A bill meant to tie the hands of St. Louis-area officials who want to require building owners to install electric vehicle chargers cleared the Missouri House Thursday.
If passed, it would prohibit cities from passing building codes requiring businesses to install chargers unless the municipalities pay.
“I’m all for electric cars. Bring them on. I think it’s great,” Rep. Dottie Bailey, R-Eureka, said on the House floor last month. “But to do it like this is backwards, and it’s going to put people out of business that can’t comply with this regulation.”
Rep. Jim Murphy, R-St. Louis, introduced the bill after St. Louis County passed last year an ordinance requiring new buildings to include electric vehicle charging and for charging to be installed at existing buildings in the case of renovations or changes of use.
The city of St. Louis passed similar legislation early last year with more details and exemptions for some types of businesses.
Murphy’s bill is just the latest in a long line of legislation over the years seeking to preempt actions by local governments on policies from plastic ban bags to minimum wage hikes to regulating ride-sharing.
Murphy faced accusations during House debate last month that he was subverting local control. But he said St. Louis County’s actions must be reversed.
“I have my red line on my local control, and this one passes that line. So therefore, yes I am,” Murphy said of overriding local control, “and I’m proud of it.”
Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, said the bill would make it more difficult for the state to embrace the coming transition to electric vehicles.
“I just want to make it very clear that your bill is making it more difficult for clean energy to happen,” Meredith said, “and I think that we should never, ever do anything to make clean energy more difficult to happen.”
Preparing for electric vehicles
St. Louis officials estimate that 30% of cars in the region could be electric vehicles as soon as 2030. But Alderwoman Heather Navarro said finding charging was one of the biggest barriers to owning such a vehicle.
Navarro sponsored the legislation that passed the St. Louis Board of Aldermen unanimously about a year ago. Three bills required that newly built or renovated residential, apartment and commercial buildings be “EV Ready,” meaning that they have the necessary electrical capacity and other infrastructure to easily install an EV charger.
Parking lots with more than 50 spaces would have to provide chargers on at least 2% of them, and 5% of the spots would need to be EV ready. By 2025, 10% would have to be EV ready. The legislation requires that businesses with smaller parking lots have one or two spaces that are EV ready or have a charger installed depending on their size.
The city law contains exemptions for government buildings and some businesses, such as daycare facilities, where patrons don’t stay long enough for it to be worth plugging in their cars.
St. Louis County’s legislation, however, exempts only gas stations. It requires 10% of parking spaces be EV ready and 2% have EV chargers, including for small parking lots.
Murphy’s bill prevailed in the House on a 98-33 vote and now moves to the Missouri Senate for consideration.
This article by Allison Kite is published from The Missouri Independent through a Creative Commons license.