A report issued by Seattle-based Coltura concludes that public agencies statewide are violating Washington’s public fleet electrification law, passed in 2007, ,which requires that state and local governments “to the extent practicable” run all vehicles on electricity or biofuels.
Among those listed locally: the Edmonds School District and Snohomish County.
The report includes data from a total of 42 agencies — the state’s 10 largest counties, 14 largest cities, six public universities, six large school districts, and the Port of Seattle between December 2017 and April 2018.
Publication of the report, “Recharge Required,” coincides with the June 1, 2018 deadline for compliance with the second phase of RCW 43.19.648, which requires “all local state government subdivisions to satisfy one hundred percent of their fuel usage for operating publicly owned vessels, vehicles, and construction equipment from electricity or biofuel.” The first phase, effective June 1, 2015, held all state agencies to the same requirement. The report documents non-compliance across the 42 state agencies, cities, counties, school districts, and other public entities. It also reviews progress and obstacles concerning implementation of the law and sets forth recommendations for improving the law’s effectiveness.
Coltura is a nonprofit that advocates for adopting zero-emission vehicles and phasing out sales of new gasoline vehicles by 2030. To obtain the data in its report, Coltura initiated public records requests for each of the 42 entities’ vehicle inventory, plans for vehicle disposition and acquisition, fuel expenditures, records reflecting the entity’s interpretation of the word “practicable,” and other documents relating to their electric vehicle implementation effort.
The Edmonds School District listed zero electric vehicles in its fleet of passenger cars and light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. In fact, none of the school districts on the list — including the state’s largest district of Seattle — had electric vehicles.
Responding to the report, the Edmonds School District said in a statement Friday that it transports approximately 7,000 students to and from school by bus each school day. “This eliminates up to 14,000 student-trips in personal vehicles each day, reducing congestion and overall vehicle emissions in our communities,” the district said. “All of our buses run on a biofuel blend; Edmonds School District used about 113,000 gallons of biodiesel in the 2016-2017 school year.”
The district also said it is “actively monitoring the development of electric school buses and is looking forward to the opportunity to incorporate them as it becomes practical.
“Most of the electric vehicles appropriate for our transportation purposes are currently in a prototype phase and not yet available for purchase,” the district said. “We are excited about exploring options that will allow us to continue to safely transport students and further our commitment to environmental sustainability.”
Snohomish County, meanwhile, has five electric vehicles out of its fleet of 985. By comparison, King County has nine vehicles out of its fleet of 1,999. The City of Seattle does the best overall, with 178 out of 3,410.
Coltura Executive Director Andrew Metz, who wrote the report, told our online news partner The Seattle Times in this story that the survey indicates state and local agencies could be making greater user of electric vehicles, and thus are not following the law.
Metz also noted that government agencies haven’t filed mandated progress reports with the Commerce Department — the state agency charged by the Legislature with developing the rules that lay out compliance with the law.
Peter Moulton, a Washington Commerce Department official, acknowledged to The Times that some public agencies have not made a lot of progress in electrification. But Moulton said his department has had no funding from the state Legislature to help educate local governments about the law, and no power to enforce the law through financial penalties or other sanctions for being out of compliance.
“It’s more of a moral argument as we work with local governments,” Moulton said.
You can read the entire Coltura report here.