On March 20, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) voted down California-inspired Advanced Clean Cars II regulations. The regulations would have required more than half of all cars sold in Maine to be zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) by 2028 and more than 80% by 2032, with the goal of eventually phasing out the sale of gas-powered vehicles.

Many Mainers objected to this proposal, however, and as a result, the Board opted to discontinue rulemaking through its 4-2 vote.

Now that this issue has been decided from a regulatory standpoint, it’s time for the Legislature to reassert itself in this process by adopting L.D. 2261, a bill that would require legislative approval of zero-emission regulations in the future. Lawmakers elected by Mainers — not unelected bureaucrats in Augusta — should be the ones deciding what kind of cars we’re allowed to drive.

L.D. 2261 is a bipartisan bill that would change ZEV mandates into “major substantive” rules, a type of administrative rule that requires legislative approval before adoption. The current standard for rulemaking in this arena is “routine technical,” meaning the Department of Environmental Protection can adopt rules in this area as it sees fit.

A change to major substantive rules is undoubtedly necessary. During its deliberations on the EV mandates last week, BEP Chair Sue Lessard said, “I’m not sure that we [the board] are, given the magnitude of this decision, the right decision makers.” She continued to say that when the legislature decided to make these decisions “routine technical” decades ago, they couldn’t have possibly envisioned such a controversial rule as EV mandates being adopted without Legislative input.

Many environmentalists have, unsurprisingly, objected to the board’s ruling. Emily K. Green, senior attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation, felt that the Board’s decision was due entirely to “partisan scare tactics.” Josh Caldwell of the Natural Resources Council of Maine called ZEVs  “a proven technology that presents a perfect opportunity” to improve Mainers’ health and save money.


If critics of the BEP’s decision feel that Mainers stand to gain so much from ZEVs, it’s worth asking why they should be forced to purchase one. It is not illegal to buy a ZEV in Maine, and there is no law restricting dealers from selling more of them. If they are as fantastic as their supporters claim, the market would reflect that reality.

Mainers do, of course, buy electric vehicles, but only about six to seven percent of vehicle sales in Maine are electric. Maine has had on the books since the release of Gov. Mills’ climate action plan a goal of having 219,000 EVs registered for roadways by 2030.

Yet, according to the governor’s Climate Council, there’s only a little more than 12,000 EVs registered in Maine today. Clearly, given the current state of EV technology and infrastructure, there’s little interest among Mainers to buy these vehicles today without a mandate.

Even if Maine needed some government policy to encourage EV ownership — which it doesn’t — such a policy should come from lawmakers who are elected by, and accountable to, the people of Maine. Members of the BEP, who are appointed the governor, are not accountable to Mainers.

The idea of adopting mandates like this without legislative involvement is unconscionable, something of which the BEP was keenly aware. What’s worse is that the BEP had already rejected these rules once before but was forced to consider them again after environmental groups used an obscure Maine administrative rule to submit just 150 signatures to have them reintroduced.

This questionable process caused a flood of thousands of public comments, almost all negative. The sheer volume of these comments led BEP member Robert Sanford to say during the meeting, “People could do real damage environmentally and regulatorily as a result of the perceptions if this thing goes through.”

Mandating EV sales in a state as large, cold, rural and relatively poor as Maine is a big decision with significant costs, regardless of how one feels about its potential benefits. Decisions on consequential issues like this should be in the hands of lawmakers so that direct public accountability exists.

It is my hope that the Legislature will see the wisdom of the BEP’s decision and pass L.D. 2261 without delay. If Mainers are to be forced to purchase ZEVs in the future, those rules should receive the consent of our elected representatives.

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