electric vehicles

WGN Radio: ELPC’s Susan Mudd Talks VW Settlement Fund & IL EPA on Earth Day Show

Amy Guth’s Earth Day Extravaganza 

April 22, 2018

In honor of Earth Day, ELPC Senior Policy Advocate Susan Mudd was invited on-air to discuss how ELPC and other  environmental and public health organizations are calling on Illinois EPA to use $108 million in Volkswagen settlement funds for electric vehicles and EV charging infrastucture. Not everyone — including IEPA — agrees that’s the best use of those dollars.

LISTEN HERE begining at minute 35:00.

Chronicle Media: Environmental Groups Say IEPA Plan Leaves State, Residents Behind

April 10, 2018
Environmental Groups: IEPA Plan Leaves State, Residents Behind
By Kevin Beese

If you won a lottery jackpot, it is likely that creating electric car charging stations would not be high on your list of priorities.

The same can be said for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which has come into a lottery-type windfall as part of the Volkswagen lawsuit settlement.

While the national settlement allows for as much as 15 percent of a state’s allocated funds to go to electric vehicle infrastructure, the IEPA has opted to go a different route with the $108 million the state is getting from the Clean Air Act civil settlement, much to the chagrin of state-wide environmental groups.

Rebecca Judd, clean energy advocate for the Sierra Club’s Illinois Chapter, noted that Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio are all putting the maximum 15 percent of settlement funds into electric vehicle infrastructure.

“Sierra Club urges Illinois not to get left behind investing in a clean transportation future,” Judd said at a state Senate Environment and Conservation Committee hearing on the settlement funds last week. “The maximum 15 percent of the VW funds should be dedicated to light-duty EV infrastructure, along with additional pollution reduction through electrification of the transportation and public transit sector.

“Illinois EPA must ensure the VW funds are used to protect vulnerable populations and environmental justice communities from the impacts of air pollution by investing in transit agencies and a rapid transition to clean, zero-emission technology.”

The IEPA has proposed that 65 percent of the VW funds go to off-road efforts to reduce air pollution, such as new engines for Metra trains.

The $108 million windfall stems from Volkswagen AG and certain of its North American subsidiaries entering into a multi-billion settlement with the federal government for violations of the Clean Air Act. VW publicly admitted to installing “defeat devices” in certain diesel vehicles causing the vehicles to operate differently during emission testing compared to normal operation, circumventing federal vehicle emission standards.

In its plan for settlement funds, the IEPA proposes:

    • 20 percent of money ($21.7 million) going to on-road projects, such as replacing and repowering trucks and buses with diesel, alternative fuel or electric engines.
    • 10 percent ($10.8 million) for all-electric school buses, replacing diesel buses.
    • 65 percent ($70.6 million) to off-road projects, such as locomotives, ferries and tugs.
    • 5 percent ($5.4 million) for IEPA administrative expenses.

 

Susan Mudd, senior policy advocate for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, said the IEPA plan does not commit a single dollar to electric vehicle infrastructure. She said the mitigation plan puts short-term gains at the forefront.

“IEPA does not appear to have considered long-term benefits,” Mudd said.

She said by focusing so much money on off-road projects, the IEPA is missing the “immense on-road needs of urban transit riders in Chicago, Metro East and Downstate Illinois.”

“Many of our most vulnerable residents live in the state’s ozone non-attainment areas — Chicago and Metro East,” Mudd said. “IEPA has ignored, predominantly, their transit needs.”

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PRESS RELEASE: Illinois EPA VW Settlement Plan Drafted Without Promised Public Hearings

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency VW Settlement Plan Drafted Without Promised Public Hearings

 Plan Fails to Maximize Zero Emission Transportation

In response to the release today by the Illinois EPA of a draft plan for the use of $108 million allotted to the State of Illinois under the Volkswagen cheating scandal, environmental and public health groups issued the following statement:

“In May 2017, environmental and public health groups met with IEPA Director Alec Messina to urge transparency and public engagement in the preparation of the state’s VW mitigation plan. Director Messina assured us the agency would hold 12 public hearings across the state. Unfortunately, not a single meeting has been held. Instead, we have a plan that was developed behind closed doors,” said Jennifer Walling, Executive Director of the Illinois Environmental Council. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for Illinois to invest $108 million in clean transportation infrastructure, but we are very concerned about the lack of transparency and believe the agency’s plan fails to maximize opportunities to benefit public health and cleaner air. We prefer the public hearing and allocation strategies outlined in legislation that has been introduced in Springfield. As opposed to IEPA’s secretive process thus far, the proposed legislation would fully involve the public and immediately jump start the electrification of the transportation sector.”

