Rep. Joshua Morris (R-Turner) appealed the Legislative Council’s decision to reject his proposed bill requiring legislative oversight of electric vehicle regulation, only to have Council members vote it down yet again at today’s appeal hearing.
Titled “An Act to Enhance Legislative Oversight of Rules Regulating Electric Vehicles,” Rep. Morris introduced this bill in response to the new rules adopted by the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (Maine BEP) restricting the sale of new traditional internal combustion vehicles over the next several years.
After the Council rejected Morris’ proposal last week, he moved to appeal their decision in hopes that he could still bring this issue before the full legislature when they reconvene next year.
Last month, the Maine BEP moved to approve a set of California-style rules requiring that 43 percent of new cars sold in Maine be zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) by model year 2027 and 82 percent by model year 2032.
A final vote will not be taken by the Maine BEP until the Board has officially responded to more than a thousand public comments that were offered in relation to the proposed rule change.
This rule change — as well as an additional California-style regulation concerning medium- and heavy-duty trucks that was ultimately rejected by the Maine BEP — were initiated by the Natural Resource Council of Maine (NRCM) through Maine’s citizen initiative process.
Under these procedures, 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.
Over the summer, the Maine BEP’s public hearing on these rule changes saw a massive turnout, with standing-room only left in the conference room.
Nearly 90 people signed up to offer in-person testimony that day, and many more submitted written testimony in the weeks to come.
Adoption of these new regulations will essentially result in the state phasing out the sale of gas-powered cars in favor of zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) — including both hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs) — over the course of the next few years.
At the public hearing, supporters of these regulations primarily emphasized the environmental benefits of transitioning to ZEVs.
They also shot down concerns that were raised about the efficiency of EVs in cold weather, citing their own experiences as proof that this is not the case. Multiple studies, however, have shown that EVs have notably longer charging times and shorter ranges when the temperature begins to drop.
Supporters also argued that EVs are generally a more cost-effective option for those who are budget conscious — despite the high up-front cost — on account of the fact that they have lower operating and maintenance costs over the life of the vehicle compared to traditional combustion-engine cars.
Opponents, on the other hand, highlighted the lack of necessary infrastructure — especially in the more rural parts of the state — for widespread EV usage to be viable at this point in time.
They also noted the potential impacts that unnaturally saturating the market with EVs may have on those who continue to drive combustion-engine vehicles — either by choice or out of necessity.
Many opponents at the public hearing also took the opportunity to respond to supporters’ claims concerning affordability for average Mainers, as well as their practicality — or potential lack thereof — in Maine’s frigid climate.
“I believe that we are the one elected to represent the people,” Morris said at today’s Legislative Council hearing. “As you know, the Board of Environmental Protection has instituted new rules around electric vehicles that I think are very stringent and don’t really make sense, but I think we should be the ones who have final say over the matter.”
“It shouldn’t be decided by bureaucrats, it should be decided by the people who elect us and their representatives,” Morris said. “That’s what they sent us here to do.
“I certainly think that the rules should be repealed,” Morris concluded, “but I believe at the very least that something that massive and that impactful on Maine citizens should be decided by us — the legislature — not by an unelected board.”
The Council voted 5-5 on Morris’ appeal, meaning that his bill will not be moving forward for consideration by the full legislature next session.
All four Republicans on the Council, as well as Sen. Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook), voted in support of Morris’ motion. The other Democrats on the Council voted against it.
“It’s unfortunate that the majority of Democrats on Legislative Council do not feel such an extreme proposal from BEP does not require legislative oversight,” Morris told the Maine Wire. “By not allowing my proposal they are allowing California policies pushed by environmental extremists to become the law for hardworking Mainers.”
“The people deserve better from their elected representatives,” Morris said.