Earmarks: These lawmakers secured millions for EV projects

Source: By Arianna Skibell, Thomas Frank, E&E News • Posted: Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a senior appropriator, secured $2 million for an electric vehicle ferry pilot program. Francis Chung/E&E News

Federal lawmakers used earmarks to steer more than $64 million toward electric vehicle projects in the spending package that President Biden signed into law last week, according to an E&E News analysis.

The $1.5 trillion package is the first spending bill in more than a decade to contain congressionally directed spending, also known as earmarks. Lawmakers revived earmarks under tight rules, including new disclosure requirements and strict limits on who can receive them.

Of the $64 million in spending for EV projects, about 60 percent went to electric buses and related infrastructure, according to E&E News’ analysis. Other requests will help fund technical training, charging ports and electric ferries.

The transportation sector is the single-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country, and President Biden has pledged to decarbonize the sector by midcentury to help combat climate change.

Last year, Biden set a goal that half of all new vehicles be electric by 2030. To meet that target, automakers, states and localities are pouring billions of dollars into the burgeoning industry.

States also are crafting blueprints for how to spend the more than $5 billion for EV charging infrastructure secured through Biden’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan package passed last November.

While the bulk of earmarked spending for EVs will go to Democratic-led states, a number of Republican lawmakers also scored funding for electric projects.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a senior appropriator, locked in an additional $2 million for an EV ferry pilot program. Murkowski last year won $250 million for the program in the bipartisan infrastructure deal.

“In Alaska, we don’t all connect by road,” Murkowski said during a press conference last year. “Some of us have to connect by ferry.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee and staunch opponent of EV tax credits, got $1 million to help fund an EV associate’s degree at West Virginia University.

Toyota Motor Corp. announced last month that it would expand production of EV parts at its plant in Buffalo, W.Va., which will create demand for skilled workers in the area.

“Toyota is moving quickly toward an electrified future, and West Virginia will play a critical role in that journey,” David Rosier, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing. West Virginia Inc., said in a statement.

Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, whose opposition to spending in Biden’s “Build Back Better Act” tanked significant climate policy, scored $2.7 million for electric buses for the city of Phoenix.

Securing one of the largest EV earmarks, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) got $8.3 million for Illinois’ electric bus and charging infrastructure program and an additional $2 million for the Chicago Transit Authority to upgrade its 103rd St. facility to accommodate electric buses and chargers.

Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, both Oregon Democrats, steered $6.3 million toward a project to electrify Salem Area Mass Transit District. And Georgia Democratic Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock locked in $3.9 million for Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority electric buses in Atlanta.

Ossoff said the new electric buses would help expand services and cut air pollution.

“We have to reduce the air pollution that’s dangerous for children’s health,” he said in a statement.