N.J. to sign multistate accord for zero-emissions vehicles

Source: David Iaconangelo, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, April 6, 2018

New Jersey will join an eight-state block that in 2013 agreed to collaborate on the deployment of 3.3 million zero-emissions vehicles by 2025, according to the office of Gov. Phil Murphy (D).

Spurred by U.S. EPA’s announcement earlier this week that it would roll back Obama-era vehicle efficiency and emissions standards, the action will add a New Jersey representative to a multistate task force aiming to boost regional EV markets. Member states currently make up over a quarter of the country’s vehicle market.

It’s still mostly symbolic. New Jersey is already one of 13 “Section 177” partners that follow California’s regulatory program for zero-emissions vehicles, or ZEVs, though it held back from signing the 2013 memorandum of understanding with other, mostly Northeastern states.

That made the action one of the easier lifts requested by Murphy’s clean energy allies. They included it in a list of priorities during the new governor’s transition to office after his 2017 election.

“I call it housekeeping,” said Pam Frank, CEO at electric vehicle coalition ChargEVC and transition team member. “It’s important that we join the rest of the leader states and help formalize our commitment and some specific goals.”

The coalition is pushing a package of bills that include a 330,000-ZEV mandate, which would put it in league with other MOU states where utilities have begun using formal numerical goals as a basis for long-term infrastructure proposals.

Within the past year and a half, utilities in states like Delaware, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland and Rhode Island have presented regulators with plans to invest in new charging stations, off-peak rate designs and other electric vehicle programs, said Kathy Kinsey, a senior adviser on zero-emissions vehicles at Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM).

NESCAUM, an association of air pollution regulators from Northeast states, also advises the multistate task force that New Jersey will soon join.

“New Jersey is an important part of the Northeast corridor, and with the exception of California and Oregon, they’re all Northeast Corridor and Mid-Atlantic states [in the ZEV agreement],” said Kinsey.

“One of our ultimate goals in the Northeast is to build out a robust regional charging infrastructure,” she said. “The Northeast region is a place where there’s a lot of cross-border travel.”

It also comes in what could be a new era for EV-hungry states that don’t start with “C” and end in “alifornia.”

For years, a regulatory quirk known as the “travel provision” allowed automakers to sell EVs in one state while counting the sales toward their requirements for all other ZEV states (Greenwire, Feb. 3, 2016).

The provision, put in place in 2003 to appease automakers that said the requirements were too strict, expires for cars produced after the 2017 model year. That means people who live in MOU states, where adoption rates are way behind where they need to be to reach the common goals, could start seeing more diversity in local showrooms.

“If you go to California, you see all these products with a plug that aren’t available in New Jersey. You will now see these products in New Jersey,” said Frank, of ChargEVC.

Murphy, who is slated to sign the MOU in the coming days, said in the announcement that it was intended to “tackle the largest source of air pollution in our state.”

“New Jersey will use every tool at our disposal to fight misguided efforts by the Trump Administration to roll back federal fuel emissions standards that save New Jersey consumers money, protect the environment, and drive innovation in the transportation sector,” he said.