October 26, 2013

Maine declines to join effort to promote more zero-emission cars

The state was invited to join an eight-state coalition to encourage more purchases of electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles.

By J. Craig Anderson canderson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Maine declined to participate in a multistate effort to promote the adoption of zero-emission vehicles because the state lacks the resources to implement required components of the plan, a state official said Friday.

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click image to enlarge

An electric charger.

click image to enlarge

Marc Lausier, above, of Scarborough charges his Nissan Leaf, a fully electric car, at TideSmart Global in Falmouth on Friday. Gov. Paul LePage turned down Lausier’s offer to test drive the car. The photo at top shows the front end of the electric charger.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

Representatives of eight states, including Vermont and Massachusetts, met Thursday in California to sign a pledge to get 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on roadways by 2025, in an attempt to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gases.

The memorandum of understanding drafted by the coalition promises that each state will promote the use of electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles by adding more of them to government fleets, providing cash incentives for residents to buy them, developing shared standards for electric charging stations and adopting policies that make it easier to build and use charging stations.

The coalition includes every New England state except Maine and New Hampshire. The other six states that signed the agreement were California, Washington, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Gov. Paul LePage was one of 15 state governors invited to join the coalition, but he declined, according to Deb Markowitz, secretary of Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources.

“You should speak to the governor’s office to find out why they did not participate,” Markowitz said.

LePage’s office did not respond Friday to phone and email requests for comment, but state Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Jessamine Logan provided several reasons why the state opted out.

Logan said via email that Maine lacks the resources to implement some components of the plan.

“When the draft (memorandum of understanding) came to us it was sent with an action plan that was well beyond our ability to undertake it,” she said. “Maine is a rural state – we are geographically large and our population is spread out. ... Plug-in infrastructure may make sense down the road for Maine when market conditions develop.”

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, Maine has 14 public charging stations for electric vehicles. That’s fewer than in nearby states such as Vermont, which has 20 stations, and New Hampshire, which has 16 stations. By contrast, other rural states such as Montana and Wyoming have just one station each.

The state with the largest number of public charging stations is California, with 1,431 stations, followed by Texas with 509 stations, according to the data center.

Logan added that Maine is already participating in a number of regional organizations on efforts to reduce vehicle emissions and improve fuel efficiency.

“For example, we can improve natural gas access for our truck fleets and find additional efficiencies for other fleets,” she said.

Maine was invited to join the coalition because it is one of 15 states that have chosen to adopt strict air quality standards developed and passed initially in California. Maine adopted the standards in 2005.

Those standards require about 15 percent of new vehicles sold to be zero emission by 2025. According to Automotive News, an industry publication, a 15 percent market share for zero-emission vehicles in the participating eight states represents about 3 percent of the U.S. auto market.

California is the only state allowed to create its own vehicle emissions standards. Other states may adopt those standards, or go with the less-strict federal standards.

All of the 15 states that adhere to California standards were asked to sign the zero-emission vehicles pledge, Markowitz said.

Under terms of the zero-emission vehicles memorandum, the eight signatory states will establish a task force to expand the network of charging and fueling stations needed to make electric and hydrogen-fueled vehicles more attractive to consumers.

Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said the state should have signed the memorandum.

(Continued on page 2)

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Today's poll: Electric cars

Should Maine participate in an effort to make it easier to own an electric car?

Yes

No

View Results