On Tuesday, October 18, leading environmental, health, and community leaders held a press conference at San Miguel Urgent Care in Huntington Park, CA, to announce the ballot measure, Proposition 30, a clean air act for the state of California. Prop 30 is designed to make electric vehicles more affordable for all income classes, create a statewide electric vehicle (EV) charging network, and reduce catastrophic wildfires by funding forest management, hiring more firefighters, and providing more firefighting equipment.
Prop 30 is an act created by Denny Zane, founding executive director of Move LA. The proposition generates roughly $100 billion over 20 years for these critical programs by taxing the groups that can afford most, those with a personal income of over $2 million per year.
Move LA is a non-profit organization in Los Angeles, founded in 2008 by Zane. “We want to move the city and the county of LA towards making these investments. We work a lot on raising public assets and real sustainability and equity,” Zane said. “We named ourselves MOVE LA to work on transit issues. Rail lines are extending the subway line to Westwood, for example. The idea of Move LA was not just transportation but to move LA toward a more sustainable future. So, we like the ambiguity of the word ‘Move.’ It can be moving literally and physically, or it can be moving politically and spiritually.”
One of the primary focuses of Prop 30 is to work with organizations to make electric vehicles (EV), which are personal vehicles, more affordable through rebates, grants and financial assistance for the typical household. Prop 30 will invest 50% of the funding for projects and activities and benefit people disproportionately impacted by air pollution in low-income and disadvantaged communities.
The starting price for a 2022 Toyota Pruis is $25,075. A Tesla Model 3 starting price is $46,990. Prop 30 would help make these vehicles more affordable and accessible to all incomes in Los Angeles County. According to the 2021 Census for LA County, the median income for a Hispanic/Latino household is $66,929. Zane believes income should not be a barrier to obtaining an EV and contributing to the city’s sustainable lifestyle. “The Latino population is becoming a larger share of our working-class population. They bear this brunt because they’re out more often and are likely to live close to freeways,” Zane said. Most of the lower-income residents in LA County tend to live in areas closer to major freeways. According to Zane, the residents closer to the freeways are at higher risk of breathing in diesel particulate matter and developing health issues either early in life or later.
“We know that a lot of the population in LA is Latinos. Also, we know that a lot of the environmental harm is caused by exposure to diesel particulate matter,” said Marisa Garcia, activism director for Move LA. “The burden is placed on lower-income and disadvantaged communities, which happen to be near freeways, closer to ports, and closer to areas with higher exposure to diesel particles.”
The other focus of the proposition is reducing the number of catastrophic wildfires that have been ablaze across the state of California in the past few years. The Clean Cars and Clean Air Act (CCCA) invests nearly $1 billion annually in the prevention and control of wildfires, including funding to retain, house, train and hire more permanent and seasonal firefighters. Also, support forest resilience programs, have controlled burns to eliminate the dried leaves and trees in forests, watershed restoration and management, and vegetation management. “A large part of the reason we have so many wildfires is not that things are becoming drier, although that is true. It is also because our forest and grasslands have a built-up pile of dried-out kindling all over the forest floor, which catches fire quickly,” said Zane.
Voters can expect Prop 30 to be on the November ballot. Move LA hopes that Prop 30 and California will be a model for the rest of the country and the world to afford technological advancements to a cleaner and healthier world.
CALÓ NEWS recently interviewed Marisa Garcia and Denny Zane of Move LA to learn more about their non-profit and how Prop 30 can benefit the Latino community in Los Angeles, the state of California and hopefully the rest of the world.
Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
HOW IS AIR POLLUTION AFFECTING LATINOS THE MOST?