Brian Urbaszewski, Director, Environmental Health at Respiratory Health Association, stated:Diesel pollution triggers asthma attacks and increases cardiovascular disease; it puts seniors in the hospital and causes children to miss school days because they are home sick. With clean electric vehicles including cars, school buses and transit buses already on the roads, it’s extremely disappointing the state isn’t maximizing the opportunity to transition to such clean vehicles that would improve the health of everyone. Illinois should focus on fully committing to non-polluting electric vehicle solutions.”

“With $108 million on the table, Illinois is positioned to dramatically increase its electric vehicle infrastructure and accelerate the viability of electric vehicles in our state. But this proposal diminishes that opportunity,” said Toba Pearlman, Clean Energy Advocate with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We strongly urge the agency to reconsider and seize this opportunity.”

Susan Mudd, Senior Policy Advocate with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said: “The one bright spot in the plan is IEPA’s commitment to electric school buses that protect children. Fewer kids across the state will be exposed to harmful diesel emissions that can trigger asthma attacks, interfere with children’s ability to learn and result in missed school days.”

IEC’s Walling added: “In addition to the lack of a public process, the IEPA plan does not do enough to create the greatest long-term benefits and protect those most vulnerable.”

Lead sponsors of legislation in Springfield that would require public input in the process and that would require the funding to advance the electrification of transportation also responded to the proposal.

“The Volkswagen settlement presents a great opportunity for Illinois to improve our transportation infrastructure, especially for transit and electric vehicles. For Illinois to make the most of this opportunity, it is essential that all stakeholders are allowed to provide meaningful input into how these funds are spent, and that there is a transparent process for public engagement,” said State Sen. Cristina Castro (D-Elgin). “It’s for these reasons, that I am proud to sponsor SB3103, which would require the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to establish a task force that  includes all stakeholders in development of the state’s mitigation plan.”

State Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) also called for a plan that maximizes investment in electric vehicle infrastructure.

“While we cannot undo the harm done by the added pollution Volkswagen knowingly permitted, this settlement provides Illinois with an opportunity to improve public health by reducing pollution going forward,” Sen. Steans said. “SB3055 would direct the maximum allowable amount of money under the terms of the settlement to electric vehicle charging stations. Additional investments in electric buses for public schools and electric fleets for municipalities will make our air cleaner by replacing polluting vehicles with non-emitting ones immediately, and make it easier for Illinoisans to switch to electric vehicles in the long term.”

“The crimes committed by Volkswagen caused real harm to Illinois drivers and to our air quality, and the public deserves an opportunity to guide how these settlement dollars are invested for maximum public benefit by electrifying our transportation system,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter.  “Illinois EPA’s proposal to turn a deaf ear to public input and subsidize fossil fuels with these dollars is decidedly un-electrifying.”

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WGN Radio: ELPC’s Rob Kelter Talks about the Latest in Electric Vehicles

Wintrust Business Lunch

February 17, 2018

Jon Hansen is joined by Rob Kelter, senior attorney at Environmental Law & Policy Center, to talk about the latest in electric vehicles and the impact they had at the Chicago Auto Show.

LISTEN HERE

 

Midwest Energy News: ELPC’s Kelter Applauds Indy Airport EV Shuttle Bus Expansion

At Indianapolis Airport, Electric Shuttles Making Holiday Travel a Little Cleaner
By Kari Lydersen

Shuttling between airport terminals on noisy, smelly buses can be one more headache for weary passengers.

It can also be a source of air pollution when fleets of diesel-powered shuttles run around the clock.

At the Indianapolis International Airport, the situation for passengers and the environment has improved with a fleet of electric airport shuttles that officials say will be the nation’s largest — at nine — once three new shuttles arrive next year. There are already six electric shuttles working the airport, and airport executive director Mario Rodriguez said an additional four will be ordered and put into service around 2020, bringing the total to 13.

An electric shuttle bus can cost several hundred thousand dollars more than a traditional diesel bus. Federal grants under the Zero Emissions Airport Vehicle (ZEV) program totaling $3.6 million over two years have helped the airport buy the shuttles. The ZEV program, created under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, allows airports to use federal airport improvement dollars to buy zero-emissions vehicles.

Rodriguez is hopeful the airport will receive more ZEV grants, and he said they will continue buying electric shuttles regardless.

While the up-front cost difference is large, electric vehicles yield significant savings over time in fuel costs and maintenance, as electric vehicles are much simpler and cheaper to maintain than engines using liquid fuel.

