Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection has a case of NRCM Disease
Following the lead of their non-profit overlords at the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) last week released its “Basis Statement” in which it responded to public comments regarding the new rule designed to drastically reduce gas-powered and hybrid passenger vehicles on Maine roads by decreasing the percentage of new vehicles that are not so-called “Zero Emission Vehicles”or LEVs.
The document is remarkable for two major reasons. First it makes clear that the public input process was a sham. Despite comments from more than a thousand Maine citizens–most of them in opposition–DEP made no changes whatsoever to the proposed rule.
Second, it reveals that Maine DEP and its Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) have already decided on their course of action. Despite the overwhelming opposition to the rule in the submitted comments, this document is a justification for acting anyway. Clearly, DEP made no effort to listen to the public testimony and take it under any serious consideration.
Rather than represent the interests of all Maine people by producing an objective recitation of the facts and allowing the BEP to base its decision on factual, scientific data, Maine DEP has released an advocacy document that repeats many of the lies, half-truths, and unsubstantiated claims put forth by the NRCM in proposing and justifying the rule.
DEP clearly states their bias in favor of a minority of public comments when it writes:
“The Department agrees with the Commenters’ statement that adoption of the ACC II program would reduce GHG [green house gas] emissions that lead to climate change and help Maine meets its climate goals.”
Clearly, Maine DEP and BEP are both in sync with NRCM’s plans and are making no secret of their lack of scientific objectivity.
In the 52 pages of responses to 81 comments, the document uses the phrase, “No changes were made in response to this comment” 75 times.
Will the new rule “reduce GHG emissions?” Sure, but by how much, and is the damage inflicted on Maine people by the rule worth the minuscule benefit?
If I stay home and do not start my gas-powered 1965 Ford F100 tomorrow, I will reduce Maine’s GHG emissions, but by an almost immeasurably small amount. Can I then brag about how I am single-handedly saving the planet? I could, but I would be wildly exaggerating. Similarly, the question for this rule should be: Does the substantial damage and harm done by the rule justify its tiny positive impact?
There are a total of 6,000 EVs registered in Maine today. The rule will require that in 2027, about 30,000 new EVs will be sold—each year—somehow, increasing Maine’s total number of EVs by 500 percent in just one year, then continue at a larger pace every year afterward until it reaches 82 percent of all new car sales.
By the way, Maine already has a target, initiated in its “2020 Climate Action Plan,” to have 41,000 EVs on Maine roads by 2025. Currently, there are just 6,000 such vehicles. With demand flat and supply dropping in response, there is no chance of meeting that goal, just as there is no chance of meeting the requirements of the new rule.
However, Maine’s DEP staff remains blissfully ignorant to this reality, claiming “The proposed rule provides many choices for the vehicle consumer. Additionally, the market choices for EVs will continue to increase with a wide variety of EV models available and many more planned in the next few years.”
To put it politely, this is the opposite of the truth. The rule provides nothing in the way of vehicle choice. Also, due to a lack of demand, car manufacturers are cutting back on production of EVs, not widening choices. Does DEP not have Google?
Like its NRCM puppet masters, DEP offers no scientific or empirical data to support this claim. The rule, they assume, will magically change the behavior of auto manufacturers who, NRCM claims, have been somehow colluding to boycott Maine by not supplying enough EVs to its dealers.
Pay no mind to the ample supply of EVs for sale in Maine auto dealer inventories revealed by a quick search online. Both NRCM and DEP continue to argue this unsupported and unproven claim as if it were settled science.
A simple Internet search for “Low EV Demand” that any employee at Maine DEP could conduct in seconds reveals dozens of news articles from the last 60 days showing a drop in demand and a resulting cutback in manufacturing at Ford, Chrysler, and GM.
Ford alone will lose another $3 billion on EVs in 2023 on top of 2022’s loss of $2.1 billion, and has shelved plans to spend $12.5 billion to increase production. The company says it loses $66,446 on every EV it sells.
While it now claims potential EV customers in Maine can’t find cars, just last year NRCM claimed they were everywhere. Talking up the boom in EV sales, they claimed that “EV sales are surging in Maine despite current supply chain disruptions,” and, “With electric car and truck sales booming, manufacturers are bringing more diverse models to market,” and, “More Mainers than ever are driving EVs right here in our state.”
Without explanation, neither NRCM nor DEP have explained the sudden change in reality from surging to unavailable in one year.
Assuming that the rule can, by force, change the behavior of Maine car buyers into suddenly craving EVs is a fools’ notion. The vehicles will simply not be available nationwide in large enough numbers.
Somehow, there are still some who have not learned that you simply cannot force Mainers to comply with government mandates. As we saw just two years ago, trying to force health care workers to get a vaccine they did not want caused tremendous and lasting damage to Maine’s health care system. Thousands of workers chose termination from their jobs over compliance. That same attitude will no doubt impact the adoption of EVs and bring about a sharp decline, if not a collapse, in Maine’s new car market.
