California bill aligning climate goals with transportation funding vetoed

October 20, 2022

Keith Goble

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom has wielded his veto pen thwarting pursuit to align transportation funding with the state’s climate goals.

Emissions from the transportation sector are the state’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Despite statewide emission reduction efforts and targets that are described as “increasingly ambitious,” emissions continue to rise.

The bill, AB2438, called for requiring transportation funding programs to include strategies from the state’s Climate Action Plan for Transportation Infrastructure into program guidelines. Affected programs were the California Department of Transportation, California Transportation Commission, and California Transportation Agency.

Additionally, the bill required various state transportation entities to establish new transparency and accountability guidelines for certain transportation funding programs.

Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, said AB2438 requires the state’s largest transportation funding sources to incorporate the administration’s Climate Action Pan for Transportation Infrastructure into the guidelines process for project selection for transportation funding.

“We cannot ignore that a $30 billion sector of state funding is directly tied to 40% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions,” she wrote. “It is time for California to reassess our transportation funding and planning system to put people before the car.”

Critics said the bill would reduce the state’s transportation capacity at a time when California’s economy urgently needs freight movement and the legislature’s undivided support to execute recovery of the supply chain infrastructure.

Climate Action Plan

In 2019, Newsom issued the action plan via executive order. The plan calls for actions from the state agencies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Specifically, the executive order empowered the California Transportation Agency to leverage more than $5 billion in annual state transportation spending for construction, operations, and maintenance to help reverse the trend of increased fuel consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the transportation sector.

The executive order directed the California Transportation Agency to work to align transportation spending with the state’s Climate Change Scoping Plan, where feasible.

Governor explains veto action

Both chambers of the Democrat-led statehouse approved AB2438 by two-to-one margins. Despite the support from legislators, the Democratic governor cited redundancy for his bill veto.

“While I share the goal of addressing the impacts of the transportation sector on climate change, this bill is unnecessary,” Newsom wrote in his veto message.

He added that work is well underway at the affected agencies to align funding programs in the bill with the action plan.

“Linking these programs in statute to a specific iteration of this plan inhibits the state’s ability to appropriately respond to the evolution of the state’s response to climate change.”

Bill advocates say failure to put the requirement into statute could result in another governor or a new head of Caltrans losing interest in the state’s efforts to address the issue. LL

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Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.