Panel approves electric vehicle infrastructure legislation

Source: By Jeremy Dillon, E&E News reporter • Posted: Sunday, January 12, 2020

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee approved a series of electric vehicle and energy infrastructure bills meant to promote zero emission technology.

The nine measures — moved by the Subcommittee on Energy via voice vote, despite Republican apprehension — constitute key provisions in the committee’s larger climate action framework and are likely to be part of draft legislation coming later this month.

“Collectively, these bills take another step forward in promoting clean and efficient energy for all Americans,” Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said in his opening statement. “It is part of our ongoing work to combat climate change, strengthen our economy and provide some much needed relief to consumers on their energy bills.”

Leading those efforts were a trio of bills to boost electric vehicles through state grant programs, which would fund EV charging network and school bus replacements.

The measures includes Energy Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Rush’s (D-Ill.) newly unveiled legislation to promote the wide-scale deployment of an EV network.

The bill, H.R. 5545, would authorize more than $6 billion annually during the next decade in rebates and grants to encourage states to deploy and construct a charging network and other infrastructure.

It would also direct the federal government to transform its light duty vehicle fleet into 100% zero emission vehicles by 2050.

“This is a vitally important bill that will set us on a path to lower emissions from the transportation sector,” Rush said in defense of his bill. “The time for dillydallying is over.”

In addition to the Rush bill, the subcommittee approved H.R. 2906, from Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), and H.R. 5518, from Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) — also to promote EVs and advanced fuels.

The Cárdenas measure would broaden EPA’s Clean School Bus grant program to include electric vehicles while also emphasizing applicants seeking to acquire school buses with low or zero emissions. The bill would set the annual authorization level at $50 million.

McEachin’s bill would reauthorize the Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Coalition program to help cities move away from petroleum-based fuels. The legislation would double the program’s funding authorization to $100 million by fiscal 2025.

Republicans voiced opposition to all three bills, citing the lack of DOE and EPA input as well as the high price tag associated with the grant programs.

E&C ranking member Greg Walden (R-Ore.) raised concerns about unanswered questions regarding EVs, including utility rates, environmental concerns, and broader energy policy and permitting considerations.

“In short, a legislative hearing and regular order on the specifics of this bill, which we have not conducted, would help us understand the various implications of this expansive $50 billion proposal, which was made public less than two days ago,” Walden said in his opening statement. “We must make sure any electrification policy will work for the American consumer and taxpayer.”

Republicans did not offer any amendments, likely waiting for a full committee markup, which has yet to be scheduled.