Board of Environmental Protection considers new rules for electric vehicles
A proposed rule to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles drew a standing-room-only crowd to a Board of Environmental Protection hearing in Augusta Thursday.
Supporters gathered outside the Augusta Civic Center before the hearing. Democratic State Sen. Stacy Brenner of Scarborough, told the small crowd that she'd driven her EV to Augusta.
"And I'm excited to support these rules and grateful for all of the advocates who put them forward and worked hard to these get us where we are," Brenner said. "Thank you so much."
The hearing came after several environmental groups petitioned the board to set cleaner emissions standards for new vehicles by incorporating an amended version of California's Advanced Clean Cars regulations.
This would require a growing percentage of new cars sold in Maine to be zero emission vehicles, with a goal of 82% by model year 2032. A separate petition sets standards for trucks.
Jack Shapiro of the Natural Resources Council of Maine said the proposal would significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions, and save Mainers money on gas. And he told the board there's a need to act quickly.
"Maine shouldn't wait any longer to move towards cleaner cars and trucks," Shapiro said. "Because of some of the quirks of how these standards are adopted, even if adopted this calendar year, the ways the soonest this proposal could take effect is with model year 2027 vehicles."
Shapiro said seven states have adopted some form of these rules, and nine others are considering it.
Dr. Peggy Penoyer, representing the American Lung Association, said speeding the transition to electric vehicles would come with major public health benefits for Mainers.
"4.5 billion in public health benefits, 402 avoided deaths. 5,870 avoided asthma attacks, 31,000 avoided lost work days," Penoyer said.
Penoyer was one of several people who urged the board to go even further with the rules, to set a goal of 100 percent electric vehicles sold in Maine by 2035.
But Tom Brown, president of the Maine Automobile Dealers Association opposes the rules. He says customers should drive the demand.
"As we understand it, the percentage of new EVs sold to Maine residents is currently in the mid-single digits," Brown said. "To get to 43 percent in three years, I'll leave it to you to decide whether that's achievable."
Other opponents were more emphatic.
"Let's be clear, people are fleeing California because of ridiculous ideas like this," said Republican State Representative Joshua Morris of Turner. He said the rules would impose financial burdens on his constituents, and that electric cars aren't suitable for Maine winters.
"There are not enough adjectives to describe how bad this policy is for Maine's people, it's callous, aloof, unthinking, unfeeling unworkable and simply cruel," he said. "Hard-working Mainers deserve better from their government than this policy pushed by a far left environmental extremist group."
It was a long day for the citizen members of the board, with a second hearing on similar proposal for clean trucks. In all, 87 people signed up to testify on the proposals, including about a dozen legislators.
The board will accept written comments on the proposals through August 25.