Groups that have been unrelenting in trying to shut down California’s Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility are turning their attention to the use of heavy duty natural gas vehicle (NGV) trucks, disputing claims that vehicles running on renewable natural gas (RNG) or biomethane are as “clean” as current electric vehicle (EV) technologies.

On Tuesday a coalition of anti-methane groups held a rally in downtown Los Angeles, urging that an effort by Sempra Energy’s Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) and the gas industry be blocked to adopt the use of low-nitrogen oxide NGV equipment in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which combined are the nation’s largest marine cargo hubs.

Food & Water Watch (F&WW), Earthjustice, Sierra Club and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11, among others, said under a state Senate Bill 350 utilities “must come up with both long- and short-term programs to accelerate the widespread use of electric transportation.”

SoCalGas supports heavy duty trucking, NGV engines fueled by RNG, as the “most affordable and cleanest option available today,” a spokesperson told NGI. An industry analysis concluded that natural gas and biogas engines reduce carbon emissions to nearly zero.

According to SoCalGas, 60% of the NGV fuel used in California is biogas, and the utility projects that proportion will increase to 90% next year. “This can help reduce the need for other fossil-based fuels, and increase our supplies with local renewable fuel,” the spokesperson said.

“When fueled by biogas, these natural gas engines actually deliver lower greenhouse gas emissions than electric ones.”

A coalition spokesperson said gas industry claims are meaningless because RNG is too costly to produce and relatively nonexistent.

“RNG is not commercially viable as truck fuel,” he said, adding that the gas leaks between production and use of the RNG also hurts economics.

“The natural gas industry is fighting to prevent the funds from SB 350 from being spent on zero-emission vehicles,” according to a coalition spokesperson. The F&WW also is working to close the SoCalGas Aliso underground gas storage facility. “Labor, community and environmental leaders are determined not to let the utilities and gas industry roll back their hard-won progress.”