AUGUSTA — Lawmakers have advanced a bill declaring that the Legislature, not a board of citizens appointed by the governor, is in charge of approving Maine’s electric vehicle standards.

The Maine Senate approved the measure on Wednesday, and it now heads to Gov. Janet Mills, who hasn’t indicated where she stands on the matter. The House of Representatives approved the bill on Tuesday without debate. Because of a procedural rule, votes were not tallied in either chamber because the bill received unanimous support in a legislative committee.

The move delays the substance of the rules – which would limit the sale of new gas-powered vehicles – from being implemented until the Legislature begins its 2025 session.

The state Board of Environmental Protection had been debating increasing the share of electric and plug-in hybrid cars and trucks sold in Maine to 51% of all vehicles sold in 2028 and 82% of all vehicles sold in 2032. Its members rejected that rule by a 4-2 vote on March 20, with the majority saying they felt the decision should be left to lawmakers.

The regulations were intended to curb tailpipe emissions and help Maine reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% from 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050, a target mandated in state law. Tailpipe pollution accounts for half of greenhouse gas emissions in Maine.

Throughout the debate about electric vehicle standards, the question of which government body should have the authority to regulate car sales became as much a part of the back-and-forth as the proposed clean car rules themselves.


Republicans targeted the Board of Environmental Protection, whose seven members are compensated $55 per meeting to provide oversight of the state Department of Environmental Protection. The proposal for clean car standards reached the board through a petition launched by environmental groups and signed by 150 Mainers.

Rep. Joshua Morris, R-Turner, said in December that “something this far-reaching” should be decided by Maine’s elected representatives. He criticized the EV plan as a “tone deaf policy pushed by far-left environmental groups.”

Car dealers also said the board should not have the authority to impose what they say is a large change in private transportation.

But declining to adopt the EV standards “is a big gap in understanding” of the board’s responsibilities, said Jack Shapiro, climate and clean energy program director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. The board, supported by the DEP, can make decisions informed by science, evidence and public comment, he said.

The Mills’ administration has weighed sparingly in on the matter. Before the board rejected the EV rules, Attorney General Aaron Frey told lawmakers that he was concerned about the Legislature reversing a decision by another branch of government. That concern was addressed first by the board voting down the standards, and then through an amendment that makes the change in oversight effective on Aug. 1 instead of retroactive to May 2023.



Since its creation in 1972, the Board of Environmental Protection has been tasked with making decisions about topics ranging from small technical matters to more attention-grabbing issues such as loosening Maine’s mining rules to allow for the extraction of lithium. The latter still faces final approval in the Legislature.

The board’s job is to review the interpretation, administration and enforcement of environmental protection laws. In 2023, that included examining policies around the group of chemicals known as PFAS; petroleum storage facilities; and accounting for updated maps and photos of sand dunes, in addition to weighing the higher-profile decisions around electric vehicles and lithium mining.

The board also has weighed in on the controversial New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line through addressing small matters. In May 2020, the DEP commissioner issued an order approving – with conditions – Central Maine Power Co.’s application for a permit to build the NECEC corridor. The commissioner issued a “minor revision order” a year later, and in February 2023 the board ruled against an appeal by the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

Other rules have been established with little public notice. The DEP in 2022 amended standards for the siting, design, operation and closure of marine oil terminals, transportation pipelines and vessels to incorporate legislative changes over the past 20 years, and set new design, operation and planning requirements for climate change. The board adopted the rule amendments last May.

The seven-member board currently has one vacancy: Sarah Alexander, of Easton, resigned March 28, Board Executive Analyst William F. Hinkel said. Her seat will remain open until a successor is nominated by Mills and confirmed by the Legislature next year.

At least three board members must have technical or scientific backgrounds in environmental issues and no more than four members may live in the same congressional district. They are appointed to staggered four-year terms and no member may serve more than two consecutive terms.

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