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Sierra Club Joins Challenge of Oklahoma’s Electric Car Fee

Even as the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday heard arguments to some newly-created taxes on electric and hybrid vehicles, a new lawsuit was waiting in the wings.

It was on Monday when the Oklahoma Sierra Club filed suit, challenging a registration fee on the electric vehicles. The suit is asking the court to rule House Bill 1449 unconstitutional, claiming the fee is arbitrary and requires drivers to pay more than their fair share to use state roads and highways.

“With no rhyme or reason behind the legislation, the arbitrary fee has no connection to the actual costs and benefits of electric vehicles, and in fact, it requires electric vehicle drivers to pay more than they would in gas taxes,” stated Sierra Club spokesman John Bridgwater in announcing the filing of the suit. “The real reason is to punish electric vehicle owners for making the switch to cleaner transportation and protecting Oklahoma’s roads and public health.”

The House bill was projected to raise $506,000 for the fiscal year 2018 and more than $1 million the following year. It created a $100 fee to register an electric vehicle and a $30 fee for a hybrid vehicle. The new fee will take effect Jan. 1 with money going to Oklahoma’s highway construction and maintenance fund.

As attorney James Naifeh argued before the Supreme Court Tuesday morning, the measure is unconstitutional because it was a revenue-raising bill passed in the last five days of the session. He represented Gary Richardson, a gubernatorial candidate who filed the first suit challenging the electric-car fees.

But the Sierra Club’s lawsuit drew some reaction from legislators.

“This lawsuit seems frivolous given that the Oklahoma Supreme Court is already considering a lawsuit against the same legislation,” said Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, told The Oklahoman. “Our courts are under tremendous pressure to do more with less, and this just adds to that burden.”equalize the treatment of road use by drivers and should be struck down, the lawsuit said.