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Destiny Wolf

Destiny Wolf of Dickinson stands next to her Tesla 3, an electric car, in front of the North Dakota state Capitol Friday, Jan. 4.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed legislation imposing new fees on electric and hybrid vehicle owners Thursday.

The bill creates annual fees of $120 for electric vehicles, $50 for "plug-in" hybrid vehicles and $20 for electric motorcycles.

Burgum, a Republican, approved the new "road use fee" despite previously vetoing a hike in driver's license fees. At the time, he called for further study "before any fee increase is adopted."

The governor's spokesman, Mike Nowatzki, said the electric and hybrid vehicle fees involved "different circumstances," calling it a "parity issue."

Proponents of Senate Bill 2061 have argued it would require owners of environmentally friendly vehicles to help pay for road improvements in the same way drivers of traditional gas-guzzlers do through fuel taxes. A report the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute released last year pegged the state’s total infrastructure funding needs at $21.2 billion between 2016 and 2035.

North Dakota lawmakers have also rejected proposals to raise the state's gas tax this year.

"The governor believes it's reasonable that owners of electric and hybrid vehicles who use the same roads should pay their fair share to build and maintain them," Nowatzki said.

State officials couldn't determine how much money the final version of the road use fee bill would raise, but there were only 141 electric vehicles registered in North Dakota last year, according to the state Department of Transportation. Their use is expected to grow, however, alongside concerns over climate change.

As of December, 20 states imposed electric vehicle fees. Eight of those states charged a lesser fee on hybrids, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The North Dakota bill takes effect Aug. 1. The fees will be collected at the beginning of each annual registration period.

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