White House ‘Equity’ Requirements Holding Back EV Charging Station Construction, Internal Docs Show

In 2021, the Biden administration pledged it would build 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations by 2030. So far, it’s built seven.

Last month, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg—who administers the funds apportioned for EV charger construction in the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Act—said Americans should not be surprised at the time it takes to stand up “a new category of federal investment.”

“It’s more than just plunking a small device into the ground,” Buttigieg said in an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation.

But internal memos from the Department of Transportation obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, as well as interviews with those who are responsible for overseeing the implementation of the electric vehicle charging station project, say the delay is in large part a result of the White House’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

“These requirements are screwing everything up,” said one senior Department of Transportation staffer who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “It’s all a mess.”

President Joe Biden has reportedly expressed frustration with the pace at which his much-touted infrastructure projects are getting built. A “close ally” of the White House told CNN last December that Biden “wants this stuff now,” and a White House spokesman added that the president “constantly pushes his team to ensure we are moving as quickly as possible.”

But Biden may only have himself to blame.

Shortly after taking office, the president signed an executive order mandating that the beneficiaries of 40 percent of all federal climate and environmental programs should come from “underserved communities.” The order also established the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, which monitors agencies such as the Department of Transportation to ensure the “voices, perspectives, and lived realities of communities with environmental justice concerns are heard in the White House and reflected in federal policies, investments, and decisions.”

In order to qualify for a grant, applicants must “demonstrate how meaningful public involvement, inclusive of disadvantaged communities, will occur throughout a project’s life cycle.” What “public involvement” means is unclear. But the Department of Transportation notes it should involve “intentional outreach to underserved communities.”

That outreach, the Department of Transportation states, can take the form of “games and contests,” “visual preference surveys,” or “neighborhood block parties” so long as the grant recipient provides “multilingual staff or interpreters to interact with community members who use languages other than English.”

“This all just slows down construction,” says Jim Meigs, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute who focuses on federal regulation.

“These ‘public involvement’ requirements are impossible to quantify and even open builders up to lawsuits by members of the community where an electric vehicle charging station is set to be constructed.”

How these equity requirements are relevant to the construction of a single electric vehicle charging station is unclear, Meigs said. But all applicants for federal funding must in many cases submit reports that can total hundreds of pages about how they will pursue “equity” every step along the way.

This leads to delays and increases costs throughout the construction process, one senior Department of Transportation official told the Free Beacon. “Highly Qualified” applications, internal memos state, must “promote local inclusive economic development and entrepreneurship such as the use of minority-owned businesses.”

That can take the form of funding “support services to help train, place, and retain people in good-paying jobs or registered apprenticeships, with a focus on women, people of color, and others that are underrepresented in infrastructure jobs.” A firm’s “workplace culture” should “promote the entry and retention of underrepresented populations.”

“These onerous diversity, equity, and inclusion requirements handcuff professions [sic] from making proper evaluations and prevent the government/public from funding the most deserving projects, instead funneling money towards less qualified applicants,” the senior Department of Transportation official said.

Those regulations are visible throughout more than 500 federal initiatives across 19 agencies, according to the White House’s chief environmental justice officer Jalonne White-Newsome, who spoke during a White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council meeting on Wednesday. The Free Beacon accessed that meeting, which took place over Zoom and included more than 15 speakers from various federal agencies.

“Since the President took office, the number of publicly available charging ports has grown by over 90 percent, with more than 184,000 publicly-available EV charging ports operational today and 1,000 more coming online each week,” a Department of Transportation spokesperson said. “There are currently projects underway in partnership with states and local grantees for 14,000 federally-funded EV charging ports across the country under the NEVI and CFI programs that will build on the 184,000 chargers operational today.”

The first electric vehicle charging station funded by the bipartisan infrastructure bill opened last December in a small Ohio town, and no one used the station within the first hours of its opening. Ohio has some of the lowest electric vehicle adoption in the country, with just 0.33 percent of all vehicles in the state operating on battery power, according to Nasdaq.

But the propensity for a local population to actually use an electric vehicle charging station appears to be an afterthought for the Biden administration, Meigs said. Instead the various regulations seem to serve more as a way to pay off Democratic constituencies—in the form of minority-focused contracting and hiring—at the expense of completing any projects in a timely or cost-effective manner.

“At a certain point you have to ask, is the point of these programs to reduce emissions or is the point to spread taxpayer money around and support groups that vote for the Democratic Party?”

Original News Source – Washington Free Beacon

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