The Maine Department of Transportation (Maine DOT) announced Thursday that Maine will be receiving a $15 million taxpayer-funded grant from the Biden Administration to install electric vehicle (EV) chargers throughout the state.
The funding for the Maine DOT’s “Recharge Maine Project” comes from the federal government’s Charging and Fueling Infrastructure (CFI) Discretionary Grant Program, a new $2.5 billion initiative included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
This newest batch of grants, which were awarded to forty-seven projects throughout the country, totaled $622.57 million and were spread across twenty-two states, as well as Puerto Rico.
According to the project narrative published by the Maine DOT, they intend to install 520 Level 2 chargers and 34 DC Fast chargers across 132 locations statewide.
The project schedule indicates that construction is expected to be complete on all sites by December 31, 2026.
In the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Federal Highway Administration’s press release announcing the funding, several officials spoke to how these grants will help to advance the administration’s climate-related goals and expand access to EV charging nationwide.
“Every community across the nation deserves access to convenient and reliable clean transportation,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said. “The Biden-Harris Administration is bringing an accessible, made-in-America charging network into thousands of communities while cutting the carbon pollution that is driving the climate crisis.”
“From my time working at the local level, I know that finding electric vehicle charging in a community is different from finding charging along highways,” U.S. Transportation Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg said. “USDOT is proud to make an investment that will provide Americans with convenient, straightforward charging options in their communities.”
“The Federal Highway Administration is pleased to announce these grants that will bring EV charging and alternative fuels to people and communities all across the nation,” Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt said. “These investments through the CFI Program will grow our national EV charging network, support President Biden’s goals of achieving net-zero emissions for the nation by 2050 and promote opportunity for all Americans to enjoy the benefits of EV charging.”
In a letter that Gov. Janet Mills (D) wrote in support of Maine’s application for this grant, she suggested that the Recharge Maine project would bring EV charging to a broader range of areas throughout the state and help reduce “‘range anxiety’ by closing gaps between charging stations.”
“This project will equitably provide public charging throughout Maine communities, serving individuals who do not have access to it at home such as those living in apartments and other multi-unit dwellings,” Gov. Mills wrote. “It will benefit disadvantaged communities by ensuring chargers are located in neighborhoods of all income levels and will greatly reduce ‘range anxiety’ by closing gaps between charging stations.”
Mills also expressed concern that a lack of EV charging stations throughout the state would cause “Maine’s $14 billion tourism industry [to] suffer” if those visiting the state felt they could not reliably charge their vehicles while visiting.
Maine’s entire congressional delegation — Sen. Susan Collins (R), Sen. Angus King (I), Rep. Jared Golden (D), and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D) — also filed letters of support as part of the state’s application for the grant last year.
This round of federal funding comes as the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (Maine BEP) considers adopting a set of California-style regulations mandating 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.
It was originally expected that the Maine BEP would take a final vote on the rule — known officially as the Advanced Clean Cars II Program — at the end of December, but a destructive storm that left the majority of Mainers without power pushed the Board to postpone their decision.
After making an adjustment to the proposed start of the program, the BEP reopened the public comment period for the mandate until February 5, 2024.
Written comments can be sent to email@example.com with the subject line “Comment on Chapter 127-A: Advanced Clean Cars II Program (Reposting).”
A second public hearing on the mandate has not been scheduled by the Maine BEP at this time, and the Board has not yet announced the expected date of its vote on the rule change.
In addition to the concerns that have been raised about the practicalities associated with such a rapid and manufactured increase in EV usage in Maine, many also took issue with the method by which this rule change was being pursued.
After having been brought before the Board by the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) with a 150-signature petition, the rule was automatically classified as routine technical — exempting it from legislative oversight — on account of the fact that there is no statute currently on the books explicitly designating such regulations as major substantive, a type of rule requiring legislative approval before it can go into effect.
Although Maine law used to require under 38 M.R.S. § 585-D that rule changes related to vehicle emissions standards — such as the ZEV mandate currently under consideration — be categorized as major substantive, lawmakers repealed that provision in 2005.
Recently, there were reports by the Portland Press Herald that the Maine BEP would be asking the legislature to approve a bill that would reclassify the Advanced Clean Cars II Program as major substantive, as well as require that similar rulemaking in the future also be considered as such, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (Maine DEP) told the Maine Wire that this was “inaccurate.”
Instead, the BEP intends to proceed as planned with its vote on the ZEV mandate but will ask legislators to change the law so that “rulemaking proceedings regarding motor vehicle emission standards” would be considered as major substantive — and thus subject to legislative oversight — going forward.
Deputy Commissioner of the Maine DEP David R. Madore told the Maine Wire that “this presumably would not affect the Board’s current Chapter 127-A rulemaking proceeding.”
It remains to be seen if lawmakers ultimately choose to act on the Maine BEP’s recommendation to adopt such a change.