State officials are proposing electric vehicle tax credits and an expanded network of charging stations on state roads as part of their efforts to reduce carbon emissions — but they’re still not sure how much it will cost or how to fund their plans. The proposals are part of the North Carolina Climate Change Interagency Council, which met last Friday.
Gov. Roy Cooper created the council last year with Executive Order 80, which set goals for how the state should address climate change and move to a clean-energy economy. As part of that order, Cooper wants 80,000 electric vehicles on North Carolina’s roads by 2025, and he wants to lower the state’s overall carbon emissions to 40% of 2005 levels by that same year.
"Every single North Carolinian, from hurricane victims to farmers, have felt the effects of climate change," Cooper said. "So this is an imperative for this administration, because we know the challenges that lie ahead."
During last week's meeting, the North Carolina Department of Transportation announced that it wants to build a network of vehicle-charging stations along state highways. This plan will be funded with $4.6 million that is part of the Volkswagen Settlement. North Carolina received $92 million from that national settlement between the carmaker and the Environmental Protection Agency following the company’s diesel emissions scandal unearthed in 2015.
NCDOT also proposes a tax credit of $7,500 for electric vehicle purchases, and the state has identified more than 500 vehicles in its fleet that it could replace with electric vehicles.
There are no plans for how to pay for these last two proposals, and officials gave no cost estimate. A spokesman for the governor’s office says the council’s focus is to provide ambitious goals for reducing the state’s carbon emissions, and not to attach a specific price tag to any initiative. If agencies want to fund their proposals in the near future, they would need to find money in their existing budgets or submit a request for more funding from the General Assembly.
Rep. Christy Clark of Huntersville is a Democrat who sits on the House Environment Committee. She says funding environmental initiatives isn’t a priority for the current Republican majority. She added the committee hasn’t held many meetings with state agencies to discuss their plans.
"I think we met one time, but other than that, the Environment Committee has not met during this session," Clark said.
WFAE reached out to two Republican members of the House Environment Committee, but they did not respond to requests for comment.
The Climate Change Interagency Council will meet again for an update on its plans' progress in November.