In fact, Rodriguez said the airport expects to save $2 million in maintenance costs and avoid buying 66,000 gallons of diesel over the 10-year lifetime of the buses. Or rather the lifetime of their batteries — buses can usually be refurbished or outfitted with a new battery for a longer life.

“If they prove to be as solid as we believe they are, we probably could use the same buses for years to come, and just change the batteries,” Rodriguez said. “Most of this technology is completely proven. The electric motor is beautiful. It will last forever. The only thing we have to do is change the battery packs.”

Rodriguez considers the shuttles to be largely powered by solar energy since the airport boasts a solar farm capable of generating more than 20 megawatts that sends energy back to the grid.

While there may not seem to be a large amount of consumer choice involved in what airports people pass through, Rodriguez thinks the airport’s ambitious sustainability projects actually influence passengers and local residents enough to affect the bottom line. Among other things, Indianapolis was the first U.S. airport to win LEED certification for an entire terminal campus.

“What do you want out of your public enterprise?” asked Rodriguez. “Do you want them to be good stewards of the environment, do you want them to provide a high level of customer service, do you want them to treat the environment and people who live around the airport correctly? We want to elevate our public value — our stockholders are the public at large. Part of treating them respectfully is making sure we don’t hurt their environment.”

The electric shuttles specifically are also a selling point, he added.

“The passengers, they love it,” he said. “It’s quiet, it’s comfortable, it improves customer service. There’s no jerkiness with acceleration like you would get with a normal bus. It really is an improvement in customer service, it is an improvement for our drivers — our drivers love these buses. You don’t have to start it up, warm it up, do a bunch of things to it, it just starts.”

Many clean energy and transportation experts think it is only a matter of time before electric is the default power source for vehicles large and small. Electric cars are becoming increasingly popular and affordable, Tesla and other companies are developing electric semi-trucks, and school districts and transit authorities are increasingly eyeing and buying electric buses.
Rob Kelter, senior attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said the Indianapolis electric shuttles are a good example of how federal supports like ZEV grants can help accelerate an electric vehicle transition that will eventually have its own momentum.

“This is what good government programs do,” Kelter said. “They help get something like this started, and as the market develops and the price comes down, these incentives aren’t needed. This is a great new program and we hope it catches on in airports around the country and also that other people who have an opportunity to electrify their buses will take a look at this.”

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Midwest Energy News: ELPC’s Learner Says Clean Energy Advocates Should Focus More Attention on Clean Transportation

Study: Utilities should get in the drivers seat on electric vehicle infrastructure
By Kari Lydersen

It’s widely accepted that electric vehicles will become increasingly popular and affordable in coming years, and utilities are trying to make sure their grids can handle an influx of vehicles plugged in.

But a recent study by the global consulting firm Deloitte argues that utilities should embrace electric vehicles even more aggressively, treating them almost like power plants and “batteries on wheels,” incorporating them into the fabric of their electricity delivery and generation systems and ideally into their rate-bases.

“We’re really seeing this as a convergence of forces,” said study author Scott Smith, U.S. power & utilities leader for Deloitte LLP. “The technology, government policies, the auto manufacturers, and — we believe — the utilities, have a central role to play in this.”

The study says embracing electric vehicles and their charging infrastructure would help utilities with “three of today’s biggest challenges: stagnant demand, the requirement to integrate renewable and distributed energy resources seamlessly, and the need to engage customers and interest them in new services.”

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Indianapolis Star: ELPC Pushing Indiana Agency to Allocate Portion of $41M VW Settlement Funds to Electric School Buses

IDEM’s unusual comment process for spending $41 million Volkswagen settlement
September 25, 2017
By Emily Hopkins

Indiana is poised to receive $41 million, its share of a $2.7 billion settlement federal regulators reached with Volkswagen after it was learned the German automaker cheated emissions tests for over half a decade.

But just how the state plans to spend that money is a mystery thanks to what some contend is a process that thus far has been neither transparent nor open to public input.

In at least 38 states, residents can find information about the settlement on their government’s website. In some cases, they may even be able to submit their own suggestions into whether the funds should be used for electric transit, hybrid vehicles, or any of the 10 ways the Environmental Protection Agency has identified to fight pollution.

But Hoosiers who want a say in how Indiana spends its share of the pot might want to try to snag a meeting with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Commissioner Bruno Pigott.

“While other states have chosen to accept public comment in a web-based manner, Indiana has chosen to reach out to stakeholders in a more personal way with one-on-one meetings with interested parties and presenting on meeting agendas of interested parties,” IDEM’s Deputy Director of Communications Tara Wolf told IndyStar via email. “[Pigott] has been meeting one-on-one with many interested stakeholders since he came into office in January.”

