Requiring business owners to install electric vehicle chargers is an infringement on their liberties and a mandate they can’t afford, Missouri commission members argued Wednesday.
Mainly Republican lawmakers voiced support during a committee hearing on legislation that would require cities and counties to pay for electric vehicle chargers to force businesses to install them. Even then, they could only designate five seats, regardless of lot size.
“In many, many ways, we got the cart before the horse,” said Rep. Jim Murphy of St. Louis County, who sponsored the bill. “When we look at electric vehicles, are they the future? Perhaps. Probably. But not for sure.”
Murphy introduced similar legislation last year after St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis passed legislation requiring businesses to install chargers in some situations — such as when they’re renovating parking lots or expanding.
“What we’re doing now is using building codes to push political agendas, and this is really a green new deal, a piece of legislation to force people to do something they really can’t afford to do.” , Murphy said.
Murphy noted how many parking spaces are “tied up” for handicapped accessible parking, military personnel, curbside pickup and pregnant women.
“If I put in 10, 12 or 15 more spots that have electric charging stations and that parking lot is full, and you pull up in your gas-guzzling pickup truck, are you going to park in that spot anyway?” Murphy said. “Will there be fistfights?”
Committee members and lobbyists representing business and fossil fuel interests largely agreed that the free market should determine the transition to electric vehicles. A lobbyist for grocery stores and retailers said if businesses want to install chargers, it should be their decision.
“We can’t charge what it costs per hour to pay for them. It’s very expensive,” said David Overfelt, who testified in favor of the bill on behalf of the Missouri Retailers Association, the Missouri Grocers Association and the Missouri Tire Manufacturers Association.
In a committee debate on the bill, lawmakers noted that the government does not require businesses to install gas pumps to accommodate conventional vehicles, and argued with environmentalists who have spoken out against the bill.
Jack Meinzenbach, testifying for the Missouri chapter of the Sierra Club, argued the bill would prevent local governments from promoting enough chargers as more affordable electric vehicle models hit the market, and not just Teslas are on the road.
“I don’t like the fact that you’re taking local control away from cities and counties,” he told the committee. “This is what you guys have been doing for years.”
Meinzenbach said he bought a Tesla four years ago and only goes to hotels, restaurants and shopping centers that have chargers. He said a grocery store in Columbia that installed chargers has seen a spike in business.
“And those businesses that have them — they put them up at their own expense,” replied Rep. Darin Chappell of Rogersville.
He continued: “And then your experience shows that these businesses have seen an uptick in their business because of that. So is your primary testimony that the free market really works?”
Mainzenbach said he does in places like Columbia.
“But in rural areas? They need help,” he said.
Chappell said his area is rural and asked, “How long have you been driving your Tesla in rural areas?”
Mainzenbach said he drives to Springfield and Joplin.
“So we’re good. They were good. Even down in the hills we still have power — we had power for a while,” Chappell said.
Meinzenbach asked how many people in Chappell’s area have purchased electric vehicles, and Chappell said it might be a philosophical decision.
“They’re not going to buy one if they can’t turn it on,” Mainzenbach said.
Chappell replied, “However, we may not buy them.”
Earlier in the discussion, Chappell opined about how electronics manufacturers change chargers to get people to keep buying new ones. He worried about the same thing in electric vehicle charging technology.
“It seems pretty presumptuous to me to not only assume that electric vehicles are going to be the future, but that this version is going to be the future,” he said. “I’m just old enough to remember when the first question you were asked at the gas station was ‘regular or unleaded?'”
He went on to say that lead as a fuel additive has fallen away – “not because the government stepped in and imposed it as such”, but that the market is confirming it.
Lead is a neurotoxin, and its inclusion in gasoline for most of the 20th century polluted the air and poisoned generations of children, lowering average IQs and causing ADHD and other problems.
The government actually banned lead in gasoline. The Environmental Protection Agency began phasing it out in the 1970s. It was completely banned in the late 1990s.
Lead poisoning among children declined sharply as the prevalence of leaded gasoline declined in the last decades of the 20th century.
And even without lead, Meinzenbach said pollution from gasoline-powered vehicles is a threat to public health.
This story was originally published in the Missouri Independent.