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Maine could adopt California rules requiring more electric trucks be sold, under Gov. Mills proposal

Bill Simpson, a Frito-Lay employee, charges one of five all-electric delivery trucks on Sept. 7, 2010, being introduced in New York City.
David Goldman
Bill Simpson, a Frito-Lay employee, charges one of five all-electric delivery trucks on Sept. 7, 2010, being introduced in New York City.

Gov. Janet Mills has proposed a new requirement that commercial truck and van manufacturers sell an increasing number of large and medium-sized electric vehicles as part of the state's efforts to expand the use of EVs and reduce harmful gas emissions.

The proposal, which is modeled after rules adopted by the state of California, would require manufacturers to ensure that an increasing percentage of their medium-sized and heavy-duty vehicles sold in Maine be electric, starting with 2025 models. They could face penalties for failing to follow the proposed rules.

The citizen-led Maine Board of Environmental Protection will accept public feedback on the proposal through Nov. 15, and then decide whether to adopt, reject or modify the rules.

About 54% of Maine's greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, according to the state's climate action plan. The proposed rules would accelerate the adoption of EVs in the state and eventually help make them more affordable, according to a memo from Lynne Cayting of the state's bureau of air quality.

Cayting pointed to models from the International Council on Clean Transportation showing that by 2050, the restrictions would reduce Maine's greenhouse gas emissions by 12%, smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions by 13% and fine particulate matter emissions by 10%.

One environmental group, Environment Maine, supported the proposal during a public hearing before the environmental protection board on Thursday.

But several trade groups are opposing it. While they say they support research and adoption of cleaner vehicle technologies over time, they have raised concerns about the limited supply of EVs, their reduced reliability in Maine's cold climate and the lack of charging infrastructure in rural sections of the state.

During the hearing, Maine Automobile Dealers Association President Thomas Brown said that sellers will have trouble getting enough electric trucks or vans by the time the new rules takes effect for 2025 models — in part because of supply chain challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic — and he warned that customers in construction, logging and other industries may not be ready to shift away from gas-powered fleets.

If the rules pass, he and other opponents suggested that Maine trucking companies might hold onto their gas guzzlers longer than they normally would or look to dealers in nearby New Hampshire, which doesn't have similar rules.

“Most of the time during the day, they don’t want to be shut down for a half an hour or an hour or two hours to recharge from what would be a minimum to a maximum of roughly 80% of capacity. That’s what manufacturers recommend, is that they only recharge to 80%," Brown said.

Based on the concerns raised by Brown and others, one member of the Board of Environmental Protection, Bucksport Town Manager Susan Lessard, said it would have been prudent for the state to seek stakeholder input before completing the proposal.

In an email, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection pointed to state laws that provide the statutory basis for the new rule process, including one which authorizes the Board of Environmental Protection to adopt low emission vehicle standards.

Some other businesses and organizations supported the proposed rules on Thursday, including renewable energy developer ReVision Energy and ecomaine, a waste-handling group that serves more than 70 towns in southern Maine.

Kevin Roche, the general manager of ecomaine, told the environmental protection board that he's spent the last decade struggling to electrify ecomaine’s fleet, and he says that more incentives are needed for companies to adopt them.

“In our industry, this is the perfect application of the electric trucks: the trucks don’t go very far. You know, they’re collecting in the neighborhoods. They’re stopping at everyone’s households. They’re stepping on the gas. They’re stepping on the brake, over and over and over again," he said. "You can see the emissions happening."