If that seems like Hoosier Hospitality to some, others see it as a series of closed-door talks outside of the public’s view.

To be clear, there is no requirement for states to solicit public comment before the legal process to get the funds has begun. And Wolf assured that the time will come when Hoosiers can comment on a draft plan.

Still, some are concerned that Indiana is behind several states who have chosen to be proactive. Some states solicited public feedback as early as last fall, and a handful of states have already published drafts of their proposals online. Minnesota, for example, has received hundreds of comments and responses to an online survey and held more than a half dozen public meetings to discuss how the funds should be spent.
“We just thought it was the right thing to do,” said Rocky Sisk, State Program Administrator for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. He said that many people have different perspectives on the issue, but that the meetings have been instrumental in shaping their plans.

“Those are the things we feel very confident about doing now that we’ve had public input,” Sisk said.

Before states submit their plans, they’ll have to take part in a legally technical process determined by the settlement. First, states will have to announce which agencies will manage the funds in their respective states. Many states have already done this, often choosing one of their environmental departments.

Indiana has not formally announced which agencies will handle the funds. According to those familiar with the issue, it could be a group of three to five agencies, and the general assumption is that IDEM will take the lead. IDEM’s Wolf said that the Indiana agency handling the funds will be announced once the “trust effective date” is finalized, which will set deadlines for states to have their plans drafted. It’s at that point that the state will ramp up its public outreach.

“A draft Beneficiary Mitigation Plan for public comment will be posted on our website and the public will have ample time to submit comments,” Wolf said. IDEM would not disclose which groups or individuals the agency had met with, but Wolf said that it “has spoken to any group or individual who has requested information.”

The money being paid to states by Volkswagen is one of a series of criminal and civil penalties levied against the automaker. The company was found to be in violation of the Clean Air Act when it came to light that Volkswagen had cheated on emissions testing of some of its diesel vehicles. About half a million cars in the U.S. were allowed to emit pollutants “at levels up to 40 times the standard” set by the EPA. Nitrogen oxides, or NOx gases, are a byproduct of burning diesel fuel and have the potential to cause asthma and other respiratory health issues. The mitigation trust fund is meant to address those NOx emissions.

At least one organization is not waiting on IDEM to start promoting its plan. This summer, the Environmental Law and Policy Center conducted an electric bus tour across four states where they hope settlement money could be used to replace diesel school buses with electric ones.

“Children are especially vulnerable [to diesel fumes] because their lungs are not yet developed, and the particles make their way through the nose, into the blood stream and cause all sorts of problem,” said Susan Mudd, Senior Policy Advocate at ELPC, noting that more than half of public school children in Indiana are transported by bus.

Mudd has been impressed with efforts by other states in the region. She remarked on the several public meetings held in Minnesota, and the “priority county” map produced by Ohio’s EPA.

“Indiana has not stepped forward yet,” Mudd said, “but we’re hopeful.”

Kellie Walsh, executive director of the Greater Indiana Clean Cities Coalition, said that when the mitigation trust fund was announced, her phone was ringing off the hook.

“Folks were like, ‘When is money going to be on the street?'” said Walsh. “Sorry guys, that’s not how this works.”

 

To read the full article, please click here

The Columbus Dispatch: AEP Ohio Incentive Plan Could Help Double Ohio’s Vehicle Charging Stations


Incentive Plan Could Help Double Ohio’s Vehicle Charging Stations
by Dan Gearino

August 30, 2017

The number of electric-vehicle charging stations in Ohio would be poised to double under a rebate proposal from American Electric Power and environmental groups.

If approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, the $10 million plan would give incentives to apartment owners, businesses and others to build up to 375 charging stations in AEP territory in Ohio.

Ohio has 346 stations listed by the federal government’s Alternative Fuels Data Center. That number, which includes public and private locations, ranks Ohio 20th in the country, behind Midwestern neighbors such as Michigan and Pennsylvania.

“It’s a great step,” said Sam Spofforth, executive director of Clean Fuels Ohio, which advocates for reducing pollution from vehicle fuels. “All electricity customers will benefit from this.”

He expects broad benefits because of a decrease in air pollution and because the use of electricity as an automotive fuel will help to broaden the base for paying to maintain the electricity system.

The charging stations are a small part of an agreement that AEP and more than a dozen other parties are asking the PUCO to approve. AEP would receive several items it wants in exchange for making concessions to other groups that signed on to the deal.

AEP’s 1.3 million Ohio customers would pay for the charging-station rebates through a so-far unspecified charge in utility bills. And that is a concern for the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, which opposes many parts of the rate plan.