The very real result of this unachievable rule will be that Mainers will try to keep repairing older cars rather than replacing them, compounding an already large backlog in repair shops. The other day, I asked my local mechanic if he could make a few needed repairs to my vehicle. He said sure, it would take 2-3 days. His next opening is in mid-February. If I had no other vehicle option, my loss of transportation would mean I would be out of work for eight weeks.
The Basis Statement makes claims showing a significantly greater reduction in CO2 emissions through 2040 if the rule is adopted. What it does not reveal are two major issues.
- DEP failed to include the carbon-sequestering of CO2 by Maine’s forests in its arguments. In fact, the word “forest” does not appear anywhere in the Basis Statement. The governor’s Carbon Task Force released a report in 2021 that shows that Maine’s vast forests sequester 75 percent of Maine’s emissions annually.
- DEP ignores the fact that more than half of Maine’s current electrical grid is sourced from natural gas, meaning EVs are responsible for a considerable amount of CO2 emissions through the electricity that powers them. Although the NRCM and DEP refer to their preferred vehicles as “Zero-Emissions Vehicles,” it would be more accurate to call them “External Combustion Engines.”
DEP admits that 49% of Maine’s GHG comes from transportation while “59% of Maine’s transportation-related emissions are from light-duty passenger cars and trucks.” The total net GHG emissions from light duty vehicles is just 1.2 mmt. In 2022, worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases reached 54,000 mmt. If this new rule removed every gas-powered and hybrid light-duty vehicle from Maine roads—something it does not come close to accomplishing—it would mean a net reduction in GHG emissions of 1/45,000 of the world total.
This, DEP refers to as “a profound effect.”
Using a chart that shows relevant GHG emissions at 4.6 mmt rather than the actual 1.2 mmt, DEP ignores these facts and reports that “If implemented, the ACC II program would have a profound effect on emissions from the transportation sector, and could reduce GHG emissions by approximately 2 million metric tons CO2e per year.”
Profound? Even using DEPs vastly inflated 2 mmt figure, the impact is hardly profound when measured against state, national, or worldwide emissions. It is barely a blip.
As to the insignificant amount of GHG that might be prevented from reaching the atmosphere, the Department’s response is so unprofessional as to be labelled “silly” and with no supporting basis in evidence or fact.
“Although Maine’s GHG emissions are small on a global scale, climate change is a worldwide problem that requires collective action across the globe.”
This vague statement has nothing to do with the questions raised by the rule nor is it any kind of professional response to the serious concerns of commenters. Responses should answer questions like — Specifically, what measurable results can we expect and at what costs to Maine people?
Another non-responsive response to a comment reads: “Further, it will also send a positive signal to other states and countries that transportation decarbonization is achievable and that Maine is willing to back up its public commitments.”
This is nonsense! It is no more than pie in the sky personal opinion with no possible connection to empirical or scientific evidence and has no place in a policy document.
DEP also dismissed the comment by delineating between a “low-emissions grid like Maine’s” and “higher-emission grids that rely on coal and natural gas” (page 22). DEP seems to not realize that more than 50% of the electricity in Maine’s grid is generated from natural gas making it a “higher-emission grid” by their own definition.
The negative impacts of the rule are real and tangible. DEP’s dismissal of these negative impacts raised by commenters is not. This makes a mockery of the rulemaking process and it is not the way to make sound policy.
For example, DEP dismissed the comments about increased EV particulates polluting the air by saying that manufacturers “may offset this increased weight by reducing the weight of other components or the vehicle body.” Manufacturers have been trying for years to reduce the weight of vehicles to meet gas mileage requirements and have so far failed to make significant enough progress. DEP is wrong to dismiss these comments based on unlikely scenarios that “may” occur.
Ford ”may opt” to build a flying car that runs on zero-emission cold fusion energy, but we should not be making rules that assume they will—at least not until someone finally invents a cold fusion generator. DEP is making policy based on possible but unlikely future scenarios. The impacts of this rule, however, will be real and immediate.
DEP’s justifications such as “EVs are expected to become cleaner in the future due to more environmentally friendly mining practices” fall somewhere between outrageous and ridiculous. DEP and NRCM continue to oppose cleaner mining practices here in Maine. The phrase “is/are expected” is used ten times to dismiss concerns raised by commenters. Are expected by whom? In what published study?
In the next few days, armed with this collection of falsehoods and misinformation, the Board of Environmental Protection will meet to cast a final vote on whether to adopt these rules and their lasting and painful effects on Maine people, especially those without significant financial resources. They will do so against the wishes of the vast majority of those who took the time and made the effort to provide public comments.
Unfortunately, this is how the laws and policies that dramatically impact our lives here in Maine are made these days, with no regard for truth, fact, science, or the will of the people.