Maine has in the past adopted vehicle emissions standards or other environmental regulations first adopted by California.
A car is parked at an electric charging station Thursday in San Francisco. Credit: Jeff Chiu / AP

The Mills administration is signaling that it won’t follow California’s lead in prohibiting the sale of gas-powered cars and trucks in the state by 2035.

Maine has in the past joined other states in adopting vehicle emissions standards or other environmental regulations first adopted by California. But Gov. Janet Mills isn’t endorsing California’s latest, ambitious plan to require all new cars, trucks and SUVs to run on electricity or hydrogen by 2035.

“I would not be inclined to adopt any mandate along those lines,” Mills said Friday morning in a brief interview following a State House event. “Make electric vehicles available, rebates available — but not a mandate.”

In a follow-up statement, Mills spokesperson Lindsay Crete said Maine “will not blindly follow the lead of any other state but, instead, will put the interests of our state and people first to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, half of which in Maine come from transportation.”

Given the enormous size of the California market, the recent vote by regulators there is expected to provide additional motivation for auto manufacturers to hasten their transition to electric vehicles. In Maine, the Mills administration has set an ambitious goal of having 219,000 electric vehicles registered in the state by 2030. But as of last year, there were only about 5,500 electric vehicles on the road in Maine.

Under the Inflation Reduction Act recently passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden, car buyers could qualify for up to a $7,500 tax credit for the purchase of a new electric vehicle or up to $4,000 in tax credits for a used one. Crete said that Maine is also expanding the number of electric vehicle charging stations around the state, particularly in rural areas, and is providing state incentives to consumers while working on other initiatives to improve public transition and energy efficiency.

“This work will save Maine people money, while improving our economy and quality of life,” Crete said.

Roughly half of Maine’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector, so reducing tailpipe pollution is a key component in meeting the state’s emissions reductions goals. Those official goals are to reduce carbon emissions by 45 percent from 1990 levels by 2030 and by 80 percent by 2050.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has proposed adopting another California regulation, known as the California Advanced Clean Trucks Rule, that would require commercial truck and van manufacturers to sell an increasing number of electric vehicles in the state beginning with 2025 models. If adopted, manufacturers could face penalties for failing to live up to the rules. The Maine Board of Environmental Protection solicited public comment last fall but the proposal is still pending.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.