Clean Transportation in Pennsylvania: Big Questions for 2022 (Part 1)

Clean transport in Pennsylvania (PA).

This is the first part of a three part blog. This first blog focuses on the Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and funding that may be coming to Pennsylvania as well as opportunities for the Commonwealth to pass regulations to help increase the number of electric vehicles (EVs) available to customers. . Part II will discuss a petition regarding electric vehicle rate design filed with the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission and transportation legislation in the General Assembly. Part III will focus on the importance of sustainable transit funding and other tools to reduce vehicle kilometers travelled.

If you were one of the 101 million Americans who watched the Super Bowl this year, you’ve probably noticed a common theme in many ads: electric vehicles (EVs) just aren’t the future; they’re here today, and automakers are racing to make and sell them.

(You may have also noticed the cryptocurrency ads, but that’s another story.)

People want more and more electric vehicles. Some are motivated by the fact that electrification of the transport sector is essential to reduce harmful effects on health and climate pollution (just like driving fewer cars and using more public transport, walking and cycling). Most, however, like to drive electric vehicles better than petrol and diesel cars because of their high performance and smooth operation – and know that it can save them a lot of money on fueling and fueling costs. maintenance.

States have several key roles to help accelerate the transition to electric vehicles:

  • First, they must support robust public charging networks to alleviate “range anxiety,” the fear of running out of charge before reaching a charging station.
  • Second, they must help make electric vehicles available and affordable, especially at the start of the transition.
  • Third, they must ensure that electric vehicle charging is both affordable for individual drivers and cost-effective system-wide, so as to reduce household electricity prices and optimize grid use. electric.
  • Fourth, they need policies to replace gasoline and diesel tax revenues, which currently play a major role in funding transportation infrastructure and public transit.

To date, Pennsylvania has not excelled in any of these areas. This year, however, the Commonwealth could make progress on all of them, depending on how it answers four important questions:

Question 1: How will PennDOT use its electric vehicle infrastructure funds provided under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), and what competitive IIJA grants will it seek?

Signed into law by President Biden in November 2021, the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) dedicates $7.5 billion to support the construction of electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the United States. The goal is to build more than 500,000 stations nationwide.

Under the IIJA, Pennsylvania can take advantage of two different sources of money for electric vehicle infrastructure. First, over the next five years, Pennsylvania will receive approximately $172 million through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula, or “NEVI” program. Initially, this funding is to be used to build public charging stations along Pennsylvania’s 15 federal interstate highways; then, once all highways have been built with charging stations every 50 miles – helping to reduce range anxiety – the Commonwealth can use NEVI funds to help build charging stations on any other “public road or in other ways accessible to the public”. Locations.”

To qualify for NEVI funds, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) must submit a deployment plan for the state’s electric vehicle infrastructure to the Joint Federal Office of Energy and Transportation by August 1. 2022. And there is cost sharing: the Commonwealth must provide 20 cents of public or private funds (or a combination) for 80 cents of NEVI funds.

Second, Section 11401 of the IIJA makes $2.5 billion available for “recharging and refueling infrastructure” on a “competitive” basis, meaning the funds will be awarded in the form of grants. that states, local governments and other entities may request. Of this amount, at least $1.25 billion is to be used for “community grants” where priority is given to projects that expand access to electric vehicle charging and alternative fuel infrastructure in rural areas, low- and moderate-income neighborhoods and communities with low private parking ratios

Unlike NEVI funds, these “Section 11401” funds are not limited to electric vehicle infrastructure – they can also be used for other alternative fueling infrastructure. However, to be competitive among other states in a world shifting to electric vehicles, the Commonwealth should focus its demands on additional funds for electric vehicle infrastructure. Will PennDOT seek competitive funding to continue its $84 million fossil fuel build — a path that would appeal to the gas industry but hardly anyone else — or invest in the EV infrastructure that Pennsylvanians want?

