Maine Pulls the Plug on California-Inspired Electric Car Mandates
Maine Pulls the Plug on California-Inspired Electric Car Mandates

By Alice Giordano

Maine, a vastly rural state that mingles a traditional Yankee life of hunting, logging, lobstering, and living off the grid with an annual influx of 15 million tourists—most who arrive by car—will not be joining 12 other states in phasing out gas-powered cars in favor of electrical vehicles.

In a 4 to 2 vote, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection earlier today rejected a proposal to adopt a rule that would mandatorily put Mainers behind the wheel of so-called “zero emission vehicles” (ZEV) by the year 2025. 

It would also have required new car sales in Maine to be at least 43 percent electric vehicles—or 4 out of every 10 cars—in just three years.

The proposed ZEV rule rejected by the Maine environment board today was based on clean car regulations adopted by the California Air Resources Board in 2022.

The board listened to comments on the proposals before debating the issue themselves. 

Fueling the concerns of committee members who voted against the rule is the financial and economic impact of forcing EV cars in a state where working Mainers often travel several miles just to reach their daily jobs compared to the sparse availability of charging stations.

Board Chairman Susan Lessard also cited the heavy stream of used cars on Maine’s roads, an indication, she said, that many residents are hardly in a financial position to afford the average $52,000 price tag of an electric vehicle. 

Barbara Vickery, one of three members of the environmental board who voted to adopt the rule, argued that Mainer’s cannot afford to not move towards zero emission vehicles because of the negative heat impact of tailpipe smog.  

The Maine environmental board rejected the EV initiative on the same day the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new round of emission standards aimed at curbing the use of gas-powered vehicles.

The announcement contrasts federal legislation that won House approval in December that would block the EPA from implementing emission standards that align with California’s regulations. The legislation was dubbed the Choice in Automobile Retail Sales (CARS) Act.

Of the few Democrats who supported that legislation was Maine Congressman Jared Golden. 

In a written statement about the proposed electric vehicle mandates, Mr. Golden talked about the heavy gas-powered machinery used in Maine’s forestry industry. 

“Put simply, this industry cannot safely and sensibly be mandated to use Heavy Duty Zero Emission Vehicles in locations that lack the proper electrical infrastructure to support them,” he said. “Forcing the industry to use these vehicles without the infrastructure puts the entire forest products supply chain at risk.” 

The Maine Policy Institute, which also opposed the phase out of gas-powered cars, estimates that 80 percent of Maine residents oppose being forced to trade in their cars for electric ones to follow centrally-planned timing on efforts to save the planet.

It compiled and posted on its website 47 pages of testimony from residents opposed to adopting the Advanced Clean Cars II Program.

Maine, which has very limited commuter rail service and public transportation, has the largest elderly population per capita in the country. It also is considered one of the poorest states per capita. According to 2017 U.S. Census Bureau data, it has a median household income of $51,664 and a 12.3 percent poverty rate.

“I cannot afford to change or get a new vehicle at my age or with my income,” Lynette Dow of Milo, Maine, testified at a previous hearing.

John MacLead, a Wells, Maine contractor, said he would consider moving his business out of Maine if the ZEV rule was adopted.

“Please encourage the use of new technologies without trying to play kingmaker. It will be better received,” he said at a previous hearing on the proposed rule. “I cannot afford any more backdoor taxes or increased fees,” he said.

Many Maine residents also cited concerns about the potential waiting lines at EV charging stations, while others cited the challenging northern climate of Maine and the growing accounts of electric cars failing in the cold temperatures. 

Some have also questioned the rationale behind pushing the untested mandate in Maine, which has less than one million residents but plays host to millions of out-of-state motorists.

Following the vote, the Maine Institute Policy issued a statement commending the committee for recognizing the wishes and needs of Maine residents.

“Mainers are smart. If market conditions and infrastructure were in a place that made EV ownership realistic for Maine consumers, they would make this choice on their own without government coercion,” the group’s CEO Matthew Gagnon said.

Other states that have adopted the California standard are Vermont, New York, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, Virginia, Rhode Island, and Maryland.

In addition to Maine, the several other states to rejected the ZEV initiative include Mississippi and Connecticut.

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