Facing an Uncertain Future in Washington, D.C.

 By: Jeff Allen, Executive Director

(March 24, 2017) At the end of February, I made my first trip back to Washington, D.C. since the November elections, and the first trip with our new Director of Government Relations, Jeanette Shaw.

We traveled to the nation’s capital primarily to attend the Electric Drive Transportation Association’s (EDTA) Annual Membership Meeting and Electric Drive Congress. We have been members of EDTA for several years and we always appreciate their insights and hard work in support of good electric vehicle policy. Clearly, all participants were concerned about the potential loss of federal tax credits for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, as well as broader policy changes that may come from the new administration.

In fact, shortly after our return to Oregon, the Trump administration announced that it would review the recently finalized federal fuel economy standards for 2022-2025. The administration has not yet attempted to revoke California’s authority to set stricter rules, which is what has allowed it and other opt-in states to mandate sales of electric vehicles; however, this remains a great concern. 

After the meeting, participants fanned out to meet with their local Senators and Representatives, and we were able to meet with nearly all of the Oregon delegation or their key staff. The common refrain on the Hill was that “nobody knows” what to expect exactly, or when changes may come… but everyone expects that big changes are, indeed, coming.

Congressman Kurt Schrader meets with Drive Oregon’s Jeff Allen (Executive Director) & Jeanette Shaw (Director of Government Relations)

We were also able to connect with key interest groups and federal agency staff. In particular, we traveled to Herndon, Virginia to meet with Electrify America and discuss its plans for spending $500 million in Volkswagen settlement funds to promote electrification over the coming 30 months. This initiative has ambitious goals and a daunting timeline, but is staffing up quickly, with some 35 positions currently posted. We look forward to welcoming the Electrify America team back to Oregon in June for EV Roadmap 10, by which time they should be able to share a public plan, approved by the EPA and the California Air Resources Board.

Other meetings with the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Transportation reinforced the message that “nobody knows” exactly what changes are coming, or when. Meanwhile, however, we take heart from the many good people in both agencies who are continuing to do great work. For example, the USDOE Vehicle Technologies Office is looking beyond specific vehicles at strategies to improve the energy efficiency of entire mobility systems, while the Federal Highway Administration continues to roll out a national network of alternative fuel corridors. Both agencies confirmed that they will be joining us at EV Roadmap 10.

While uncertainty was a theme of many of our discussions while in D.C., Drive Oregon will continue to work with our federal and state representatives to advance electric, smart mobility.