Watertown NY refuses electric car charging stations, saying it would be unconstitutional

States and governments around the world are looking to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road, and one strategy is to offer grants to support EV charging station installation.  Having more charging stations available for the public the more likely will prospective electric car owners to feel secure in buying an electric car.  The charging stations are, even if they go underutilized, a way to provide something like a security blanket for electric car owners because the charging station lets them know they won’t get stuck.  And from a practical matter there are many electric car owners who DO use the public charging stations and even rely on their existence to get around, just as gasoline car owners rely on gasoline stations to get around.

There’s a piece of puzzling news from Watertown NY in which the City Attorney chose to believe that a plan in which that city would install an electric car charging station would be unconstitutional.

The charging station would have been paid for by a NY State grant.

The City Attorney’s interpretation is that it would have put the city in the role of supplying electricity for free.  According to City Attorney Robert J. Slye, “Municipalities are not allowed to provide cash or items of value for free, according to the state constitution.”

City Council members were scheduled to discuss the plan earlier this week, but because of the City Attorney’s determination it was simply dropped from the agenda.

This project was going to be funded through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.  The city would have spent about 10 percent of the estimated $6,500 cost for the charging station and would be responsible for paying for the electricity used at the station.

I understand the concern that City’s should not be giving extra gifts to Citizens, perhaps, and who will eventually pay for the electricity, etc.  However, one would think that a NY State agency would have already determined the legality and constitutionality of this program.  There are charging stations all around the country, operated by city governments, where it’s free to use the charging station, and somehow it’s not unconstitutional in these other places, but in Watertown NY it is unconstitutional.

This is one of those stories for which WTF was invented.

See: Watertown drops electric-vehicle charging stations proposal

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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