“State regulators shouldn’t be asked to make a million consumers — most of whom don’t drive electric vehicles — pay to subsidize electric-vehicle charging through their AEP electric bills,” said Dan Doron, the office’s spokesman, in an e-mail.

Doron said an increase in charging stations should come instead from private investment in response to market demand.

Here’s how the rebate program would work:

‒ AEP would provide money to help pay for up to 300 “Level 2” charging stations, which is a step up from a basic charger. Three in 10 of the stations of this type would need to be in places that the public can access. The rest would be at workplaces, apartments and condominium complexes that might not be open to the public.

‒ The company also would offer rebates for up to 75 “DC Fast” charging stations, which work much faster than a Level 2 charger. All of these stations would be open to the public.

‒ The rebates would range from 50 percent to 100 percent of the costs involved in installing the stations; the highest rebates would be reserved for locations available to the public at government-owned properties.

AEP would not own the stations but would be able to collect a 5 percent fee for administering the rebates, and the AEP name would appear at the stations.

The station owner would be required to share charging data with AEP, including the prices charged for electricity. This data, aggregated to obscure personal information of consumers, would be available to researchers who want to study usage patterns.

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Press Release: AEP Ohio Settlement Plan Includes $10 Million Electric Vehicle Charging Station Rebate Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                              

August 28, 2017                                                                                         

                                                                                            

 

 AEP Ohio Settlement Plan includes $10 Million Electric Vehicle Charging Station Rebate Program 

ELPC and other enviro groups say program could boost EV car sales, encourage more U.S. investment in electric car technologies and reduce charging rates 

Columbus, Ohio — AEP Ohio late Friday filed a settlement plan with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio that includes a $10 million electric vehicle charging station rebate program that will strengthen the charging infrastructure needed to get more EVs on the road.

“Installing hundreds of charging stations through the settlement plan has the potential to put Columbus on the map as a leader in bringing more electric vehicles to the Midwest,” said Robert Kelter, Senior Attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Getting more electric vehicles on the road will reduce air pollution, encourage American companies to invest more in EV technologies, and reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels.”

AEP Ohio will create and operate the rebate incentive program, which will cover costs for up to 300 Level 2 charging stations and 75 DC Fast charging stations. This program supports the Smart Columbus Initiative.

“This settlement is great news and a great opportunity for everyone in AEP’s service territory,” Clean Fuels Ohio Executive Director Sam Spofforth said.  “This is a strong first step but it’s only a first step.  This program will provide everyone, including the PUCO, the opportunity to see what works here in Ohio.

At least 10% of both the Level 2 and DC Fast charging stations will be set aside for low-income geographic areas. In addition, charging stations will be allocated to public locations, workplace charging, and multi-unit dwellings.

The settlement plan calls for three or more hardware and software charging station companies to participate in the program.

“We hope having more charging station companies in the program will jumpstart competition and lead to a competitive market where charging prices are driven down,” said ELPC’s Kelter.

AEP filed this case to extend its current “Electric Security Plan” for providing service to Ohio customers through 2024. The plan could be approved by late 2017 or early 2018.

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Midwest Energy News: ELPC Working with Michigan to Consider Tapping VW Settlement Funds for EV School Buses

Michigan School Districts Eye VW Settlement Money for Electric Buses

By Andy Balaskovitz

Michigan school districts looking to lower the emissions of their transportation fleets are eyeing millions of dollars from the Volkswagen settlement to be used for electric buses.

As part of a consent decree following the German automaker’s scandal involving its diesel vehicles, Michigan is in line to receive $60.3 million for an “environmental mitigation trust,” which is meant to offset the nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from vehicles involved with the case.

Advocacy groups have been working with school districts in the region, including in Michigan, about potentially using some of that funding to purchase electric buses.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has released a draft plan for spending the money over 10 years by replacing a variety of vehicle types, zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and staff. About half of the proposed spending — $32.3 million — would be for replacing 323 government-owned school buses over the 10-year period.

“We think that’s a really positive thing for a number of reasons,” said Susan Mudd, senior policy advocate for the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center. The ELPC has been informing Midwest school districts about the settlement fund opportunities, and has identified at least 17 Michigan districts interested in electric buses for their schools.

Mudd pointed to the roughly 700,000 Michigan K-12 students who ride in buses every day and who have greater risk to exposure from diesel exhaust.

“Diesel school buses historically have all sorts of emissions,” Mudd said, adding that NOx and other particulate emissions from diesel vehicles are a precursor for ozone and exacerbate asthma, particularly among children. “It would not be accurate to say school buses are the cause, but they are a contributor to the direct exposure kids are having.”

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