Capitol Alert

California Assembly encourages hybrids, punishes emissions cheaters

UC Davis professor and longtime green-car advocate Andy Frank talks to the media about his new Chevrolet Volt plug in hybrid car he leased at Hanlees Chevrolet in Davis Tuesday December 21, 2010.
UC Davis professor and longtime green-car advocate Andy Frank talks to the media about his new Chevrolet Volt plug in hybrid car he leased at Hanlees Chevrolet in Davis Tuesday December 21, 2010. aalfaro@sacbee.com

Seeking to curb climate-altering emissions from cars, the Assembly on Thursday passed bills to reward hybrid drivers and bolster penalties for air quality transgressions like those Volkswagen committed.

Plug-in hybrid vehicle drivers could continue shifting into the HOV lane under Assembly Bill 1964. The measure would extend beyond 2018 a program giving hybrid owners access to green stickers that allow them to use a lane otherwise reserved for cars with multiple passengers. The decals would remain available until hybrids comprised 8.6 percent of market share in California for two consecutive years.

“These stickers have been shown to incentivize the purchase of zero-emission vehicles,” said Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica.

Business-aligned Democrats objected to the bill, saying it would benefit wealthier Californians and clog carpool lanes at the expense of less affluent drivers. The measure went to the Senate on a 44-18 vote, with four Democrats voting against and another 11 Democrats withholding votes.

“Just because you can afford to buy a zero-emission vehicle does not mean the folks who carpool have to have a longer commute,” said Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino.

Just because you can afford to buy a zero-emission vehicle does not mean the folks who carpool have to have a longer commute.

Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino

Another climate-related bill that cleared the Assembly would expand the Air Resources Board's enforcement powers by increasing maximum fines for certain “mobile source” violations from $5,000 to $37,500. The bill followed revelations that Volkswagen committed such violations by installing devices in cars to cheat on emissions tests and then selling cars that don’t meet emissions standards.

Assembly Bill 1685 went to the Senate on a 47-26 vote, with one Democrat voting no and two declining to vote. No Republicans supported the bill.

“I think everyone can agree what Volkswagen did was egregious and wrong, said Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Plumas Lake, “but to change policy across the board in response to one issue” would not be justified.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert

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