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Environment

Will Maryland replicate California’s ban on new gas cars by 2035? Advocates say it must.

Maryland legislators and environmental groups are urging Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration to adopt California’s new electric vehicle standards by the end of the year, or risk falling behind the Golden State.

California’s regulation requires an increasing percentage of light-duty vehicles sold in the state to be zero-emission. By model year 2035, all new passenger cars, trucks and SUVs sold in the state will need to be electric, with a maximum of 20% of models being plug-in hybrids.

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The rule was approved by the California Air Resources Board in August, following a 2020 executive order from California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

According to Maryland’s Department of Legislative Services, Maryland must eventually do the same. That’s because in 2007, state legislators passed a law pledging to adopt and maintain California’s vehicle emissions standards, which were stricter than the federal government’s.

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In a statement, a spokesman for Maryland’s Department of the Environment said officials will start “considering action” after California’s Office of Administrative Law issues a final approval for the state’s policy.

That test could come Wednesday. The California office is due to release its decision by the end of the day, said Elizabeth Heidig, its deputy director.

But Maryland should have been more proactive, said Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo, a Montgomery County Democrat.

”All too often sometimes, in government we sit and we wait,” he said. “We need to not sit and wait.”

Some 16 other states are in a similar boat, having adopted California’s stricter vehicle emission standards in the past, according to The Associated Press.

If Hogan’s administration doesn’t act by the end of this year, Maryland could fall behind, said Lindsey Mendelson, transportation representative for the Maryland Sierra Club.

The state is required to give manufacturers a two-year notice before implementing its policy. So, manufacturers would have to be notified in 2022 [during model year 2023] to have two model years to prepare for a 2026 rollout, Mendelson said. Under California’s rule, 35% of model year 2026 cars sold should be electric.

In September, Fraser-Hidalgo and two other delegates — Del. Kumar Barve and Del. Marc Korman, both Democrats — sent a letter pushing Hogan to adopt California’s standards by the end of 2022.

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”The Delegates and I know the State is required to adopt this new standard,” the letter read, “but we urge you to take action as soon as possible to start reaping the benefits of cleaner air.”

The delegates didn’t receive a response from the administration, Fraser-Hidalgo said.

New car dealerships in Maryland are already preparing for the requirements to land in the state — whether this year or in the future — said Peter Kitzmiller, president of the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association.

“In my opinion, we don’t have any choice,” Kitzmiller said. “We’ve adopted the California emissions standards.”

For dealerships, that mainly means investing thousands of dollars in electric car charging infrastructure on-site, he said.

“The dealers are committed to doing that, because that’s where the market is going to go,” Kitzmiller said.

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In recent years, the electric vehicle options have improved substantially, Kitzmiller said, with longer ranges and larger vehicles on offer, easing the transition for dealers.

Earlier this year, for instance, Ford doubled the production of its new fully electric truck, the F-150 Lightning, after more than 200,000 people joined a waiting list for the vehicle, complete with $100 deposits each.

Easy access to charging infrastructure remains a concern for customers, though, Kitzmiller said, and supply chain shortages have slowed production of vehicles across the board.

So meeting a 35% requirement for 2026 could be challenging, he said, particularly given that only about 6% of Maryland’s new car sales are electric as of 2022, according to a Maryland Department of the Environment report.

The Maryland Commission on Climate Change, which includes Maryland legislators, agency heads and industry groups, has also recommended the state move to adopt California’s policy before the end of the year to help meet the state’s goal of a 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2006 levels by 2031.

In addition, two dozen environmental groups, including the Maryland Sierra Club and the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, also sent a letter to Hogan pushing for a 2022 adoption.

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According to a Sierra Club analysis, the adoption of California’s rule would reduce light-duty car carbon dioxide emissions in Maryland 63% below 2021 levels in 2035. That analysis was performed using EV-REDI, a model developed by Synapse Energy Economics, Inc.

”It’s absolutely needed for us to meet our climate targets,” Mendelson said. “We’re going to be in trouble in 13 years if new cars being sold are still pumping out carbon pollution.”

The transportation sector accounted for 35% of Maryland’s greenhouse gas pollution in 2020, according to a report from the Maryland Department of the Environment. The vast majority of those emissions came from on-road gas and diesel-powered vehicles.


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