Aug. 27, 2014

Senate Will See Electric Car Parking Spaces Soon

Three months after the House and Senate passed a pair of bills to designate parking spaces for charging electric cars in their respective garages, the Architect of the Capitol’s office is moving the ball forward.

A memo emailed to the Senate community this afternoon and obtained by Roll Call informed staffers and lawmakers that the AOC would begin implementing charging stations in Senate garages beginning Tuesday.

Though at first the plan was to install formal stations in the garages, the AOC found that a cheaper alternative would be simply to set aside a number of parking spots located near electrical outlets. That way, electric car owners could bring their own extension cords and do the charging themselves, plugs within reach.

As a further cost-saving measure, and to ensure that taxpayers don’t inadvertently subsidize electric car owners, individuals who want to take advantage of the parking spaces will have to contact the Senate Garage Division and pay a few dollars for the parking/charging privilege.

“Program participants have the option of paying a monthly subscription rate or a daily usage rate,” according to the memo. “The rates provide for unlimited monthly or daily charging respectively.

“Consistent with past parking protocols,” the memo continued, “the parking spaces for the electric vehicle charging stations are not designed for electric vehicles only and are available on a first come first serve basis.”

As for when the House might see its electric car recharging stations established, AOC spokeswoman Eva Malecki told Roll Call that “the AOC’s House Superintendent’s Office is currently working to identify locations.”

Though the House advanced its legislation with ease, earlier concerns in the Senate relating to cost almost derailed the effort.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) objected to quick consideration of the legislation for nearly a month on the grounds that it was a waste of money.

“Sen. McCain objected to [considering] the measure by unanimous consent because there’s no demonstrated need for spending thousands of dollars to install electric car charging stations,” McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said at the time. “This is an expensive perk for Senators not enjoyed by average Americans.

“If the measure is such a priority, the Majority Leader can schedule floor time on it whenever he sees fit, allowing the Senate to debate and vote on it in the light of day,” Rogers said.

Ultimately, McCain relented.

Meanwhile, industry groups such as the American Public Gas Association and Natural Gas Vehicles for America argued that the measures could send a message that Congress favors one fuel source over another.

But in a statement after House passage of the measures, House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) said facilitating electric car battery recharging would set a meaningful example.

“I am glad I was able to help facilitate House passage of these bills accommodating those with electric vehicles at no cost to taxpayers,” he said. “I believe that it is important to encourage innovation that reduces harmful emissions.”

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