Each program raises more questions for Pennsylvania than this blog can address. For the NEVI program, however, most of these issues — from where charging infrastructure will be located to how Commonwealth matching funds will be raised — will be handled under PennDOT’s state plan. The immediate questions are: How will PennDOT develop this plan? Which stakeholders will be involved? What type of public consultation process will PennDOT conduct?

While these questions remain unanswered, it is imperative that PennDOT make this process transparent and directly engage community members — especially those historically overburdened by transportation pollution — to fully understand communities’ transportation needs. PennDOT’s new “Equity Guiding Principles for Electric Vehicles” commit the agency to such a commitment and to ensuring that “40% of the total benefits of [electric vehicle supply equipment] goes to projects in areas of underserved, low-income, people of color, disabilities and otherwise vulnerable populations. But is PennDOT ready to deliver on these commitments?

Spending its IIJA funds wisely on electric vehicle infrastructure would provide many benefits to Pennsylvanians. But the IIJA alone will not solve everything. It is also important to keep in mind that while the IIJA funds are an important starting point, these investments will not be enough to completely reduce air pollution from the transport sector, and the funds and standards additional resources will need to be in place to support this transition.

Clean transportation is possible in Pennsylvania for the most vulnerable school children. Electric school buses can function as giant rolling batteries to support the power grid through the use of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technologies. Image: Nuvve’s V2G AC chargers and platform are connected to Lion Electric school buses on Con Edison’s network in White Plains NY. Image courtesy of Nuvve Corporation.

Question 2: Will Pennsylvania adopt policies to make more electric vehicles, electric buses, and electric trucks available for sale in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania would put itself in a better position to obtain competitive IIJA EV infrastructure funds by improving the availability of EVs in the Commonwealth. One way to achieve this is through the adoption of the “Zero Emission Vehicles” (ZEV) program.

State ZEV programs require automakers to meet annual state sales goals for electric vehicles. Concretely, this incentivizes manufacturers to make more EV models available to state car dealerships and increase their promotion of EVs to car buyers. Currently, fifteen US states have ZEV programs, including three that border Pennsylvania (New Jersey, Maryland, and New York), and many Pennsylvanians travel to these states to purchase electric vehicles, as automakers tend to give the priority to their sales efforts and electric vehicle shipments. ZEV States. More recently, Delaware announced its intention to adopt a ZEV program as well. With a ZEV program, the Commonwealth could ensure that more Pennsylvanians can buy electric vehicles from Pennsylvania companies and keep sales in the state, while allowing customers to choose the types of vehicles they want. to buy.

Because replacing internal combustion engine cars with electric vehicles reduces air pollution, ZEV programs are administered by state environmental agencies. Last fall, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced a process to develop a ZEV program by amending the regulations that make up the current Pennsylvania Clean Vehicles (PCV) program (Chapter 126, subchapter D). However, the DEP has not advanced its regulatory proposal since then, and the status of the DEP process is unclear.

Meanwhile, in late February, DEP took a positive (albeit small) step to reduce medium and heavy-duty vehicle (MHD) pollution in Pennsylvania, issuing a request for information regarding a new pilot grant solicitation program. competitive MHD. Outcomes proposed by the pilot project include “improved air quality through reduced vehicle emissions; improving air quality in one or more areas of environmental justice; benefiting the electric vehicle supply chain in this Commonwealth; provide fleet managers with ZEV performance data; and increase purchases of MHD ZEV.

This is Pennsylvania’s first political action to advance MHD ZEVs since Governor Wolf signed a 2020 Memorandum of Understanding pledging to transition the Commonwealth from dirty fossil-fuel trucks to electric vehicles. zero emissions. Hopefully, the driver will establish the state for an MHD regulatory program under the next Governor of Pennsylvania, such as the Advanced Clean Truck and Heavy Duty Omnibus rules. Comments are due March 28, 2022.

Originally published by NRDC.


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