A bill that encourages the use of clean-running, low-speed vehicles completed its low-key journey through the legislative process that just ended and has been signed into law.

Overshadowed by health care, tax reform and even other environmental bills that were considered during the 2003 session, Rep. Boyd Marley’s bill allows the registration and use on Maine roads of low-speed, electric vehicles that travel up to 35 mph.

Low-speed vehicles have become increasingly popular since federal transportation officials adopted safety rules for them in 1998, supporters of the bill say.

Low-speed vehicles, which are legal for use in 38 states and have been on the market for more than five years, offer a transportation alternative that’s much less damaging to the environment than standard internal combustion engines, supporters say.

They cite studies by the U.S. Energy Department and others that show large reductions of smog with the use of low-speed vehicles.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for our state to spark economic development while also addressing our state’s air quality issues,” said Marley, D-Portland.

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