2018 Mini Cooper S E Countryman All4 plug-in hybrid, Catskill Mountains, NY, July 2017Enlarge Photo
When the Oklahoma Legislature passed a bill earlier this year that imposed new fees on owners of hybrid and electric cars only, it was swiftly sued by the Sierra Club.
Now the Oklahoma Supreme Court has rendered its verdict in that suit, filed in August.
In a 6-3 decision, the state's highest court struck down the bill as an unconstitutional tax on electric- and hybrid-vehicle owners.
The court said the tax was untethered from a regulatory purpose and simply sought to impose a new financial burden and raise revenue, reports News OK.
House Bill 1449 "clearly levies a tax in the strict sense of the word and the incurred revenue from it is not incidental to its purpose," wrote Justice Joseph Watt.
Passed in the final days of the state's regular legislative session, the bill levied annual fees of $100 on electric cars and $30 on hybrid vehicles to make up for lost fuel-tax revenue, used to fund road and infrastructure projects.
2018 Nissan Leaf
2018 Nissan LeafEnlarge Photo
The Sierra Club argued the fee potentially dissuaded consumers from purchasing electric and electrified cars, and the fees would cost electric-car owners more than the traditional fuel tax on a conventional vehicle.
It also cited research that claims 53,000 people die prematurely every year due to vehicle pollution.
"The Sierra Club applauds the Oklahoma Supreme Court for striking down this biased and illegal tax on electric vehicles," said Johnson Bridgewater, the Sierra Club Oklahoma Chapter Director.
"There are clear signs that the car industry is poised to go electric quickly, and in Oklahoma, this switch is badly needed."
Bobby Stem, executive director of the Association of Oklahoma General Contractors, said the ruling is a disappointment.
He cited electric cars' heftier weights, which degrade roads and bridges at a quicker pace than some traditional cars.
Tesla Supercharger site in Vacaville, California, before expansion [photo: George Parrott]
Tesla Supercharger site in Vacaville, California, before expansion [photo: George Parrott]Enlarge Photo
"Our roads and bridges are taking a beating from these heavier vehicles, yet they do not contribute equitably to maintenance and repair," he said.
Three years ago, the Oklahoma legislature also passed a fee for homes connecting solar and wind power to the electricity grid.
The law requires homeowners that use solar or wind power to pay a monthly fee.
Utility companies supported the bill, which they claimed stopped homeowners from "subsidizing" homes creating their own power and offset the cost of electricity and grid maintenance.
Fossil-fuel production is a major portion of the economy in Oklahoma, and the industry's producers exert political influence within the state.
Current EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, for example, sued the environmental agency more than a dozen times as the state's attorney general to fight its efforts to enforce environmental laws violated by those producers.