million pilot, expected to replace about 600 cars, is currently rolling out in the San Joaquin Valley and South Coast air districts. The Air Resources Board plans to expand the program, which is funded by cap-and-trade auction revenue, by about 10 times next year.
It’s an evolution of previous car trade-in programs, ensuring that the clunkers taken off the road are replaced by cleaner alternatives. About 80 percent of pollution in California comes from only 25 percent of vehicles, Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols noted.
“This really is a visionary program,” she said. “By going after the most polluting, oldest vehicles, we’re doing something that benefits the entire community, as well as the people who are involved in this effort.”
State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, who conceived the program as part of his plan to put a quarter of cap-and-trade revenue toward projects in low-income communities, held Mendoza’s 7-year-old daughter Faith in his arms as he led a countdown to the demolition.
Tackling climate change and pollution will require the involvement of the Central Valley and other parts of the state that often get overlooked, he said. “All Californians deserve clean air.”
Mendoza is particularly excited that he will be able to put the savings from lower fuel costs toward his remaining payments on the 2013 Toyota Prius. His old truck netted Mendoza about $9,000, more than a third of the car’s price.
“Nothing extra is going to come out of my pocket,” he said.