S.D. board might shift dollars in VW diesel fund to give more help with electric-vehicle charging

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Pierre Capitol building legislature

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The group overseeing South Dakota’s share of a Volkswagen diesel-emissions settlement will look at making a larger amount available for electric-vehicle charging stations.

The state Board of Minerals and Environment will talk about a possible change at the December 17 meeting, according to chairman Rex Hagg of Rapid City.

The board received a presentation Thursday from Barb Regynski, an environmental scientist in the air quality office of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The 2019 Legislature authorized accepting $8,125,000 for the department to distribute through grants over 10 years. So far the program has provided partial rebates for 76 local buses and for 14 trucks for state and local governments, including 13 snowplows and a house-moving rig.

The first application period for electric-vehicle charging stations closed November 13. The 25 applications total roughly $837,000 and, at the 80 percent rebate level, would need about $670,000 from the fund, Regynski said, more than the $406,000 budgeted this time.

“We won’t be able to do them all in the first round,” she told the board.

Said Hagg, “It’s always good to have more demand than we have funds for.”

He wants the board to receive information from electricity utilities about their plans. He said a few people he knows have electric vehicles. He favors adjusting the amount available for charging stations by shifting funds among the categories. A 30-day period for public comment would be required if the board decides to propose a change.

“You see every car marker is coming out with those and you can see it coming,” Hagg said. “We certainly need (charging stations) dispersed around the state.”

The board heard from several representatives of electric utilities who spoke in support of charging stations. They said fast-chargers that can refuel a vehicle in 15 to 20 minutes are money-losers right now without subsidies, but there generally is agreement among South Dakota’s electricity providers that the stations are needed.

Ben Pierson, an engineer for Sioux Valley Energy, said it would be good to have a network of them no more than 75 to 100 miles apart to start. “The only people interested in putting them out there right now are utilities,” he said. “We’re willing to take a loss on some of this right now.”

There would be little to no interest without a rebate of 80%, Pierson said.

Regynski said department officials would decide on the current applications and she would present a map at the board’s December meeting.

Bob Morris, a board member from Belle Fourche, said there needs to be consideration of what doesn’t happen if more funds go to charging stations.

“We need to look at this. At what point does it become an exercise in futility?” Morris said. “How many school buses don’t get purchased because of that?”

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