Maine is now on a path toward adopting vehicle emissions regulations akin to those currently on the books in California — rules that will effectively ban the sale of vehicles with gas-powered internal combustion engines in the state.
Two citizen petitions – initiated by the Natural Resources Council of Maine – were successfully submitted earlier this year asking the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to incorporate “the requirements of the California Advanced Clean Cars II” and “California’s Advanced Clean Trucks regulation” into Maine’s existing regulatory code.
Adoption of these new regulations would essentially result in the state phasing out the sale of gas-powered cars and trucks in favor of zero-emissions vehicles over the course of the next few years.
Instead, residents of Maine, which has some of the highest electricity prices in the country, would be forced to use electric vehicles.
A public hearing has been scheduled by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for August 17th at 9am in the Augusta Civic Center. Public comment on the matter will be accepted through August 28th.
Whether the final rule is adopted will depend on Gov. Janet Mills. The regulation is categorized as a “routine technical” rule rather than a “major substantive rule. That means adopting the proposed rules would not require legislative approval.
How Were These Rule-Making Requests Submitted?
According to Maine law, anyone can ask a state agency to adopt or change a rule so long as they are able to submit a petition signed by 150-plus registered voters supporting the request in question.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine utilized this procedure to bring these regulatory propositions before the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
Proposed Regulations for Passenger Cars, Light-Duty Trucks, and Medium-Duty Vehicles
Regarding everyday vehicles – including passenger cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty vehicles – the proposed regulations would require that 43 percent of sales in Maine be comprised of zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) for the 2027 model year, increasing to 82 percent for the 2032 model year.
Below is a graphic from the Rulemaking Fact Sheet published by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection illustrating the proposed yearly increase in the percentage of vehicles sold to Mainers that must be ZEVs.
These regulations would also impose more stringent pollution standards for cars utilizing internal combustion engines.
Additionally, the fact sheet directly acknowledges that the proposed regulations would result in “higher upfront costs” for manufactures who wish to produce and sell cars in Maine. It further recognizes that manufactures may opt to pass these costs onto Maine consumers.
It argued, however, that the cost-savings associated with owning and operating cars that adhere to their standards would off-set this expense. Although, an analysis by Car and Driver suggests it’s not always the case that electric vehicles are cheaper to own than their gas-powered counterparts.
According to the fact sheet:
[The regulation] imposes requirements on vehicle manufacturers to produce and sell vehicles in our state that may have higher upfront costs.
While there are no direct costs to individuals as a result of these rules, vehicle manufacturers may choose to pass down costs to consumers.
Overall direct cost savings to consumers from the use of the vehicles will be significant because of the fuel cost savings, lower maintenance, and increased longevity improvements.
Proposed Regulations for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and Trucks
In terms of the standards proposed by the Natural Resources Council of Maine concerning medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, the proposed rules would require manufacturers to ensure that an increasingly high percentage of the vehicles sold to Maine consumers were ZEVs.
The percentages required by the regulations range from 15 percent to 75 percent depending upon vehicle class and model year.
In 2022, electric vehicles represented just 4.5 percent of bus sales and 1.2 percent of heavy-duty truck sales.
Below is a table included in the fact sheet outlining what percentage of vehicles sold must be ZEVs, organized by model year and vehicle class.
As done in the other fact sheet, the organization argued in the fact sheet for these regulations that the increased up-front cost of compliance that will likely be passed along to consumers will be off-set over time for vehicle owners by decreased maintenance and usage costs.
Maine & California’s Vehicle Emissions Regulations
Since the 1960s, California has been granted the authority to impose more stringent air quality regulations with regard to vehicle emission than the those set by the federal government. Although this allowance was temporarily revoked in the late-2010s during former President Trump’s administration, President Biden reinstated it early last year.
Under this system, other states throughout the country are subsequently allowed to follow California’s lead in adopting these more restrictive standards. Any state that voluntarily decides to adhere to these regulations is in turn subjected to the enforcement authority of the California Air Resources Board.
The aforementioned regulatory changes now up for consideration in Maine fall under the umbrella of this recently-revived system.
It is also worth noting that this is not the first time that Maine has moved to adopt California-style vehicle emissions regulations. Maine currently has agreed to abide by California’s emissions standards for vehicles up through model year 2025.
Last August, California officially adopted a new regulation requiring that 100% of passenger cars sold in the state be ZEVs by 2035.
It remains to be seen whether or not an effort will also be made in the future by environmentalist groups in Maine to incorporate this standard into the state’s regulatory code as well.
In August of last year, Gov. Janet Mills (D) did state that she would not allow Maine to “blindly” follow California’s lead with regards to this particular proposal.