Cruising the San Francisco Bay on a new plug-in hybrid ferry, Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday evening signed more than a dozen environmental bills that aim to boost the electric vehicle market, particularly among poor Californians, and reinforce the state’s fight against climate change.
The laws will force ride-hailing companies to embrace fleets that emit less carbon dioxide and provide additional incentives to customers who may only be able to afford an electric car on the used market.
With nearly half of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions coming from the transportation sector, California has made significant investments to encourage adoption of “zero-emission vehicles,” including expanding the network of charging stations and providing rebates that lower the price of new cars by thousands of dollars.
Brown in 2012 committed the state to putting 1.5 million clean cars on the road by 2025 — and earlier this year, he raised that goal to 5 million by 2030. Automakers have sold about 380,000 zero-emission vehicles in California since 2011.
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“Whether we travel by car, bus, or boat the need to move to zero-emission transportation is urgent. These bills will help get more clean cars on the road and reduce harmful emissions,” Brown said in a statement.
The captain of the ferry, called the Enhydra, gifted Brown with a piece of the hull in honor of its maiden voyage. As the boat rode under the Bay Bridge, Brown and half a dozen lawmakers gathered at the bow, battling whipping winds and choppy waters to celebrate their legislation.
Brown declined to discuss how the experience compared to other signing ceremonies from his four terms as governor: “Comparisons are odious,” he said.
Among the 16 measures he signed were:
▪ Senate Bill 1014, by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, which gives state regulators authority to establish emissions reduction targets for ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. The bill originally would have required the companies to provide all of their rides in zero-emission vehicles by 2029, but it was scaled back amid opposition from the tech industry.
▪ Assembly Bill 2885, by Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, D-Pomona, which directs the state to prioritize low-income applicants for electric vehicle rebates.
▪ Senate Bill 957, by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, which allows low-income Californians to obtain carpool lane stickers for clean cars bought secondhand.
▪ Assembly Bill 193, by Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes, D-Riverside, which provides rebates for replacement batteries and fuel cells in used vehicles.
▪ Senate Bill 1013, by Lara, which adopts an Obama administration rule, thrown out in federal court, that phases out certain climate pollutants used in refrigeration.
▪ Assembly Bill 3232, by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glenda, which directs the state to study the potential for a reducing greenhouse gas emissions from residential and commercial buildings to at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
Brown is hosting a climate change summit in San Francisco this week to encourage regional policymakers and businesses to step up their efforts where federal governments have been slow to act.
Earlier in the day, he slammed the environmental record of President Donald Trump, who withdrew from the international Paris Agreement on greenhouse gas emissions last year and has moved to undo other regulations put in place by the Obama administration. Brown said history would remember Trump as a “liar, criminal, fool—pick your choice.”
“It all depends how long he’s around and how much damage he can do,” Brown said.
Outside, hundreds of protesters calling for an end to oil drilling disputed Brown’s own achievements and the purpose of the summit, which they said promoted “false solutions” at the expense of local communities that are bearing the brunt of climate change’s impact.
Some environmental activists accuse Brown of being too closely tied to the oil industry. They sharply criticize his reluctance to limit oil production in California, which they argue would do more to benefit the environment and emissions reduction goals than policies Brown has favored, like cap-and-trade.
“Symbolic measures, we’re beyond that,” said Antonio Díaz, organizational director of the San Francisco-based People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Justice (PODER). Demonstrators marched by with signs that read, “Gov. Brown: Climate leaders don’t drill.”
Brown, at two press conferences, repeatedly dismissed the characterizations. He noted that his administration is studying ways to reduce oil consumption in the state by half, which he called the “real challenge.”
“There’s no one thing. There’s many, many things,” Brown said, adding later, “Without a doubt, California has the most aggressive green energy plans in the Western Hemisphere.”