Tuesday, November 14, 2017

House Committee Held Hearing On Clean Transportation Infrastructure Bill

The House Transportation Committee Monday held a hearing on House Bill 1446 (M.Quinn-R- Montgomery) related to establishing a clean transportation infrastructure (sponsor summary).  The bill would:
-- Establish a state goal of expanding our electric transportation usage by at least 50 percent over baseline forecasts by 2030;
-- Direct the development of regional transportation plans so that Pennsylvanians will be able to live, work and play while going electric;
-- Require electric utilities to submit infrastructure investment proposals based on the regional frameworks that help cost-effectively build out backbone charging infrastructure that meets their local needs;
-- Complete statewide interstate and Turnpike fast electric and natural gas refueling networks; and
-- Assess opportunities to increase the deployment of natural gas vehicles to support fleets and other high-value uses.
Rep. John Taylor (R-Philadelphia), Majority Chair of the Committee, said the purpose of the hearing was to discuss the issue of alternative energy for vehicles and noted this issue is something the Committee, the House Consumer Affairs Committee, the Public Utility Commission and the general public will be concerned about in the very near future.
Roger Cohen, Director of Policy at the Department of Transportation, said PennDOT “supports the spirit of the legislation.” However, he expressed concern with section 3 of the legislation which requires PennDOT to provide alternative fuel stations within rest stops and welcome centers along the interstate highways.
Cohen explained their concern is the Federal Highway Code does not and has historically prohibited the provision of vehicle service stations within the right of way.  He noted Pennsylvania prohibits the commercial development of limited access right of way in the Commonwealth.
Cohen did tell the Committee PennDOT has consulted with the Federal Highway Administration and tried to see if they had scope for the creative interpretation of those provisions and it appears they did not give an answer that would allow the department to move forward with those provisions.
He said PennDOT has been working with the Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies on promoting alternative fuel stations and infrastructure along certain high volume designated corridors in the Commonwealth.
Cohen described how the public/private partnership law enables PennDOT to participate with the private sector in the provision of alternative fuel stations off of the right of way. He pointed out they have been doing that with the compressed natural gas program for transit busses around the Commonwealth.
Craig Shuey, CEO of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, testified that beginning in 2011, the Turnpike Commission began having a conversation about electrification along the roadway and being able to provide that service.  He explained that in conjunction with DEP, the commission began the process of working with DEP on a grant for $1 million that went to Blink Charging.
Gladys Brown, Chairman of the Public Utility Commission, told lawmakers, “The Commission has a neutral position on House Bill 1446.” She outlined some suggestions regarding the legislation. These included:
-- Change the 180-day review timeline to a 270-day review period and empower the PUC to extend deadlines to the extent necessary to provide a thorough review of the plan;
-- Allow those electric distribution companies (EDCs) who are not otherwise required to file a development plan under the legislation the ability to file plans for Commission review;
-- Utilization of time-of-use rates;
-- Utility ownership of electric vehicle charging stations; and
-- Cost/Benefit test
Brown cautioned, “If the full cost of service of charging services are not fully recovered through charging service rates, House Bill 1446 would cause customers to use gasoline or diesel driven cars, regardless of their efficiency, to subsidize electric vehicle (EV) and or natural gas vehicle (NGV) drivers.”
Tanya McCloskey, Acting Consumer Advocate, testified, “While I support the development of infrastructure to support EV charging stations, I have concerns with the structure of House Bill 1446, particularly with the responsibility assigned to public utilities and the resulting costs that will be borne by the utility ratepayers.”
She added, “I am also concerned that the approach sanctioned in House Bill 1446 that allows the public utility to enter the transportation fueling business and receive monopoly rulemaking treatment for the associated costs from ratepayers, could limit the development of a competitive EV charging station market.”
Thomas Bonner, Manager of State Government Affairs at PECO, said they believe “a regionally planned approach to development of a backbone electric transportation infrastructure supported by a statewide policy will put Pennsylvania in the best position to maximize the benefits of transportation electrification.”
He suggested, “In order to optimize this opportunity, Pennsylvania should adopt an approach that brings transportation analysts, industry experts, utilities and local governments together to develop integrated transportation electrification plans that ensure public access to charging opportunities for drivers and promote electrification in high value public purpose applications.”
Bonner argued, “The key to this proposal is the regional framework assessments developed by independent transportation analysts to understand how much charging infrastructure will be needed in the future and where it should be located.”
He indicated that attached to his testimony is what he described as “a set of perfecting amendments” to the proposed legislation which PECO developed.
Kevin Miller, Director of Public Policy, ChargePoint, told the Committee members, “While ChargePoint supports the overall intent of this legislation, we must opposed it in its current form unless it is amended.
“The proposed process to develop utility EV charging investment plans completely omits the critical step of setting clear rules of the road for regulated utilities to complement private companies in the competitive EV charging market.”
According to Miller, “Failing to design utility programs around a consistent set of statewide guidelines, which have been established to determine the appropriate role for utilities in EV charging, will undermine the Commonwealth’s transportation electrification goals.”
Scott Fisher, Vice President, Market Development, Greenlots, expressed support for the legislation. “Currently, the business model for non-utility ownership and operation of charging stations is limited to non-existent.  Without adequate investment in infrastructure, electric vehicles adoption will continue to grow more slowly than the technology and many benefits would otherwise promise.”
Andrew Duga, President and CEO, Momentum Dynamics Corporation, expressed support for the legislation. He explained that his company is “a leader in the new technology field of conductive or wireless power transmission in charging electric vehicles.”
Tony Cusati, State Chair for Gas and Electric, Retail Energy Supply Association, testified, “While we are supportive of the goals of the legislation to expand transportation electrification statewide, RESA has serious concerns about how this bill is being proposed.”
He also said, “While RESA recognizes that the incumbent utilities serve an important role as operators of the transmission and distribution system and agrees that the regulated utilities should have the option to explore their role in a transportation electrification infrastructure development plan, that process should be transparent and allow all interested stakeholders to participate.”
Kevin Stewart, President and CEO, PA Motor Truck Association, testified, “Development of infrastructure that supports the continued growth of electric and natural gas powered vehicles is imperative to our industry.” He continued, “A network of fueling stations that are truck-friendly allows for the continued use and expansion of these technologies by fleet operators and will extend our range of operations.”
Rep. John Taylor (R-Philadelphia) serves as Majority Chair of the Committee and can be contacted by sending email to: jtaylor@pahousegop.com.  Rep. William Keller (D-Philadelphia) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by sending email to: wkeller@pahouse.net.
(Based in part on reporting by PA Legislative Services.)

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