Maine is being urged to join a handful of states in banning the sale of new fossil fuel-powered vehicles, but critics say the move would be costly for consumers.
A coalition of environmental groups has petitioned the state Board of Environmental Protection to adopt stringent emissions standards that would require an increasing percentage of new cars sold in Maine to be zero-emission vehicles, with the goal of 82% by model year 2032. Another petition proposes similar standards for trucks.
The restrictions would apply only to new passenger cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty vehicles, according to the proposal. Auto manufacturers failing to meet the state's benchmarks would face civil penalties of up to $10,000 daily. The plan would allow for the sale of used gas-powered vehicles.
The board held a public hearing on the proposals in August, which drew more than 100 vocal supporters and opponents to testify about the proposed emissions standards.
Meanwhile, groups on either side of the issue are making their case to the public for state officials to adopt or reject the proposed regulations.
Environmental groups argue that adopting the standards, known as the Advanced Clean Cars II and Advanced Clean Trucks rules, will help meet the growing demand for electric vehicles, lower sticker prices and help the state transition away from gas-powered cars and trucks.
"Toxic pollution from cars and trucks overheats the planet and clogs the air in our communities," Emily Green, a senior attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, said in a recent statement supporting the move. "It's time for our state leaders to step up and walk the walk when it comes to slashing pollution from vehicles."
But in a recent op-ed, Jessica Nickerson, a policy analyst at the Portland-based Maine Policy Institute, argued Maine "isn't ready" for a rapid transition to electric vehicles and that government mandates will punish working-class families who can't afford to make the switch.
"So much must be done before a full transition can occur, and there are too many unanswered questions to start imposing mandates today," she wrote. "There are also numerous logistical and infrastructure-related concerns that still exist which make such rapid adoption of EVs in Maine unrealistic."
Maine's climate change plans call for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030. Tailpipe pollution accounts for more than half of the state's emissions.
A law signed by Gov. Janet Mills in 2021 calls for accelerating Maine's transition to electric vehicles by encouraging more electric charging stations and reducing the costs consumers pay for charging vehicles. Those plans include putting another 219,000 EVs on Maine's road within the next decade.
Currently, electric vehicles account for only about 6% of the registered cars and trucks on the state's roads, according to the Maine Registry of Motor Vehicles.