Gluesenkamp Perez, Peltola to Biden Administration: Don’t Leave Rural Americans Behind with Electric Vehicles

Washington’s Third District has fewer than 100 public EV charging stations.

Apr 19, 2023
Press

Today, Reps. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03) and Mary Sattler Peltola (AK-At Large) penned a letter to Biden administration officials expressing concerns about the lack of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure in rural communities as the nation aims to utilize more EVs.

The Biden administration’s recently proposed vehicle emissions regulations would push two-thirds of new cars to be EVs by 2032. In addition, the Inflation Reduction Act, which was signed into law last year, included several provisions to make EVs more affordable. Despite setting ambitious policies to encourage consumers to transition to EVs, federal agencies have not done enough to ensure charging infrastructure is accessible in rural communities.

Currently, Washington’s Third Congressional District has fewer than 100 level 2 and DC fast chargers available to the public, and they are largely concentrated in just two cities – Longview and Vancouver. Alaska has only 60 publicly available EV charging stations.

In their letter, the lawmakers – who represent large rural communities – discuss the dangers of imposing these rules and regulations without proper rural EV charging infrastructure and push for more detail about how the Administration plans to expand EV infrastructure to meet its goals.

“The ability to refuel a gas-powered vehicle quickly is valuable given the daily realities of rural life. That option is available because our country has a robust network of gas stations, and the requisite gas infrastructure, to support communities of all kinds. An equally robust infrastructure for EV charging must exist before this transition takes place to ensure working people and rural communities have consumer choices similar to cities and suburbs. And that infrastructure, especially fast-charging options, is not being built fast enough in many rural areas,” wrote the lawmakers.

The full letter can be found here and below:

“The Honorable Michael Regan

Administrator

Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW 

Washington, D.C. 20460

The Honorable Pete Buttigieg

Secretary

Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Avenue SE

Washington, D.C. 20590

The Honorable Jennifer Granholm

Secretary

Department of Energy

1000 Independence Avenue SW

Washington, D.C. 20585

Dear Administrator Regan, Secretary Buttigieg, and Secretary Granholm,

We are writing to express our concerns about the impacts the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new proposed rules, Multi-Pollutant Emissions Standards for Model Years 2027 and Later Light-Duty and Medium-Duty Vehicles and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles – Phase 3 may have on rural communities.

Like you, we believe climate change is a threat to communities across the country, and the federal government plays a critical role in developing a clean energy apparatus and helping our communities improve air quality. However, in making that transition, we cannot leave rural communities or working families behind. The administration’s Executive Order 14037 and subsequent National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization set an ambitious goal for 50 percent of new passenger cars to be electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030. Last year’s Inflation Reduction Act included many concrete policies promoting EV production that will drive costs down and improve affordability. We are concerned the EPA, along with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Department of Energy (DOE), have not done enough work to ensure rural communities will have the necessary charging infrastructure in place to make widespread EV adoption possible. The imposition of additional regulations in the auto market without key infrastructure investments will reduce consumer choice, which is a recipe for disaster in rural America.

Rural communities, like ours, have more unique transportation and service options compared to cities or suburbs. Like many people who live in rural America, we spend a fair amount of time traveling, whether on or off the road system to get where we need to go. When your job, your pharmacy, or your child’s daycare is over an hour away, you need to know that your car, snow machine, or ATV, will get you there and back. The ability to refuel a gas-powered vehicle quickly is valuable given the daily realities of rural life. That option is available because our country has a robust network of gas stations, and the requisite gas infrastructure, to support communities of all kinds. An equally robust infrastructure for EV charging must exist before this transition takes place to ensure working people and rural communities have consumer choices similar to cities and suburbs. And that infrastructure, especially fast-charging options, is not being built fast enough in many rural areas. EV charging programs included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will help, but federal agencies remain focused on travel corridors along interstate highways, leaving many rural communities behind.

Washington’s third congressional district has fewer than 100 level 2 and DC fast chargers available to the public, and they are largely concentrated in just two cities. Alaska has only 60 publicly available EV charging stations. In Congresswoman Gluesenkamp Perez’ home county of Skamania, there are only two EV charging stations right now, and both are located at resorts. In Congresswoman Peltola’s borough of Bethel, along with all the other boroughs of Western Alaska, there are zero EV charging stations. As DOT has acknowledged, the costs of installing EV chargers in rural areas can be higher, especially for direct current fast charging stations, because they are more likely to require expensive electrical service upgrades. Furthermore, for many working families, installing an EV charger at home remains out of reach, especially for those who don’t own their homes. Bottom line: for EVs to be a meaningful and workable emissions reduction solution in rural America, we must have a ubiquitous and affordable charging infrastructure with access to abundant, cheap electricity. That simply does not exist right now.

We are only four years away from model year 2027, and we are concerned the EPA’s regulations are not paired with a plan to ensure adequate charging infrastructure on such a short timeline. Installing hundreds of thousands of new EV chargers and upgrading associated electrical infrastructure will also require tens of thousands of electricians. We are already experiencing a nationwide shortage of qualified electricians – anyone who’s currently waiting six months for a residential electrician knows this all too well. Workforce shortages, particularly for those in the trades, are even more acute in rural communities. We want to ensure the EPA has considered the significant workforce development challenges that must be addressed to train electricians for a large-scale roll out of EV charging infrastructure.

We request that the EPA, DOT, and DOE respond to the following questions:

1. What have the EPA, DOT, and DOE done to ensure rural communities are not left behind in the transition to electric vehicles?

2. Is there a clear and detailed deployment plan for electric vehicle charging infrastructure in rural areas?

3. How do the EPA and DOE anticipate potential shortages of trained electricians will impact the deployment of charging infrastructure? Further, have agencies evaluated the

disparate impacts these shortages may have in rural communities?

4. Beyond using limited Inflation Reduction Act funding, how do the EPA, DOT, and DOE plan to address existing and future shortages of trained electricians?

5. Going forward, how do the EPA, DOT, and DOE plan to work together to ensure public charging infrastructure is abundant and accessible in rural areas?

We also request that you share how you plan to deploy necessary EV charging infrastructure in a timeframe that matches the implementation of the proposed rules. Building out this infrastructure will ensure that rural communities are not disproportionately impacted and left behind in a changing market. While it is critically important that we move toward a clean energy future, it must be a future that works for all Americans, including those in rural areas.

Sincerely,”

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