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Laguna Beach may start trading their municipal fleet of gas-powered vehicles for electric and hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles instead.

“The benefits are an increasingly good sustainable fleet that will cost less to maintain and operate (and) cheaper fuel costs,” Laguna Beach Councilman George Weiss said at Tuesday’s meeting. “It also sends a message to our residents that we’re interested in doing our part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet local climate goals.”

The city council voted unanimously Tuesday night to have the city manager assess their current motorpool and look at the cost of gradually replacing the fleet for greener options.

Electric vehicles require less maintenance, reduce emissions and other air pollutants in the city. Electricity is also less expensive, Weiss argues in his agenda item.

“Laguna Beach could lead the way and provide an example for residents in other cities in Orange County,” Weiss’ report reads.

Some California cities, like Lancaster, are already using zero emission municipal vehicles like buses.

Locally, environmental groups are in favor of Laguna Beach considering a switch.

“This is a first in Orange County so I am very excited about it,” Hoiyin Ip, co-chair of the Sierra Club California Zero Waste Committee said in a Tuesday interview before the meeting.

The Sierra Club recently sent a letter to the City’s environmental sustainability committee commenting on their greenhouse gas emission report.

In the letter, the environmental group recommended the city set goals on converting their fleet to zero emission vehicles only, join Orange County’s Joint Power Authority and install electric vehicle charging stations.

“Converting city fleets to 100% zero emission vehicles is a practical and impactful thing to do to slow down climate change,” Ip said at Tuesday’s meeting.

In Laguna Beach and across the state, transportation accounts for over 50% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the City’s emission report and a state press release, respectively.

Weiss requested the city assess their fleet in an effort to reduce those emissions.

Last September, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order mandating all new passenger vehicles sold in the state be zero emission by 2035. Existing gas powered vehicles can still be owned and sold on the used car market.

This shift is occurring not just here in California, but also at the national level as lawmakers consider how to tackle climate change.

President Joe Biden has announced his support for a $1.2 trillion proposed infrastructure plan that would build 500,000 electric vehicle chargers across the country in the next decade, as well as electrify thousands of school and transit buses, according to the White House.

In January, Biden pledged to replace the federal government fleet of gas powered vehicles with electric cars made in the U.S.

Some city departments in Laguna Beach already use hybrid vehicles. 

As part of the assessment, city staff will have to look at the cost of adding charger stations, upgrading transformers and the impact replacing the fleet would have on the city budget.

Laguna Beach isn’t the only city in the county to consider switching some vehicles in the city motorpool to zero emission. 

A couple of weeks ago, one man called on the Costa Mesa city council to look at getting electric motorcycles for the police department, instead of the six BMW bikes they approved at their meeting on June 15.

“Maybe just get one, see how it goes,” he said. “That way you can start being better and start being more sustainable.”

Costa Mesa City Council Chambers. Credit: JESSICA RUIZ, Voice of OC

Another man also spoke out in support of electric motorcycles for the police during public comments.

The council approved the purchase of the BMW bikes to replace ones in disrepair and said they’d look into electric bikes in the future. 

“We’ll take a look at that going forward, but we would have to feel comfortable that the specifications are in line and that we could still do the jobs that we need to do and it’s going to be safe for the officers,” City Manager Lori Ann Farrell Harrison said at the meeting.

She added:

“But generally speaking, it’s always our intent to try to green our fleet as much as possible. We do agree that more needs to be done.”

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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