The Maine State Legislative Council voted Thursday to reject a bill proposed by Rep. Joshua Morris (R-Turner) that would have required legislative oversight for state electric vehicle regulation.
Rep. Morris’ bill was one of 225 working titles that were shot down by the Council ahead of next year’s legislative session.
The Council voted to approve just 58 of the bills that had been proposed by legislators for debate next year.
The Legislative Council is the State Legislature’s administrative body, comprised of ten elected members of legislative leadership, including the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, the Republican and Democratic Floor Leaders for both the Senate and House of Representatives and their Assistant Floor Leaders.
Among the numerous responsibilities delegated to the Council are screening and approving requests to introduce legislation after cloture in any legislative session, as well as for the second regular session and any special sessions.
Morris’ legislative request for oversight of electric vehicle regulation came in response to recent action taken by the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (Maine BEP) to move forward with California-style vehicle emissions regulations impacting new car sales in Maine.
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.
“The Democrats on on Legislative Council voted to make regular Mainers’ lives harder yet again,” Morris told the Maine Wire.
“Let’s be clear, they would rather rubber stamp bureaucrats than have to be accountable to the people for their far-left policies,” he said. “Do the Democrats who blocked my bill honestly think that this scheme can actually happen and there won’t be massive problems?”
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.
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 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.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) — a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to “protecting, restoring, and conserving Maine’s environment” — utilized this process to bring the two California-style emissions regulations before the Maine BEP.
Adoption of these new regulations would essentially result in the state phasing out the sale of gas-powered cars in favor of ZEVs — including both hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs) over the course of the next few years.
At the Maine BEP’s public hearing, Morris testified in opposition to the rule changes and then spoke to the Maine Wire in more detail about why he believed requiring there to be more EVs sales in the state would be harmful for Mainers.
“I just testified in opposition to this policy that would require more EV vehicles to be sold in the state of Maine,” Morris said. “These vehicles will not run real well when we get into those cold winter nights.”
“When you have power outages in rural parts of Maine,” Morris continued, “how are you going to keep your car plugged in?”
“It’s being pushed by radical groups from outside Maine, not really based on anything that is going on in Maine right now,” Morris said.
“It is callous, aloof, unthinking, unfeeling, unworkable, and simply cruel” Morris testified before the Maine BEP. “Hardworking Mainers deserve better from their government than this policy pushed by far left environmental extremist groups.”
"There are not enough adjectives to describe how bad this policy is for Maine's people."— The Maine Wire (@TheMaineWire) August 17, 2023
Rep Joshua Morris talks with the Maine Wire about his opposition to phasing out gas-powered cars. pic.twitter.com/ja54OjRw9d
At the public hearing, supporters of the new rules pointed toward the environmental consequences associated with the continued use of traditional internal-combustion vehicles.
Opponents, on the other hand, highlight the practical obstacles in the way of making such a transition right now in Maine, particularly given the state’s lack of vehicle charging infrastructure and cold climate.
Despite the evidence demonstrating that EVs struggle to operate efficiently in cold weather, supporters of the rule changes who own EVs have asserted that these concerns are not of import as they have not had difficulty getting where they need to go in the winter months.
In terms of a lack of adequate charging infrastructure, the Maine BEP actually acknowledged this deficiency with relation to the proposed rule change concerning medium- and heavy-duty trucks, citing this as one of the reasons for the Board’s rejection of it.
With regard to the new passenger vehicle regulations, however, the Maine BEP appears to be unconcerned with this.
Affordability — or lack thereof — has been another point of contention between supporters and opponents of these rule changes.
While those in favor of the regulations argued that the operating costs of a ZEV are less than those associated with traditional cars, opponents pointed out that the up front investment required for a ZEV — and for an EV in particular — is prohibitively high for low- and middle-income Mainers.
Opponents have also pointed to the potential impact that saturating the market with EVs would have on the financial burden imposed upon those who continued to drive internal combustion vehicles — either by choice or out of necessity.
The Maine BEP is expected to reconvene in December to discuss and vote on any potential adjustments that may need to be made to the new ZEV mandates before their final adoption by the Board.