GARCIA: I have had asthma for as long as I can remember. I grew up near two major freeways. I remember having difficulty breathing a lot of the time growing up. I couldn’t keep up with my peers a lot of the time during physical education. I was always sick. I have three siblings; fortunately, none have asthma, but I was the sickly one. Any time I get sick, even if it is just a cold, I have a lung infection or bronchitis. You know, the risks are always there as an asthmatic that you can get pneumonia and end up in the hospital. The steroids that I have to take lower my immune response to leave me vulnerable to things like Covid-19 and then with Covid-19, people with asthma were considered high risk. As for how it affects Latinos, we know that a lot of the population in LA is Latinos. Also, we know that a lot of the environmental harm that is caused by exposure to diesel particulate matter, the burden is placed on lower-income and disadvantaged communities, which happen to be placed near freeways, closer to ports and closer to areas where there are higher exposures to diesel particles. It is disproportionately affecting communities of color and lower-income communities. As Zane mentioned, Diesel is classified as a carcinogen and has been linked to causing cancer. We know that exposure to diesel particulate matter can lead to the development of asthma in children, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in adults and living in low air quality; there is no doubt that it has a significant impact on our lower-income communities. As I mentioned, trucks are the norm, especially for those living near high-power corridors. With the wildfires happening more frequently, It seems we have had way more bad air days. I closely monitor the air quality through the South Coast Air Quality District app. They have an app that alerts you when the air quality changes in your area. When it comes to wildfires, the smoke can travel very far. The particulate matter from the smoke can embed into your lungs and cause problems, even for those that don’t have breathing issues. So, now we have to worry not only about diesel but about wildfires. It is becoming very scary to be asthmatic in Southern California because there are more triggers.We know that there are solutions out there. For example, zero-emission vehicles help with diesel and you know, trying to do what we can to prevent wildfires and put them out more quickly. We need to prioritize it. Governor Newsom is opposing Prop 30 and for me, it was not only disappointing, but it also hurt. Not only as a California resident but as someone who has trouble breathing and it hurts that he would be against something that would improve my quality of life and the quality of life of others with a disease in the state he represents. It upsets me that he is not behind us because this would make a difference, not only with people of color but for people that breathe in California.
ZANE: One thing to add here is that [Latino]communities tend to live closer to the freeways. Exposure to the particulates is much greater in working-class families. The Latino population is becoming a larger share of our working-class population. They bear this brunt because they’re out more often and are likely to live close to freeways.
HOW DOES THIS INITIATIVE BENEFIT THE HEALTH OF CALIFORNIA RESIDENTS AND LATINOS?
ZANE: If you are into air quality, what you’re looking at is “What is the emissions inventory?” and “What are blatant that are affecting us?” and “How much is the concentration? And where is it coming from?” That guides the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Air Resources Board in trying to figure out what the priorities should be. So, we are talking about air quality and climate. Air quality emissions and dry air pollution are called NOX Emissions because they mix with other emissions, called Volatile Organics, to form Ozone. Ozone is a pollutant that burns and hurts and damages our lungs. It is also a very significant climate enforcer. So, if you want to reduce the amount of air pollution and, at the same time, climate emissions, reducing Ozone is the most important thing to do. NOX produces Ozone and 80% of it comes from Diesel powered vehicles. Not just trucks but ships and planes also burn diesel. These are the causes of our air pollution problems. 10% comes from cars. In the case of climate, there is also something called Particulate Matter or Balck Carbon. That damages our lungs because Carcinogenic Chemicals adhere to the Particulate Matter and carry it into our lungs. In addition to Particulate Matter, another thing, like Ozone, is a powerful global warming enforcer. So, having a strategy that has to do with climate and air quality, you need to prioritize Diesel powered technologies. Cars are a very important part of carbon dioxide particles. So, we must eliminate cars and all the diesel stuff. That is what Prop 30 was set up to do to move us away from diesel and gasoline and towards zero emission. Now, battery-electric cars are doing well and they work well. We have to expand the infrastructure and get those vehicles less expensive and that is what the money in Prop 30 will do. It will pull the infrastructure and provide subsidies for people to afford zero-emission cars. Even in Prop 30, the money has to be used to make these vehicles readily available to disadvantaged communities and low-income people. So, it is an inclusive program. The heavy-duty trucks and the long-haul trucking are unlikely to be battery-electric and shipping is also unlikely. We call these “hard to electrify” because the battery electric batteries are either too heavy, the range isn’t sufficient, or it takes too long to charge them for commercial operators to make that choice. Luckily, there is an alternative which is the fuel cell. Hydro-powered Fuel Cell technologies look a lot like battery and generator-powered technologies. But these are operating on electricity, but these are not from a battery being charged. It is from a fuel cell getting fueled with clean hydrogen. That is the sort of thing that this Measure will do. It will provide funding for developing battery electric developers and the green hydrogen fueling infrastructure. But then helping operators of the trucking firms and the shipping firms be able to afford new technologies when they start. When they get produced at volume, economies at scale bring the price down. We must nurture these industries until the economies at scale bring down prices. That is what Prop 30 has done for over 20 years. It will provide the resources so operators can afford the chargers and the vehicles. A significant percentage of Prop 30 will also go to prevent and suppress wildfires. We want to zero them out.
