The state board considering whether to adopt a statewide electric vehicle mandate will ask the Legislature to take over the review of an issue that pits climate activists against Republican lawmakers, car dealers and others.

If lawmakers step in, it will further delay a policy that environmental groups had hoped would already have been decided.

The Board of Environmental Protection was originally scheduled to vote Dec. 21 on standards that would have gone into effect for 2027 model-year vehicles and eventually require 82% of new vehicles sold to be considered zero emissions by the 2032 model year. But the fierce rain and windstorm that lashed the state three days earlier, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of electricity customers and making many roads impassable, prompted the board to postpone its meeting. It set a new public comment deadline of Feb. 5, which effectively delayed implementation until the 2028 model year for new vehicles.

The delay was criticized by the Natural Resources Council of Maine as “deeply unfortunate and ironic” because it was caused by a storm made more destructive by climate change.

A spokesman for the Board of Environmental Protection said Wednesday that members will ask the Legislature in January to intervene, further delaying the process and disappointing environmental advocates pushing for more electric vehicles on the road to reduce tailpipe emissions. The BEP will ask lawmakers to revise state law to authorize lawmakers, not state agencies, to adopt and enforce standards that meet the requirements of the federal Clean Air Act.

Specifically, the BEP will recommend that the Legislature change state law to require rules regarding new motor vehicle emission standards be deemed “major substantive” changes that require lawmakers’ review, rather than “routine technical” changes handled by an agency, William F. Hinkel, the BEP’s executive analyst, said in an email. The recommendation will be contained in a periodic report to the Legislature, he said.


Sen. Stacy Brenner, D-Scarborough, co-chair of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, which will take up the BEP’s recommendation, said in an email that she is not aware of the substance of its forthcoming report to the Legislature or its request for lawmakers to reconsider rulemaking authority. “I look forward to reviewing the report at the time it is submitted to the committee,” she said.

Rep. Lori Gramlich, D-Old Orchard Beach, co-chair of the committee, did not respond to a request Wednesday for her response to the BEP’s recommendation.

Emily Green, senior attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation, said shifting the decision to the Legislature will “slow down something we’re already behind on.”

The Conservation Law Foundation, Natural Resources Council of Maine and Sierra Club petitioned Maine last summer to adopt California’s clean vehicle emissions standards that would require manufacturers to sell cleaner gas-powered vehicles and more electric vehicles. Maine law requires the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 45% below 1990 levels within the next decade and 80% by 2050. Climate activists say Maine has yet to adopt regulations or policies addressing the transportation sector, the largest contributor to emissions.

Critics, however, pushed back, saying EVs are costly, Maine has too few charging stations to accommodate more EVs and the grid could not handle a rapid increase in EVs. House Republican Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham, of Winter Harbor, said the devastating storm that hit Maine Dec. 18 and knocked out power to much of the state “showed how irresponsible the move to mandate electric vehicle sales is.”

The Maine Automobile Dealers Association also criticized the proposed rules, saying the association supports voluntary choice by consumers, not “mandatory sales levels.”


The formal request from the BEP could carry weight with lawmakers.

Rep. Joshua Morris, R-Turner, submitted a bill to put the matter before the Legislature but it failed by one vote to win the approval of legislative leaders when they considered it in October. The group of leaders, known as the Legislative Council, must approve after-deadline bills before they can be considered by lawmakers.

Morris said he still believes “something this far-reaching” should be decided by Maine’s elected representatives. He has criticized the EV plan as a “tone deaf policy pushed by far-left environmental groups.”

Several members of the public said at a hearing in August that the proposed rule should require legislative review due to its scope and potential impact. In addition, some BEP members “made similar statements during deliberations,” Hinkel said.

The “Advanced Clean Cars II” plan would require zero-emission vehicles to make up 43% of new car sales for 2028 models and 82% of new sales by model year 2032. Those include electric and fuel-cell vehicles, along with a partial credit for plug-in hybrids.

The rules have been adopted in California, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. Josh Caldwell, climate and clean energy outreach coordinator of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, which supports broader use of EVs, said if Maine does not establish EV standards, manufacturers will send advanced EVs to the other states, leaving Maine consumers with fewer choices.

Maine considered adopting California’s emissions standards once before, in 2021, but didn’t move forward after commercial and business interests came out against them, claiming the state lacked the charging infrastructure to support it and the technology was unproven.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.