Maine Environmental Commission postpones decision on “clean car” mandate

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State environmental regulators are delaying a decision on a controversial “clean car” proposal and may call for more involvement from Congress in future debates over vehicle emissions standards.

Amid last week’s power outages and flooding, the state’s Environmental Protection Commission held a scheduled vote on whether to follow California’s lead and require auto dealers to significantly increase the percentage of electric vehicles they sell. Postponed the. The delay forced BEP to postpone the start date of the new regulations by a year and reopen the public comment period until February 5th.

Nearly a dozen other states, including Massachusetts and Vermont, have adopted variations of California’s policy. And by encouraging automakers and dealers to sell zero-emission vehicles in the state, supporters of the Maine proposal will help the state meet its ambitious goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. claims.

But the proposal has drawn fierce resistance from some in Maine and is becoming an increasingly partisan issue heading into the 2024 election.

If adopted, the rule would require about half of all cars, SUVs and light trucks sold in Maine to be fully electric or plug-in hybrids, starting with the 2028 model year. This number is expected to rise to 82% by 2032. The board is also considering recommending that Congress reconsider future changes to vehicle emissions standards, but DEP spokesman David Madore said Thursday afternoon that those changes must be brought before the board. He said it would not affect the current proposal. .

Mr. Madore said the recommendations change rulemaking for vehicle emissions standards from a “routine” matter handled by the department to a “major substantive” matter, which requires legislative consideration and approval. Stated. The recommendations will be included in an year-end report to Congress’ Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

“Some Board members and some members of the public have raised this issue, and the Legislature will consider whether future rulemaking on this issue should be the primary substantive rulemaking process,” Madore said. This led to the expected recommendation.”

But auto dealers, Republican lawmakers and hundreds of commentators say the current proposal is unrealistic and too expensive, especially for rural Maine. In statements and public comments submitted to the board, they argued that Maine’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure and power grid are inadequate to handle such rapid transformation. And in addition to being cost-prohibitive for many Mainers, electric vehicles are completely unfeasible in rural areas of the state with cold climates, they said.

Republican House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham said later this week that the Dec. 18 winds and storms that left hundreds of thousands of residents without power “showed how irresponsible the move to mandate the sale of electric vehicles is. I have shown that there is.”

In an interview, Mr. Falkingham reiterated the position of his caucus Thursday that the issue is best handled by Congress.

“We believe that decisions of this magnitude should not be bureaucratic decisions,” Faulkingham said. “That’s why we have a representative in Congress to make such big decisions. Congress should be in the hands of Congress to be accountable to the people.”

Three environmental groups, the Conservation Law Foundation, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and the Sierra Club, have formally petitioned the BEP to address the issue of whether Maine should adopt California’s zero-emission vehicle standards. Maine previously adopted other vehicle emissions standards that California has adopted.

Congress’s 2024 session begins next Wednesday. BEP is expected to take up the “clean car” proposal after the public comment period ends in early February. At an earlier meeting, a majority of board members said they were not prepared to approve related measures that would require dealers to increase the percentage of heavy-duty trucks that meet zero-emissions standards, including delivery vans, heavy-duty trucks, and tractor-trailers. It showed an attitude of standard.

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