By Leigh Armstrong

The Skagway Development Corp. has alerted the borough assembly to potential grant funds to pay for installation of electric vehicle charging stations in town, but the money is available only to communities that adopt a resolution in support of electric vehicles.

The money would come from the state’s share of Volkswagen’s nationwide 2016 settlement for the company’s illegal use of software that allowed its 2009-2016 diesel-fueled cars to pass emissions tests.

Kaitlyn Jared, executive director of Skagway Development Corp., spoke at the April 4 assembly meeting, raising the possibility that Skagway might have a chance at a share of the money — but only with an assembly resolution.

The assembly is considering if it wants to take that step.

Assemblymember Steve Burnham said the main issue would be placement of the charging stations in Skagway. “The two parking lots we have, we don’t own,” he said at the April 4 meeting.

Burnham said maybe charging stations could be installed at one of the RV parks, but said would require more discussion.

Assemblymember Tim Cochran agreed that more planning would be needed, along with information on how much money Skagway could receive. “There’s a lot of discussion that would have to be had going forward,” he said. 

The Alaska Energy Authority is running the grant program and plans to allocate the funds by this summer. The state has designated the Southeast Conference to distribute the funds in its area, Jared explained in an April 5 email to the borough. The Southeast Conference is comprised of elected officials and business leaders from Metlakatla to Skagway.

“The main thing to be aware of is that this resolution would just be the first step in making Skagway eligible,” Jared wrote. “The state has put Southeast Conference in charge of coming up with a plan on how to actually disperse the funds to the communities. But they can’t give funds to communities that don’t have a supporting resolution to support electric vehicles.”

The state received $8.125 million of the $2.95 billion federal settlement from Volkswagen, with the Alaska Energy Authority dividing the money between several emissions-reducing efforts: school bus replacement, $4 million; public transit bus replacement, $800,000; upgrades to commercial marine vessels, $800,000; electric vehicle charging stations, $1.21 million, with $125,000 planned for the Southeast Conference to distribute.

The $2.95 billion was allocated nationwide for programs and project to reduce environmentally harmful emissions, with the funds shared by all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and Alaska Native and Indian American tribes.