GARCIA: Wildfires and transportation are the state’s top sources of climate change emissions. Among the top sources is the particulate emission that pollutes the air. So, to restore clean air to Californians and Latino communities, we would have to address both of those issues and Prop 30 will do that. Being able to clean the air would make an immense difference in the lives of people in these communities. As I mentioned, exposure to diesel particulate matter can lead to asthma in children. So, imagine a world where children in those communities were not exposed to those diesel particulate matter. That could mean they never get asthma. That would also reduce hospital visits, children having to miss school, and adults having to miss work. We are talking about a Proposition that has the potential to save thousands of lives and, in addition to that, improve the quality of those lives. Latino communities, particularly, are seeing a disproportionate rate due to the proximity to the freeways, the train yards, and the airports. I think Prop 30 is an opportunity for the state and the county, more importantly, and for the communities that are being hardest hit by air pollution. I know that the thought of having clean air to breathe is something that I am very excited about. I know it won’t happen overnight, but I think about future generations and the kids that won’t have to suffer as I and many others did.
HOW WILL PROP 30 HELP THOSE IN LOW-INCOME COMMUNITIES? SPECIFICALLY THOSE PROMINENT WITH LATINX RESIDENTS.
ZANE: There are two issues that you have to come over. One is the availability of charging and the second is the cost of vehicles. Both of those can be addressed almost only with investment. The investment is structured so that if you look at it, especially in the first five years, where the measure emphasizes the light-duty EVs (personal vehicles), It’s got 20% of the money. There is a super unique pot for the vehicle. And the infrastructure pot is 35% of the money. 20% of that will go for charging in most people’s multi-family buildings. 10% will get to fast charging, whereas people away from home can get a charge quickly. Others will have it in their home. Those investments will either entirely or enlarge part of the judgment. The question of “How deep will the subsidy be?” s going to be a decision made by the California Energy Commission, the commission that does the body now. Within the mission’s specifications, the Commission is the policy maker on the greater detail. The other thing is the money to subside the cost of rebates and grants to reduce the cost of buying a car. Or if a small business reduces the cost of an emission truck. This is because it is about cars, trucks, ships, planes, and trains. All of those import equipment and import construction equipment. All of those targeting diesel-powered technologies will become in 20 years of history in California and this measure will be part of the reason why.
HOW WILL PROP 30 HELP THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA AND LOS ANGELES IN THE FUTURE, ESPECIALLY DURING FIRE SEASON? EXPLAIN.
ZANE: Large part of the reason why we have so many wildfires is not that things are becoming drier, although that is true. It is also because our forest and grasslands have a built-up pile of dried-out kindling all over the forest floor, which catches fire quickly. Now, there are issues like the electrical wires of utility companies. They will have to be buried for us to avoid the wind whipping them around, creating sparks that light fires. If we reduce the fuel on the floor of the forest, that will also help. What we need is funding to operate the program. You have to see teams and send crews out and hire more people. They must go out into the forest and target the most vulnerable areas. They have to go in and clean out the kindling on the forest floor. There are other things to do, but I think that is one thing that needs to be done. I think California forests have a lot of infested trees. They are infested with bark needles and you can see death all over the forest. You can see red. These trees and these leaves are now red. We can clear that it is very valuable to fire and clear that out with the resources to do that. That will help clear out many of the bark needles and make the rest of the forest less vulnerable.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO PASS THIS INITIATIVE?
ZANE: Because life is important. Human life is important. All life is important. We know we have a long-standing horrifying air pollution challenge that people have become a little unmindful about. We have to solve it. I think what is even more important is the climate challenge. People say this is an existential threat, but the main thing is the end of life on the planet. People are making it uninhabitable if our global temperatures rise so high and start to release methane into the permafrost. Siberia or the tundra or anywhere. There is no telling how high the temperature will go and how much that will disturb our climate and make it increasingly difficult to try and survive. Now, take that seriously. In 2018, a report from IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations, told us that we must get going here.
The best way to scale is with a measure like this which can create enough money for dramatic changes much more quickly than otherwise. I am disappointed and disturbed by what Governor Newsom has done. He didn’t just talk with any people working and trying to make a change. He just listened to the billionaire boys club that approached him. They fabricated some explanation that they thought they should listen to them and it’s all about Lyft. but he didn’t consult with advocates and the environmental community and why this measure was so important. The first thing that we heard from him was his commercial. I think that is a failure in leadership and that disturbs me. I used to hold him in such high regard and this has disappointed and disappointed me that he has come this far against people that have such a clear financial stake in all of this rather than the people that have a health stake in it.
