New York lawmakers map out plans for 2035 ZEV sales goals

State lawmakers discussed the intermingling of New York’s laws and regulations for auto dealerships and a new set of ambitious climate-related goals and policies.

The New York Assembly’s Standing Committee on Transportation on Nov. 10 held a hearing on the retail sale of zero-emission vehicles. The panel took testimony from state staffers, professionals within the auto industry and environmental advocates.

Lawmakers held the hearing against the backdrop of the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act that was passed into law in 2019. It includes a target of having 850,000 registered ZEVs by 2025.

More recently, New York has implemented other targeted goals with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s support, including a call to have all new passenger cars and light-duty trucks under the ZEV classification by 2035. Hochul formalized the goal by passing it into law in September.

“It is part of New York’s ambitious goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent by 2050,” Mark J. F. Schroeder, commissioner of the state Department of Motor Vehicles, said as he pointed to another ambitious benchmark that has been touted in Albany.

Within the state agency under his purview, Schroeder told lawmakers he and his staffers are ready and willing to move swiftly and expeditiously to attain the climate-related goals.

“Here in New York, and at DMV, we are focused on the importance of transformation, of shattering the way we do things and the way that we’ve always done things,” Schroeder said. “We want to change them for the better.”

But the impact of the goals and how they could be carried out through new ancillary legislation has caused concern in some business sectors within the state – most notably, auto dealers.

Mark Schienberg, president of the Greater New York Auto Dealers Association, said current and future legislation could harm his organization’s network of about 425 independent operators.

In his testimony, Schienberg attempted to dispel what he characterized as myths within local auto dealerships as being unwilling or unable to adapt to changes within the broader industry.

“Our members have a clear and simple message for the legislators: We are all in on electric vehicle sales, and we are opposed to any legislation that would erode the franchise law in New York State and hurt small businesses we represent, as well as the tens of thousands of men and women who work in neighborhood dealerships whose jobs are dependent on the viability of our businesses,” Schienberg said.

Conor Bambrick, director of climate policy with Environmental Advocates New York, offered a different take as he provided testimony to lawmakers.

Bambrick said he believed a direct sales option, as opposed to the independent dealer model, would be the most feasible method of transitioning swiftly to ZEV sales and away from vehicles with internal combustion engines.

“Right now, the lack of that option, we believe, is a hindrance toward meeting our climate goals,” Bambrick said. “We believe that this barrier that is currently in place limits consumer access to a wide variety of vehicle choices.”

State Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, D-Albany, is among the members serving on the Committee on Transportation. Fahy most recently introduced A3179, which would require EV charging stations and designated parking spaces for newly constructed and renovated buildings.

In the road ahead, Fahy said she hopes the testimony gathered at the hearing will lead to further policy and assist the state in meeting its goals.

“We have a long time to go,” Fahy said. “The entire country has a long way to go, so I’m trying not to pick on New York.”

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