by Sue Jones, NRCM energy project director
Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments on behalf of the Natural Resources Council of Maine (Council). I am Sue Jones, and am the Energy Project Director for the Council. I live in Freeport. The Council is a public interest, nonprofit organization that seeks to protect and conserve Maine’s environment for now and future generations. As part of the Council’s work, we advocate for clean air and energy measures, including those that reduce global warming pollution.
The Council opposes LD 615 because it would unnecessarily delay the final adoption and implementation of any updates and changes to the Maine Low emissions Vehicle (LEV) Program. As written, this bill proposes making all LEV rulemakings “major substantive”. The LEV is a large program that covers many categories of vehicles, and often includes periodic updates and routine changes. Adding a second layer of review by the legislature (after the Board of Environmental Protection) would add a minimum of 5 months delay, and more likely a year’s delay in the implementation of portions of the LEV program. This could become quite burdensome to the Natural Resources Committee as well as to the Legislature. To add another layer of review is also costly on the State’s resources (DEP, the Natural Resources Committee, and the Attorney Generals Office) as well as to all interested stakeholders.
Maintaining the existing process for adopting and implementing LEV rules allows for adequate and proper public comments, including those of any legislator. Like every citizen in Maine, legislators have the opportunity to submit comments to the DEP as part of the rulemaking process.
In addition, this bill could potentially make changes that could make the LEV Program illegal under federal law. In order to remain compliant with federal law (the federal Clean Air Act’s “identicality provision”), the State is required to adopt all portions of either the California LEV Program or the National Program. Since the 1980s, Maine has been committed to the California LEV Program because it provides stronger pollution reductions faster. First and foremost, the State should not change course. And second, this means that the State cannot pick and chose which pieces of the suite of LEV programs to adopt, nor can it adopt or edit provisions that would make the program different in substance. It must by federal law adopt the whole suite of programs in order to keep it “identical”. Thus, there is little room for significant changes to the rules that define the LEV Program, which decreases the extent to which any changes to it can made by anyone. Thankfully, the underlying California LEV Program is known as the best program in the world for reducing air pollution from cars and trucks, and is staffed by renowned experts.