Gov. Roy Cooper has issued a sweeping executive order that directs the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) to take a number of major actions to mandate increased use of zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) among public and private medium-and-heavy duty (MHD) vehicles.

The Oct. 25 order, EO-271, is titled, “Growing North Carolina’s Zero-Emission Vehicle Market.”

In summary, EO-271 would mandate the increased sale of electric vehicles, especially in the larger vehicles used in the trucking industry, and require the same by the state’s cabinet-level industries. A rule to impose the new mandate on private vehicle manufacturers will be forthcoming by May of 2023.

Republican N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore reacted quickly on Twitter:

Jon Sanders, director of the John Locke Foundation’s Center for Food, Power, and Life, told CJ that “Gov. Cooper’s order is an abject attempt to use the power of the state to force changes in the trucking industry in North Carolina that are clearly unsupported by the market. Cooper’s order figures to be a Soviet-style fiasco of central planning. Part of the governor’s order even directs a bunch of bureaucrats spanning several state agencies to start meeting in trying to figure out all the infrastructure and charging station needs the order will create across the state, where to put them, and how many to place.”

Sanders said we generally don’t see government actors having to meet to determine the details of gas and diesel pumps, as they will for ZEV infrastructure, because the free market provides for those naturally based on demand.

“Massive disruption in the state trucking industry would upset delicate supply chains, damage the trucking industry, harm truckers, and raise the costs of food and necessities on North Carolinians,” Sanders said. “It’s a bad idea any time, but it’s especially terrible in this particular moment of surging inflation, struggling families, and already damaged supply chains.”

Sanders said the executive order may also violate a North Carolina law that prevents state environmental regulations, and specifically those being implemented by the environmental agencies, from being stricter than those at the federal level.

The order has 11 sections, but the first seven spell out the key initiatives.

Section 1, “Advance Clean Trucks Rule,” says NCDEQ must establish a rule by May 15, 2023, “requiring manufacturers sell an increasing percentage of MHD ZEVs over time.” It doesn’t state what these percentages must be, but it directs NCDEQ to work with “stakeholders” like environmental justice organizations and underserved communities to come up with the numbers.

Section 2, “Distribution of State and Federal Funds,” directs cabinet agencies to invest state and federal funds “toward growing the MHD ZEV market in North Carolina, including but not limited to investing in charging infrastructure, vehicle purchase incentives, workforce development, demonstration projects, technical assistance, and increased monitoring of mobile
source air pollution.”

Section 3, “Complementary Strategies,” directs cabinet agencies to accomplish these tasks in a way that also includes other priorities of the Cooper administration, like the “North Carolina Clean Transportation Plan as well as strategies that further environmental justice and equity.”

Section 4, “Public Health and Health Equity,” directs the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) to “increase understanding and awareness” of how transportation-related emissions disproportionately impact “undeserved communities and people of color.”

Section 5, “Zero-Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Needs Assessment,” regards developing a “needs assessment” on what infrastructure is needed in the state to support the new market.

Section 6, “State Motor Fleet ZEV Transition,” directs cabinet agencies to “prioritize ZEVs in the purchase or lease of new MHD vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 8,500 pounds,” and attempt to add MHD ZEVs to state contracts.

Section 7, “Environmental Stewardship Initiative,” expands an earlier initiative that seeks to recognize and support companies that “demonstrate leadership in reducing their
transportation-related footprint, including by increasing the share of MHD ZEVs in their vehicle

The full executive order is below: