State Cuts Impact Hwy 99 Widening
The California Transportation Commission (CTC) recently adopted a five-year transportation funding plan that cuts $754 million and delays another $755 million in transportation project spending to address a $1.5 billion shortfall in gas tax revenue.
The cuts will affect the schedule to widen Highway 99 from Tagus southbound, a $49 million project that will now be delayed. The cuts and delays reflect the largest funding reduction since the current state transportation funding structure was adopted 20 years ago, CTC officials said in a press release. The changes are reflected in the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), which is adopted biannually by the CTC. The STIP is a key planning document for funding future state highway, intercity rail, transit and pedestrian improvements throughout California, CTC officials said. The STIP’s primary funding source as established by the state legislature is the price-based excise tax paid by drivers at the gas pump. The cuts in revenue occurred over the past two years due to lower gasoline prices. The $755 million in delays include rail, highway, transit, bicycle and pedestrian improvement projects. As required by law, the CTC estimates the amount of funds projected to be available over the five-year STIP period. The excise tax in 2010 was set at 17.3 cents per gallon and is adjusted annually by the State Board of Equalization based on fuel prices. On July 1, the tax will be reduced to 9.8 cents from the current 12 cents.
Based on that reduction, the CTC anticipates a $1.5 billion funding shortfall for project commitments previously made for fiscal years 2016-17.
Cherry Crop Hit By Rains
This years cherry crop was affected by the weather says a trade association. Rain storms caused cracking on cherries. Trade press reports that California growers will likely ship about 4.7 million boxes of cherries this spring, down from a pre-season estimate of 8.1 million boxes, Chris Zanobini, executive director of the Sacramento-based California Cherry Board, said May 25.
Mexico Needs Ethanol
Mexico could be the next big ethanol fuel market as that country seeks to transition to a cleaner burning octane enhancer and low carbon fuel and away from MTBE. USDA Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse led a U.S. ethanol mission to Mexico on May 24–25 to explore trade opportunities between the two countries.
The mission participants include representatives from the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy and the U.S. Grains Council who will attend meetings with government officials, legislators and the Mexican private industry.
As USDA explained, mission members will share their experiences with both ethanol production and the development of renewable fuels policies, with the goal of demonstrating how Mexico can implement its own renewable fuels program.
State-owned oil company PEMEX has plans to begin selling E6 (5.8 percent) ethanol-blended gasoline in selected cities in the Mexican states of Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosi, and Veracruz. Implementation of a nationwide E6 fuel option in Mexico would create a potential market for 790 million gallons of ethanol.
“Mexico, with the right policies in place, has the potential to achieve similar benefits producing ethanol from sugarcane,” Scuse said in a statement. “We view this as a partnership that can provide benefits for both Mexico and the United States.”
“The U.S. is the world’s largest producer of ethanol and for several years now has been the low cost supplier as well, allowing us to dramatically increase our exports. With domestic use artificially capped by EPA at 14.8 billion gallons, we will continue to seek export opportunities,” said Renewable Fuels Association General Counsel Ed Hubbard, who is on the trade mission.
Canadian Electric Bus Maker Announces New Porterville Factory
400 Jobs Promised
In a May 25 news release Vancouver-based GreenPower Motor Company Inc. (TSXV: GPV) (OTCQB:GPVRF) (“GreenPower”), announced that GreenPower has entered into an agreement with the City of Porterville in California to acquire a 9.3 acre property for $660,000. The closing of this transaction is expected to occur in 45 days with a payment of $66,000 by GreenPower to the City of Porterville and the balance payable pursuant to a Promissory Note with an amortization period of ten years, a term of five years and bearing interest at the rate of 2% per annum.
GreenPower has submitted a permit application to the City of Porterville for a manufacturing facility for its all-electric buses on this property for approximately 150,000 square feet of buildings including 6,000 square feet of office space. The City of Porterville has provided GreenPower with its initial comments on this application. GreenPower has also been working with a manufacturer of modular buildings for the construction of the buildings on this site. The Company intends to build the facility in compliance with “Buy America”, a program of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to take advantage of certain tax breaks and incentives.
“We are very excited about locating in Porterville, having the necessary manufacturing capabilities for Buy America compliance and being positioned to pursue market opportunities in California,” stated Fraser Atkinson, Chairman of GreenPower. “We understand that we will be the only manufacturer of all-electric heavy duty buses in the San Joaquin Valley so we will be seeking to become the preferred supplier.”
The City of Porterville is located in the San Joaquin Valley (SJVAPCD) air basin and is actively pursuing diesel bus emission control strategies in conjunction with ongoing funding and grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, California State Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) and the Air Resources Board (ARB).
Among other customers the Porterville school district will be one with some of the oldest operating buses in the the state. Reports suggest the company may hire as many as 400 workers at the new plant that could be making electric buses by 2017.
Porterville Walmart Gets New Hearing
A public hearing will be held by the City Council of the City of Porterville on Tuesday June 7, 2016 to consider approval of the Riverwalk Marketplace Phase II project, including certification of the Final EIR and approval of the amendment to the Viejo Robles Specific Plan, a Conditional Use Permit and Tentative Parcel Map. The project, located at the southeast corner of Indiana Street and Springville Drive in Porterville, would include the construction and development of approximately 202,854 square feet of primarily retail uses among five building pads, anchored by a 161,602 square feet Walmart store with all appurtenant structures and facilities. The Walmart store would offer, among other things, groceries and general retail merchandise and would operate 24 hours per day. The project has sought its permits since 2011 but has been stymied by opponents, led by a major super market chain who have charged the EIR is inadequate. In the latest chapter the court said only the projects greenhouse gas emissions needed reexamination – not the full EIR. Once the new document is certified by the city it can return to the court for approval and some day the town gets a SuperWalmart.