Bill to help build electric vehicle infrastructure in rural areas moves along • Virginia Mercury

A bill that would create a state fund to help pay for the construction of public electric vehicle charging stations in rural areas is headed to a Senate finance subcommittee Thursday afternoon after a near-death.

House Bill 107from Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Fairfax, who introduced similar measures the past two sessions, was initially carried over to next year, the same fate for a version that Sen. Dave Marsden, D-Fairfax, introduced earlier this session.

But since Sullivan was not present for the transfer action, the Senate Natural Resources Finance Subcommittee repeated the motion after he entered the chamber.

Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Charlottesville, then had the bill reconsidered and added a reenactment clause, meaning the bill will have to go back to the House of Representatives this session for approval of the changes, which likely won’t happen. will happen.

Costs

The bill would give private charging station developers money for up to 70% of non-utility costs to build EV charging stations for public use in distressed communities.

According to Sparkcharge, a developer of EV charging stations, the cost to build them can range from $1,000 for the slower Level 1 chargers, over $10,000 for faster Level 2 chargers, and over $20,000 for even faster Level 3 chargers, with costs increasing as ports or energy storage capabilities are added.

Some $2 million The bill’s funding was included in the original House budget, but not in the Senate version, as the House spending plan aligned this week.

Earlier this session, discussing Mardsen’s version in the Senate Finance Committee — which Sullivan described as broader than his own — Deed said his concern was that establishing the fund would require more than $50,000.

“I’m just not sure we’ll have that funding this year,” Deeds said.

Greg Habeeb, a former representative and now lobbyist on behalf of the Carbon Solutions Group, which sponsored the bill this session, said, “I hope they fund it.” But now, toward the end of the session, “there are a lot of things motivating decisions.” He also shared Deeds’ concerns.

“I think everyone agrees with the policy, the question is will there be funding,” Habeeb said, adding that he is not sure where the governor stands on the issue but that the administration has been “open minded” about various energy policy issues.

Youngkin spokesman Christian Martinez said in an emailed statement: “The governor will review any legislation that comes to his desk.”

How the bill would benefit rural communities, in line with Clean Car standards

The bill defines a distressed community as a city with fewer than 1,470 residents per square mile, or a county with fewer than 160 residents per square mile, or a county with a poverty and unemployment rate above the state average. 10.6% And 3%respectively.

For example, Warren County would qualify under the population requirement, with a population of about 190 people per square mile. Several other rural locations would also be eligible for the EV charging updates.

“This bill provides just the small push needed to get the necessary infrastructure to overlooked parts of Virginia when it comes to EV infrastructure,” Habeeb said in testimony during the Senate committee. “Wherever you are on EVs, wherever you are on Clean Cars, it doesn’t matter. This is about investing in rural Virginia and making sure we don’t get left behind.”

Sullivan’s proposal, he said, is intended to fill a gap in the transition to electric vehicles, which major automakers have pledged to convert their fleets to. Virginia’s Clean Car Act standards will begin banning the sale of gas-powered vehicles in 2035. But critics of the standards have cited the lack of electric vehicle infrastructure in rural areas as one of the biggest challenges of the transition.

Republican lawmakers have also said the lack of EV infrastructure limits rural residents and farmers’ ability to use electric vehicles because of the distances they have to travel for work. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, nearly 20% of rural Virginians have a commute of more than 30 minutes.

Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Westmoreland, who represents five largely rural Northern Neck counties, said while speaking in favor of his bill to repeal Clean Car Act standards, Democrats defeated earlier this session, that he was aware of only two chargers in his district.

“We don’t have the infrastructure,” Stuart said. “We haven’t started building the infrastructure yet.”

Proponents argued that the Clean Car Act standards, which have stricter emissions regulations than the federal proposalsare in addition to the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which aims to reduce vehicle emissions to combat climate change that is causing more extreme weather events.

About 36% to 38% of the state’s emissions come from the transportation sector, which the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality said in its recently established Climate Pollution Reduction Grant plan has consistently been the highest emitting sector in the state. The first measure to reduce pollutants in that proposed plan identifies a goal of electrifying vehicles, which would require “an extensive network of fast and reliable EV charging stations to support charging demand.”

Sullivan has also said expanding charging infrastructure could boost tourism opportunities in Virginia, especially for rural areas such as New River Valley State Trail Park or Old Rag in Shenandoah National Park.

“It’s good for our economy, it creates jobs and it treats all Virginians equally so we no longer have inequities in where electric vehicle infrastructure is placed in Virginia,” Sullivan said.

Other EV infrastructure efforts

The federal government has pledged $100 million to Virginia in the US National infrastructure for electric vehicles Formula program, but that money can only be used to build chargers within a mile of highway corridors, including Interstates 95, 64, 66, 85, 81 and 77. One of the reasons Sullivan’s bill’s funding in was postponed in previous years, the mistaken idea was that this federal funding would be extended to rural areas.

“It turns out,” Habeeb said, the FBI had planted everything around the highways.

DEQ received $93 million from automaker Volkswagen through a solution to pollution issues of the company, spending $14 million on building charging stations. With that financingDEQ has deployed 142 chargers with 284 charging ports to 45 host locations across the state as of July 2022, bringing 93% of Virginians within 30 miles of a charger.

Stations built from that settlement are included in a recent report from the Southern Environmental Law Center showing that the state as a whole had approximately 1,418 public charging stations, the vast majority of which were located in the urban regions of Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads. While that number of stations increased by about 75% in 2020 over the number of stations in the state, virtually none are in Southwest Virginia, with a handful spread throughout the rest of the state.

“You can see why you need this bill when you look at that map,” said Trip Pollard, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.

A map of electric vehicle charging stations in Virginia. (Courtesy of the Southern Environmental Law Center)

Next steps

The House of Representatives is likely to reject the amendment to House Bill 107 because it would send the bill to conference, a relatively common practice in the Legislature where a select group of lawmakers meet privately to hash out differences between the bills. Otherwise, if the bill remains as is, the reenactment clause effectively nullifies it, as it means the bill will have to be resubmitted for approval next year before it becomes law.

“I’m going to have to think about what I want to do: put it in conference or not, because we want to get rid of the bill in the House of Representatives,” Sullivan said in an interview. “In the famous words of that character in [the movie] Monty Python, ‘I’m not dead yet.’”

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