Maine should not move toward eliminating gas-powered vehicles

Avatar photoby Opinion Contributor December 12, 2023

A man talks on his phone while sitting in his electric car at a Tesla charging station on Friday, April 2, 2021, in Marin City, Calif. Sixteen states across the country that have tied their vehicle emission standards to California’s now face weighty decisions on whether to follow that state’s strictest-in-the nation new rules and require that all new cars, pickups and SUVs be electric or hydrogen powered by 2035. Credit: Eric Risberg / AP

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Dick Campbell, who represents House District 19, is the House Republican lead on the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resource Committee.

I can’t believe that Maine is on the verge of moving toward the phase out of gas-powered cars. If the unelected Board of Environmental Protection votes to adopt a proposed California rule mandating the sale of electric vehicle (EV) at its Dec. 21 meeting, car dealers will be subject to new requirements that 43 percent of new car sales in the 2027 model year be electric vehicles, increasing to 82 percent of new sales by the year 2032. That move could put Maine on the path toward elimination of gas-powered vehicles by making them artificially expensive.  

This idea resulted from 150 signatures from environmental groups under an obscure provision of Maine law. What followed was a proposed Chapter 127-A  petition  public hearing on Aug. 17 that drew testimony and comments from hundreds of people, with over 80 percent opposed. I testified against it with over 20 other House Republicans.

Right now, electric vehicles account for only 6 percent of all vehicle sales in Maine. The apparent lack of enthusiasm for EVs can likely be attributed to a number of factors, including: cost, limited charging stations, unsuitability for cold climate, limited range, negligible effect on climate change, and many others raised at the public hearing.  

When confronted with the lack of consumer enthusiasm for EVs, the prevailing board attitude seemed to be that the reason that they don’t sell is because the board hasn’t mandated them. I believe that attitude is exactly what is wrong with many of the people that control parts of our government or try to determine what is best for us. The fact that unelected bureaucrats have the power to impose draconian measures on us is scary.

Despite opposition of citizens and small businesses to the adoption of the California rule electric vehicle proposals, the unelected Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) directed BEP staff prepare for adoption of the rule change for action at a future meeting before the end of the year. Four members expressed support for the rules and two were opposed, with one member absent. The board did not support adoption of an electric truck mandate at this time. All seven BEP members were appointed or reappointed by Gov. Janet Mills.

Board adoption of the California rule could eliminate consumer choice, which could lead to higher automobile prices, and could result in economic hardship for little appreciable impact on climate change. People already have the option of buying an electric vehicle if they can afford it. Public opinion should matter and the government should not require us to buy things we do not want or need.

I hope that, if the BEP votes to impose this on us, the Legislature will act to require legislative approval before this takes effect. If necessary, I will submit legislation to repeal the rules for EV sales as an emergency measure for immediate action. This issue should be decided by the people. The potential for economic and social harm is far too great to let the BEP impose their will on the rest of us.

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