A Toyota Rav4 plugin hybrid charges at a ChargePoint charger in front of City Hall in Portland on Wednesday. The state Board of Environmental Protection voted on Wednesday to reject a mandate to dramatically increase sales of electric and hybrid vehicles in Maine. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

AUGUSTA — The state Board of Environmental Protection rejected a mandate to dramatically step up sales of electric and hybrid vehicles in Maine, dealing a blow to environmentalists who urged steps to curb tailpipe emissions, but pleasing car dealers and Republicans who saw the move as government overreach that would make private transportation unaffordable for many Mainers.

The citizen board’s 4-2 vote Wednesday coincided with a Biden administration rule released hours earlier for the strongest-ever limits on tailpipe pollution, a move also meant to boost electric vehicle sales.

The state standards would have required increasing the share of electric and hybrid cars and trucks sold in Maine to 51% of all vehicles sold in 2028 and 82% of all vehicles sold in 2032. About 6% of new cars sold in Maine last year were electric vehicles or hybrids.

Board Chair Susan Lessard, who voted to reject the measure, suggested that lawmakers should be the ones to take up such a sweeping change.

“I’m not sure that we are, given the magnitude of this decision, the right decision-makers,” she said of the board. “Sometimes, just doing something isn’t the answer if there are too many questions associated with that. And I have too many questions.”

There is a proposal before the Legislature to give lawmakers control of Maine’s electric vehicle rules.


The transportation sector contributes more than half of all greenhouse gas emissions in Maine. Boosting EV use is key to the state’s effort to cut emissions by 45% by 2030.

Environmentalists petitioned the board last year, urging passage of what came to be known as “clean car” rules. The policy has won acceptance in a dozen other states, but also has met resistance in Connecticut.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine, Conservation Law Foundation and Sierra Club Maine said the vote represented the first time since 2001 that the board chose to not adopt stricter tailpipe or fuel efficiency standards.

Emily K. Green, senior attorney at Conservation Law Foundation, blamed “disinformation and partisan scare tactics” for the defeat.

“This is a missed opportunity and will severely hurt Maine’s families and businesses,” she said.

Jeff Crawford, director of the state Bureau of Air Quality, told the board that more EVs will be on Maine’s roads whether or not federal rules announced by the Environmental Protection Agency are implemented or not.


Tom Brown, president of the Maine Automobile Dealers Association, told the board that car buyers have “range anxiety,” the EV equivalent of running out of gas because of too few chargers.

He also questioned if the capacity of the power grid can handle a spike in EVs and “whether or not the electric vehicle will perform in a manner the customer wants for their personal, family, work and recreational needs.”

House Republicans, meanwhile, said they were “relieved” by the decision, but criticized the process that allowed the board to take up the issue following a petition from environmentalists who gathered 150 signatures.

An EV Ford Mustang charges Wednesday at an EVgo charging station on High Street in Portland. The state Board of Environmental Protection voted on Wednesday to reject a mandate to dramatically increase sales of electric and hybrid vehicles in Maine. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The Legislature’s two top Democrats and a group of minority Republicans submitted legislation last week to take control of Maine’s electric vehicle rules. Their bill would classify clean car standards as “major substantive” rules that require approval by the Legislature, rather than “routine technical” rules handled by the Board of Environmental Protection.


Hours after the board began deliberating the clean car standards on Wednesday, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee held a public hearing on the legislative proposal.


Ashley Luszcki, representing the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, said the rules should be considered by lawmakers because they represent significant changes for manufacturers and consumers. The new rules could be disruptive to dealers and prompt consumers to purchase vehicles out-of-state if dealerships no longer offer vehicles that meet the preferences and financial realities of Mainers, Luszcki said.

Jack Shapiro, climate and clean energy director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, urged the committee to reject the legislation. He called it a “last minute” response to rules that were considered and rejected by the Board of Environmental Protection.

The board, supported by the Department of Environmental Protection, is “well equipped to make decisions informed by science and evidence, as well as through public input,” he said.

In a straw poll in October, the board supported the clean car rules. A final vote was to be taken after the board’s staff reviewed public comments, but a meeting scheduled for December was canceled after a destructive storm a week before Christmas cut electricity and made roads impassable in many parts of Maine.

The rescheduled meeting delayed the EV rules another model year, to 2028 from 2027, angering environmental advocates who say Maine needs to act quickly.

It gave both sides in the debate more time to lobby for their position. The board received thousands of comments over the past few months, making the issue one of the most contentious it has faced, Lessard said.

Lessard said she spent more than 45 hours reading and analyzing public comments and was not persuaded that the rule change would make a big difference.

“I’m not a climate denier. I absolutely know that climate change is real,” she said. “I think it’s disingenuous to say that passing this is somehow going to stop the flooding of the docks.”

Staff Writer Rachel Ohm contributed to this report. 

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