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An ambitious effort by the state of California to reduce air pollution by phasing out diesel-fueled trucks has been raising alarm in the trade community at the San Diego-Tijuana border.
Cross-border truckers and their clients say the Mexican side is not prepared to transition to zero emission vehicles. Mexico lacks zero-emission trucks, charging stations, regulations and programs to incentivize and fund such changes. They worry the transition will disrupt trade at Otay Mesa – the busiest commercial crossing on the California-Mexico border – drive up transportation costs, and cause companies to move away from the region.
“None of the Mexicans are going to be able to purchase zero-emission trucks and have an opportunity to charge them because the system is just not in place and they’re not even available in Mexico, period,” Alejandra Mier y Teran, executive director of the Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce, told me last week on the eve of the changes. The chamber has called the timeline for the changes “very aggressive.”
California’s new rules, known as the Advanced Clean Fleets Regulation, were approved unanimously Friday in Sacramento by the California Air Resources Board’s 14 voting board members, including San Diego County Supervisor Nora Vargas. They come more than two years after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the phase-out of gasoline-powered cars and trucks. His executive order in September 2020 charged CARB with developing regulations spelling out the transition for medium and heavy-duty diesel-burning vehicles to zero-emission vehicles by 2045.
Environmental groups and others say the effort is ground-breaking and will go far in reducing air pollution statewide. CARB says it’s “the world’s first mandate to end combustion truck sales and clear the air in communities with heavy truck traffic.”
But at Otay Mesa, home to the busiest commercial crossing on the California-Mexico border, business groups on both sides say the rules will be difficult if not impossible to implement, as zero-emission truck inventories are low and there is no network of charging stations.
The changes affect a key trade corridor, critical to the hundreds export-oriented maquiladora factories in Baja California. Mexico is California’s top export market, and most of the exports travel south by Mexican-operated trucks.
More than 90 percent of the cross-border trucking business on the California-Mexico border is performed by Mexican-domiciled motor carriers, according to a new report by the California Department of Transportation, the San Diego Association of Governments, and the Imperial County Transportation Commission. The issue has become one of international concern.
Baja California’s secretary of the economy and innovation, Kurt Honold, made a last-minute plea to board members for a delay last week, to no avail.
“We do not have comparable financial incentives, federal government programs, private enterprise resources and infrastructure,” he said. “Adopting the rules as is will have drastic inflationary impacts in California and major supply chain delays.”
Trucks are a major contributor to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and low-income communities located near freight corridors such as highways and ports are often the most vulnerable, suffering from high rates of asthma and cardio-pulmonary disease. In San Diego, residents of neighborhoods adjacent to the port of San Diego – such as Barrio Logan and west National City – have for years been adversely affected by pollution.
The transition “is critically important,” said Diane Takvorian, co-founder of the San Diego-based Environmental Health Coalition and a member of CARB. She spoke to me from Sacramento, as she was preparing to vote in favor of the new regulations. Cross-border carriers should not be exempt, she said. “They’re doing business in California, so they will have to comply.”
Vargas also praised the changes as she cast her vote: “Everyone deserves to breathe clean air no matter what your ZIP code is,” she said, adding that this “also means opening up a new binational dialogue around our shared climate goals with Mexico and Baja California. I think that’s critical as we’re moving forward.”
Full implementation of the Advanced Clean Fleets rules will take time. But one provision affecting trucks entering ports and rail yards – known as drayage trucks – is around the corner, and this has many cross-border trucking companies especially worried, said Mier y Teran of the Otay Mesa Chamber: By January 2024, only zero-emission trucks can be added to CARB’s drayage registry.
Despite CARB’s approval of the new rules, this is an issue that’s not going away anytime soon.
A recent report from University of California Riverside and UC’s Alianza MX said the regulations will not only affect carriers and logistics companies in the border region, “but could eventually impact trade, border infrastructure, and even vehicle manufacturing, particularly in Mexico.” The transition “is a crucial topic of the U.S.-Mexico agenda,” the report stated.
CARB member Takvorian told me the changes are inevitable and necessary, and that many of the affected companies will be eligible for financial assistance to make the transition to zero-emission trucks. “These are vehicles that are serving or owned by U.S. companies,” she said. “So let’s get those truckers the benefits and the incentives that they need.”
Diplomatic news: Mexico’s Consul General in San Diego, Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez, is preparing to transfer to Los Angeles in the coming weeks to lead the Mexican Consulate General there. It is the largest Mexican consulate in the United States, and larger in size and personnel than the Mexican Embassy in Washington, DC.
Since 2019, Gonzalez Gutierrez has worked on key bilateral issues at the San Diego-Tijuana border, including cross-border sewage contamination, the future toll Otay Mesa East crossing and a binational effort to vaccinate 26,414 maquiladora workers from Baja California against Covid-19 in May and June 2021.
This will not be Gonzalez Gutierrez’s first time in Los Angeles, as he previously worked at the consulate there as consul for community affairs. In the late 1980s, he earned a master’s degree in international relations from University of Southern California.
His replacement is Alicia Kerber. Since 2019, she has been head of the Mexican Consulate in Houston. Her previous postings have included Colombia, Honduras, Ireland and in the U.S., Philadelphia and Kansas City.
Kerber is a law graduate from Universidad Iberoamericana, with a master’s and doctorate in law from Mexico’s National Autonomous University.
Friendship Park: With construction of a new U.S. border fence near the Pacific Ocean at Friendship Park underway since March, opponents are continuing actions to stop the project. Among the activities planned this month are a Mother’s Day’s demonstration on May 14. On May 21, they are planning the annual Fandango Fronterizo, a day of son jarocho music from southern Mexico played at the border fence.
San Diego security guard arrested in Tijuana: A private security guard from San Diego has been behind bars since March 23, when he was arrested after driving into Tijuana with his firearm. Rodney Danzler Jr.’’s mother has said her son was driving to visit a friend in Chula Vista when he missed the last U.S. exit and crossed the border by mistake. The family has opened a GoFundMe account for his legal defense.NBC-7 San Diego.
Border Report is a newsletter that appears every other week with the aim of shedding light on issues and events on the San Diego-Tijuana border. If you appreciate the information and insights you find here, please consider subscribing to the newsletter and donating to Voice of San Diego. Please send news tips, suggestions, remarks to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is happening In USA is terrible. I think they stop the Border and clining there mess. Tolk to Mexico president. Is light about the drugs
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