A Maine environmental official clarified on Thursday the state’s stance on a contentious proposal to expand electric vehicle use, saying that a regulatory board still will vote on the plan even as it asks the Legislature to consider revising state law so lawmakers can craft mandates in the future.

David R. Madore, deputy commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, said in an email that the Board of Environmental Protection, a seven-member citizen board appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature, “intends to vote” on proposed standards that would eventually require 82% of new vehicles sold to be considered zero emissions by the 2032 model year. A vote will be scheduled after a public comment period ends Feb. 5, he said.

The board was to vote on the proposal this month. However, the Dec. 18 storm that caused extensive power outages prompted the board to postpone a meeting scheduled for Dec. 21. The decision to put off the vote delays the effective date of the proposed vehicle rules one full year, from the 2027 model year to the 2028 model year.

The delay angered climate advocates, who say Maine needs to act soon to limit gas-powered cars with their tailpipe emissions.

On Wednesday, William F. Hinkel, executive analyst at the BEP, said that the board plans to submit to the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources a report summarizing its 2023 activities and include a recommendation that the Legislature consider revising state law to authorize lawmakers to rewrite vehicle standards. He did not say that the BEP also would still vote on the proposed rule.

The board is part of the Department of Environmental Protection but has independent decision-making authority in the areas of its responsibility.


The report will include a recommendation to the Legislature that it consider revising state law to require that rules regarding motor vehicle emission standards – including the proposed EV mandate – be made “major substantive,” which would call for legislative action, rather than “routine technical,” which involves agency review, Hinkel said.

Madore said Thursday that a recommendation by the BEP that the Legislature consider changing state law “presumably would not affect” the board’s current EV proceeding.

“Some board members and some members of the public raised this issue, leading to the anticipated recommendation” that the Legislature consider whether any future rulemaking on the subject should be in its jurisdiction, Madore said.

The Legislature reconvenes Jan. 3, which would allow little time to change state law before a vote by the BEP.

State officials face conflicting demands. The BEP, in response to a petition signed by 150 Mainers and submitted by the Conservation Law Foundation, Natural Resources Council of Maine and Sierra Club, has considered adopting new EV rules. Climate activists say that because transportation accounts for more than half of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, Maine needs to act soon to promote electric vehicle use with regulations limiting the sale of new gas-powered vehicles.

At the same time, opposition to the proposed rule and the process has been building among car dealers, Republican lawmakers and others. Critics balk at an unelected board making what they consider a significant policy change at the urging of just 150 people who signed a petition.



“Given that Democrat leaders already denied this option last month, House Republicans are encouraged that the BEP is calling for what we have said all along, that unelected bureaucrats should not be allowed to make decisions of this magnitude,” Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham, House Republican leader, said in a statement Thursday.

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.

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