By Guy Page
Many adults share a recurring nightmare that they are back in school, the final exam is upon them, and they haven’t even attended the class all year long. They are going to fail! The eight members of the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR) may be living that nightmare over a major rule change in Vermont that would begin restricting the sale of new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in 2026 leading up to an outright ban on such sales after 2035.
California passed emissions standards for vehicles sold in that state that will ultimately ban the sale of new gas/diesel powered cars and light trucks by 2035. Other states are required to choose to follow either California’s emissions standards or the federal governments, which are less restrictive. Since 2005, when the California waver was first established, 16 states have traditionally followed California’s lead, and Vermont is one of them. Vermont now must decide whether or not to stay on the California path to banning ICE vehicles or get back to operating under federal standards, which do not ban ICE vehicles.
LCAR will be voting YES or NO before Dec. 1. But until Vermont Daily Chronicle contacted the LCAR members and asked them what they were thinking in regard to Vermont and the California car ban, almost none of them appeared to know the issue was even going to come before them, or that they had to be prepared to make a decision.
Senator Chris Bray (D-Addison), who in addition to being a member of LCAR is chair of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, which is a committee of jurisdiction over this issue, responded to VDC’s inquiry, “Such a rule, or even draft rule, is news to me.”
Senator Mark MacDonald (D-Orange), who chairs the LCAR committee, stated, “I’m glad we have over 4470 days until implementation of CA’s newly announced standards. Vermonters will be sifting through it for some time.”
But MacDonald’s arithmetic is wrong by a factor of 60.
A memo from Athena Dexter-Cooper, the legal counsel for the LCAR committee, is clear, “In terms of timing … the Climate Action Plan [created by the Climate Council formed under the Global Warming Solutions Act] directs ANR [the Agency of Natural Resources] to adopt this suite of rules, with Advanced Clean Cars II being adopted not later than December 1, 2022.” That’s not 4470 days away, it’s less than seventy five. And LCAR needs to let ANR know what their recommendation is before then.
Other states in the same boat as Vermont, those that have traditionally followed California, are aware of what is going on and are taking action to disassociate from the ban.
According to Governing.com, Gov. Janet Mills of Maine says, “she doesn’t support a California-style mandate to phase out all new gasoline-only vehicles by 2035.” And even the Sierra Club of Maine agrees the proposal is just too radical for a small, rural population. “’At this point in Maine, a mandate probably doesn’t make much sense,’ said Anna Wright, the legislative and political strategist at Sierra Club Maine.”
Another such state is Colorado. The Colorado Sun reports, “Colorado regulators, who adopted California’s older rules, won’t follow California’s new ones, the administration of Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said.” The article also reports that other states, including Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Minnesota are balking at the policy as too radical and impractical. Time will tell what the rest decided.
“We obviously have a choice to make here,” said Rob Roper of the Ethan Allen Institute board of directors, who has been following this issue closely, “but the Climate Council and the Agency of Natural Resources under the Scott Administration are behaving as if following California over the cliff is a done deal. This despite the fact that a landslide majority of Vermonters do not approve of this policy.”
Roper was referring to a poll done by The UVM Center for Rural Studies earlier this summer that showed 65% of Vermonters do not approve of banning the sale of internal combustion engine vehicles for the purposes of reducing carbon emissions. Only 15% approved of the policy and 20% were unsure.
“That our elected representatives are apparently clueless as to what’s going on here and what their role is in protecting the interests and desires of their constituents is pathetic. I wish I could say shocking,” said Roper.
ANR and the Climate Council are conducting a series of public meetings on the California vehicle ban but are not presenting the policy as an option to the public. The meetings are simply informing those who show up that the rule will be adopted by Vermont, so get ready, and what the potential impacts might be.
The one LCAR member who responded with clear understanding of the issue and who had thought through the implications was Senator Joe Benning (R-Caledonia), who is also a candidate for lieutenant governor. “The [electric] infrastructure [in Vermont] does not currently have the ability to accommodate expected purchases and won’t likely have it for some time. That’s one of the reasons why I have consistently voted against this legislation from the beginning. I tell Vermonters who can’t afford EV’s or can’t use them that they need to get to the polls in November and vote Republican. I’m pretty sure I’ve been on record as saying that for the past 12 years or so.
“I voted against the original GWSA, have consistently argued against it whenever the argument comes up, and will do what I can on LCAR to point out that this will produce an undue and very expensive burden on Vermonters,” said Benning.
Guy Page is publisher of the Vermont Daily Chronicle. Reprinted with permission.