GARCIA: I want to say that our communities, specifically Latino communities, have suffered such disproportionate harm due to air pollution charges by diesel for far too long. It is time that we do something that can cause change on a fundamental level and improve the quality of life for those in these communities and Prop 30 would do that. I would like to imagine a world where there are no more bad air days caused by Diesel Particulate Matter exposure sharply declines. A world where you clean air for all communities in California and not just for those not close to a freeway, where there is good health for all Californians whether or not they come from a higher tax bracket. Just for everybody and everybody has a right to clean air. Prop 30 would, in my opinion, would improve the quality of life and for quality of life for people like me who have lung issues. We shouldn’t have to struggle to breathe when we know that there are solutions that can improve the air quality. For me, just the thought that if we can dramatically reduce the diesel exposure in our communities, the kids will not have to grow up suffering like the way that many of my peers and I grew up. Not being able to play outside, and to this day, not able to do some physical things that other people my age can do because I can’t breathe. I just thought the thought of people being able to breathe without having to struggle is the dream. Clean air, asthma going down, less suffering, and less death are within our reach with Prop 30.
IS THIS WHY YOU ARE SHOWING SUPPORT FOR THIS INITIATIVE?
GARCIA: It might be a little selfish because I have asthma. I like to breathe but know on a much larger scale that many other people are suffering out there and that there is something that we can do to help alleviate some of that suffering and even being able to prevent devices. We know that diesel exposure can cause lung cancer and cause asthma. The public health impact Prop 30 will have should not be understated. On another note, climate change is something that we are all concerned about and I included is alarmed. I am alarmed that there is not much more to address this issue and I think Prop 30 went out of the way to do that. California tends to be the way of the world. When it comes to zero-emissions cars, we lead the world in zero-emission cars. So, Prop 30 would lead us to provide leadership on all zero-emission transportation methods. Mainly what I am excited about is the zero-emission heavy-duty trucks. I feel that those heavy-duty trucks are poisoning our communities, especially those living by the freeways, breathing in all those emissions, and having all those emissions, as I mentioned earlier at my mom’s house, finding all those black specks. It would help prevent the poisoning of our communities.
ZANE: I think it also concerns California’s leadership role. When we were first developing this, of course, we knew that California was the leader in the nation and, to a certain extent, a leader in the world. It helps that these climate protectives. We often ask, “how does it spread from California to other states and parts of the country?” It used to be kind of hard to answer and it used to be an act of faith. When California would generate the cost of these technologies going down, it was because of the production scale. California was the fifth-largest economy in the world. It was big enough to get the scale. It is to make these things affordable in other parts of the country. Then, President Biden tied into law the Production Act, which includes a lot of money for zero-emission transportation in every state. Now when people say to me, “How does this thread from California to the rest of the world?” The answer is: If we do it here and if we create the model and create the home base for the economies scale for all these technologies occurs. President Biden’s Act will make it more affordable in the nation and all states. If the US does, it won’t be long before the rest of the world does it. I think we have a real opportunity here to rise to the challenges and show the IPCC report and see the next decade of transportation. Prop 30 is the most critical measure we could be [taking] to make that a reality in California and the world’s opportunity to overcome climate change. We have to take it.
WHAT IS HOPED FOR THE FUTURE OF PROP 30 IF IT IS PASSED?
GARCIA: It serves as a model. It serves as a model for the rest of the country and the rest of the world. California does have a track record for leading those types of efforts, so the hope is that this spreads to the rest of the world and the country. That it makes an impact and helps us with the climate issues and the air pollutant issues that we are facing.
ZANE: There are two other things besides being a model and people will follow in your example. The two other things that matter is that this will be a matter that improves the technology so that they become better and better and better. When you improve in the technology world, you always say, “This truck is going to be the best truck.” and then “ This one is going to get the farthest range.” and then “Who is going to get the shortest charging moment?” and all this stuff. So, it is a competition. As the industry competes, everything will only get better and better. And that makes it more and more and more attractive to the rest of the world. In addition, when you reach the economic scale, the costs go down, which makes it not only a model but an improvement in technology and you’re also reducing costs. That will make it easier for other nations in the world to have the benefit, like California. They will have the technology and the cost was brought way down and they too can afford to do it.