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Brown signs bill to urge more drivers into eco-friendly vehicles

Gov. Jerry Brown OKs financial incentives and perks to entice consumers to buy eco-friendly vehicles

Seeking to put more California drivers in electric cars, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Sunday providing financial incentives and other perks to entice consumers to buy the environmentally friendly vehicles.

The push for low-emission cars, combined with the governor's approval of climate-conscious measures such as one to encourage residential solar energy use, comes days before he is set to appear at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City, where he is expected to tout the state's efforts to combat climate change.

"We face an existential challenge with the changes in our climate," Brown said in a video message released Sunday. "The time to act is now. The place to look is California. We're not finished, but we sure are setting the pace."

One measure Brown approved Sunday sets a goal of placing at least 1 million zero-emission vehicles and near-zero-emission vehicles on the road in California by Jan. 1, 2023.

The legislation, by state Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), directs the state Air Resources Board to draft a financial plan to meet that goal and make sure that disadvantaged communities can participate.

The board will change its clean-vehicle rebate program to provide an extra credit for low-income drivers who wish to buy or lease an electric car. It also will provide assistance to car-sharing programs in low-income neighborhoods and install electric vehicle charging stations in apartment buildings in those communities.

Low-income residents who agree to scrap older, more polluting cars will also get clean-vehicle rebates on top of existing payments for junking smog-producing vehicles under the legislation, SB 1275.

"I'm excited that California is charging ahead with plans to have electric vehicles in every ZIP Code across the state," De León said in a statement Sunday. "We're going to lead the way in the fight against climate change by putting a million EVs on the roads, which means making them affordable to all drivers, not just the wealthy."

Brown also signed a measure that will increase the number of plug-in vehicles that can use carpool lanes at all times.

AB 2013 by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) raises the cap on the Green Sticker program, which allows electric vehicles in carpool lanes regardless of occupancy, from 55,000 to 70,000 cars.

Brown had signaled his desire to expand the use of electric vehicles in his State of the State Address in January, when he asserted, "We're on our way to a million electric vehicles."

The existing programs are funded through surcharges on vehicle registration fees, a portion of vessel registration fees and a portion of the statewide Smog Abatement Fee, which is charged to some vehicle owners.

The governor also tapped $200 million from the state's cap-and-trade pollution reduction program this year to pay for incentives for consumers and others to buy and develop technology for zero- and near-zero-emission passenger vehicles, clean buses and trucks.

The money will provide rebates to consumers who buy low-emission vehicles and funds for businesses and local government agencies that develop and buy technology to clean emissions from heavy-duty freight vehicles.

But his administration's efforts to bolster manufacturing of such vehicles suffered a blow this month when electric car maker Tesla opted to locate its new battery factory in Nevada. The governor and lawmakers lobbied to host the plant in California but balked at the high cost of tax breaks and other incentives that Tesla sought.

Brown signed additional bills Sunday that will:

•Require the state Air Resources Board to develop a strategy for reducing short-lived pollutants, including black carbon, methane and tropospheric ozone. Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) introduced SB 605.

•Establish a program to fund technology for zero- and near-zero-emission trucks, buses and off-road vehicles. "This bill establishes an important program to reduce emissions from the highest-polluting vehicles in the state," Brown said in a signing message for SB 1204, also by Lara.

•Require cities and counties to establish an expedited permitting process for small residential rooftop solar panels. That bill, AB 2188, is by Muratsuchi.

•Create a state database of city, county and regional plans to deal with rises in sea level. Assemblyman Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park) introduced AB 2516.

Brown also signed a partnership agreement with China's Guangdong Province to increase trade and investment between the two parties. The pact, also signed by Zhu Xiaodan, governor of the province, additionally pledged joint initiatives in clean energy, tourism and technological innovation.

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