California Garbage Trucks Seek Electrification Exemption After Last Bad Gas Investment

Image:  Scott Olson (Getty Images)
Image: Scott Olson (Getty Images)

California is implementing a diesel engine ban that will kick in by the 2040s. Aside from the thousands of big rigs traversing the state’s roads and freeways, other vehicles like buses and garbage trucks would be affected by this ban as well. But waste companies are pushing for an exemption. The Sacramento Bee reports the cause is all because they once thought natural gas was the future.

In case you missed it:

Natural gas was once the California’s golden child, a clean way to better emissions. Vehicle fleets all over the state moved to the fuel. A big user of these were natural gas-powered garbage trucks. But scientific research over the years uncovered a dirty truth about natural gas: it wasn’t as clean as initially thought.


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But with the expectation of an electric transition for their fleets, many waste companies want an exemption. It started a few months back, when the California Air Resources Board extended the electric deadline for 200 trucks across the state. But as more waste companies started shouting, “Hey what about us?” that exemption exploded to 10,000 trucks.

Texas-based Waste Management was the loudest proponent that wanted an exemption for its fleet. The company was a big believer in natural gas. In a letter to the board, Alex Oseguera, Waste Management’s director of government affairs, mentioned how the company invested $2.5 billion in natural gas-powered trucks along with another $550 million to build its own in state fueling infrastructure for those trucks. The letter wanted the board to consider these past investments.

“...We believe that the final rule should be revised to consider and give credit to the large investments already made,” it read.

While some may get angry at the exemption, a representative of the board said that it was more to strike a balance due to the fact that waste companies would likely pass on the cost of investing in electric trucks onto their customers.

“I think the board basically said yeah, we do recognize this is a lot of investment at the same time and in early days, so giving a little more time is probably okay,” California Air Resources Board branch head Tony Brasil said.

Some groups are still pushing for natural gas-powered vehicles — mainly those backed by industries that have something to gain from it. Groups like the California Renewable Transportation Alliance, a group backed by Chevron and SoCal Gas, spoke in favor of the exemption because natural gas-powered trucks are a viable option when electric trucks aren’t readily available.

No matter the situation, though, waste companies are going to have a while to consider their options. The exemption would mean garbage trucks wouldn’t have to go electric until 2042.

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