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Sacramento Designated Electrify America's First "Green City"

A major win for clean air advocates and all Sacramentans – late last month, Sacramento was designated the first ‘Green City’ by Electrify America, a Volkswagen (VW) subsidiary with a mission to power electric mobility from coast to coast. Electrify America will invest $2 billion nationwide and an additional $800 million in California over the next 10 years to advance Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) infrastructure awareness and use. The California investment includes $75 million to build a statewide network of fast charging stations, $45 million for investment in community charging in six ‘beachhead’ metro areas; and investment in a Green City Initiative to expand ZEV access  to be launched in Sacramento..

Local and State leaders gathered at the Alder Grove community center in Sacramento on August 3rd to publicly announce and celebrate Sacramento’s acceptance of the ‘Green City’ designation, which will bring an investment of $44 million in ZEV infrastructure to the City of Sacramento by Electrify America to advance access to ZEV technologies across the region. The Green City designation will result in considerable investment in Sacramento’s most vulnerable and under-resourced communities.

The ‘Green City’ designation  builds on work already being done to connect Sacramento’s low-income communities to green technologies and transportation. In May, the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District initiated an electric car-share program serving three of Sacramento’s public housing complexes – Edge Water, Alder Grove, and Lemon Hill. Funded for the first year through California’s Cap-and-Trade program as well as contributions from community partners, the program will provide free access to electric vehicles for public housing residents, many of whom do not have reliable access to transportation or a means to pay for it. The 2016 Community Health Needs Assessments identified access to transportation as a significant health need impacting communities across the Sacramento region. Transportation is too often a barrier to employment or education opportunities – as well as to accessing medical care and healthier foods – and is one that Sacramento leaders hope to help mitigate through the new car-share program.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg opened the August 3rd press event, sharing his vision to use this opportunity as “a catalyst to develop an industry center for advanced vehicle technologies.” County Supervisor Phil Serna commented that this is a case of “taking lemons and making some extraordinary lemonade.” Indeed, Sacramento residents have much to look forward to over the coming years, including the launch of an innovative ZEV car-sharing service utilizing a new network of charging infrastructure across the city.

The $800 million ZEV Investment Commitment is separate from the settlement reached between the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and VW, which will provide the State of California with $688 million to fulfill environmental mitigation obligations under the VW Settlement Consent Decree. The spending of mitigation funds will be directed by state priorities, including $25 million provided to the CARB to advance ZEV deployment in low-income and disadvantaged communities, and $423 million for the NOx Mitigation Trust.

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Jenny Wagner is a Valley Vision Project Associate working on School2Home, the Cleaner Air Partnership, and other Healthy Communities-related initiatives.

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