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Environment

Hogan administration won’t match California’s electric cars rule this year, frustrating Maryland advocates

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration won’t be putting forward a ban on the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035 — mimicking a decision by California — before he leaves office.

Environmental advocates had been hoping the Republican governor’s administration would advance a policy matching California’s before the end of the year. They argue that, by waiting, Maryland could fall behind California, where 35% of new light-duty cars sold must be zero-emission in model year 2026. Maryland must give manufacturers two model years of notice before the rule takes effect.

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A 2007 state law mandates that Maryland follow California’s vehicle emissions standards, which are stricter than the federal government’s. Several other states have similar arrangements. But the process is in the hands of Hogan’s Department of the Environment.

The department decided to wait on a final approval of California’s rule by that state’s Office of Administrative Law, said MDE spokesman Jay Apperson. That approval came Nov. 30, after the policy was approved by the California Air Resources Board in August.

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To begin the process in Maryland, MDE must submit a policy to the Air Quality Control Advisory Board, which held its last meeting of the year Monday. Its next meeting is scheduled for March 13.

Now, implementing the policy will fall to incoming Democratic Gov. Wes Moore’s administration.

In a statement Wednesday, Brian Jones, a spokesman for the Moore transition team, said the administration will “work expeditiously to meet the goals adopted by the legislature” in accordance with the 2007 law.

“The urgency and leadership that Gov. Elect Moore will bring to combating climate change were made clear during the campaign,” Jones added.

At the air quality board’s meeting Monday, Lindsey Mendelson, transportation representative with the Maryland Sierra Club, said she was disappointed that the policy was not on the agenda for December.

“This should be low-hanging fruit,” she said. “Manufacturers are already supporting this, [Office of Administrative Law] finalized it in California, other states are moving on it. So, if we don’t adopt it this year, it cannot be enforced in 2025, or model year 2026. We’ll be falling behind.”

In response, Chris Hoagland, director of MDE’s Air and Radiation Administration, confirmed that the policy won’t be advanced in Maryland this year.

“It’s the department’s intent to bring [the policy] to this council at a future meeting as soon as we can,” Hoagland said.

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Several Maryland legislators also called on Hogan’s administration to take action before year’s end. Montgomery County Democratic Dels. David Fraser-Hidalgo, Kumar Barve and Marc Korman sent a letter earlier this year pushing for a 2022 adoption of the policy.

The Maryland Commission on Climate Change also recommended the standard be enacted this year to help meet the state’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

In a statement, Apperson said that Hogan’s administration “continues to conduct an interagency review” of the electric cars rule.

In addition, Apperson added, the federal Environmental Protection Agency still must review California’s action.

Under Republican President Donald Trump, the EPA revoked California’s ability to enact stricter vehicle emissions standards than the federal government. But President Joe Biden’s EPA reversed that decision this year.


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