Lawmakers want the final say on electric vehicle rules in Maine

The Legislature’s top two Democrats and a group of minority Republicans want to take control of Maine’s electric vehicle regulations.

A bill proposed Tuesday would give lawmakers, not a citizen council, the final say on clean car standards aimed at limiting vehicle tailpipe emissions, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

The standards, which are still being developed, call for increasing the share of zero- and near-zero emissions cars and trucks sold in Maine to 51% of all vehicles sold by 2028 – up from 43% previously proposed – and 82% of all vehicles sold in 2032.

The new bill would classify these regulations as “major substantive” rules requiring approval by the Legislature, rather than “routine technical” rules handled by the Environmental Protection Board.

The BEP has scheduled a meeting for March 20 to discuss the EV rules, which have drawn criticism from Republicans and car dealers over the relatively high cost of the vehicles and a scarcity of car chargers, especially in large rural areas of Maine.

The legislation would apply retroactively to May 22, 2023.

Environmentalists petitioned state officials last May, saying Maine had not adopted any policies that would determine how the transportation sector would comply with a state law requiring Maine to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 45% below levels within the next decade of 1990, and 80% below 1990 levels. by 2050. The transportation sector is the largest contributor to the state’s emissions.

Jack Shapiro, director of climate and clean energy at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, criticized the new legislation, saying it would negate consideration of what he called a “clean car standard.” ”

Shapiro said that despite the support of the Democratic House Speaker and Senate President, the bill is a Republican and comes at the “very last minute,” without the public having a chance to comment.

Republicans have focused their opposition to EV rules on the BEP, a seven-member civilian council appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature. Mainers should be denied the power to change Mainers’ vehicle choices, Republican lawmakers have said.

The BEP was scheduled to consider EV rules in December, but postponed the meeting after a December 18 storm that knocked out power and made roads impassable in many parts of the state.

By rescheduling the meeting, officials pushed back the rules another model year, from 2027 to 2028.

The BEP plans to recommend that the Legislature consider revising state law to authorize lawmakers to rewrite vehicle standards, state environmental spokespeople said in December.

The bipartisan legislation was introduced by Rep. Michael Soboleski, R-Phillips. It is co-sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Aroostook, and House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland. Others who have signed the legislation include House Republican leader Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham of Winter Harbor, and other Republicans including Rep. Reagan Paul of Winterport and Katrina Smith of Palermo, and Sens. Russell Black of Franklin and Peter Lyford of Penobscot.

Jackson said he is “always in favor of the Legislature doing its job.”

He said in an interview that he supports “clean cars” and favors incentives that will “help technology catch up” with more and better EV charging stations.

“I live five hours from this building,” he said, referring to the Capitol in Augusta. “I don’t think any vehicle can get me there on one charge.”

Several Republican proposals seeking to give lawmakers more authority failed in January in the Legislative Council, which consists of Republican and Democratic leaders in both chambers.

Environmental advocates say phasing out gas-powered cars, a major source of air pollution, is essential if Maine is to reach its zero-carbon goals. The policy has gained acceptance in a dozen other states but has met resistance in Connecticut.

The rules have been adopted in California, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

Environmentalists say if Maine fails to set EV standards, manufacturers will send advanced EVs to the other states, leaving Maine consumers with fewer choices.


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