MOORHEAD, Minn. — The Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce recently joined a dozen other chambers in calling on Gov. Tim Walz to postpone implementing Clean Cars Minnesota regulations.
The rules put forth by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency are based on more stringent California low-emissions and zero emissions tailpipe standards for light- and medium-duty vehicles. The rules would go into effect in 2025.
Walz introduced Clean Cars Minnesota in 2019 as a way to force automakers to offer more hybrid or electric vehicles, or vehicles that use less fuel such as SUVs with smaller engines.
In a May 25 letter to Walz, the chambers called on Walz’s administration to “forestall or at least delay” implementation of the rule, citing its potential impact on auto sales and lack of infrastructure to support electric vehicles.
“The considerable price increase caused by the rule would fall hardest on Minnesota’s border communities. Auto dealers in our communities will incur a severe competitive disadvantage to dealers just across the border who have not adopted California’s air emissions standards,” the letter said.
“As we are sure you know, this policy will increase the cost of all vehicles in Minnesota by an estimated average of over $1,100 per vehicle, according to the MPCA. Other estimates put that number even higher. The price increase on Minnesota vehicles runs directly counter to what’s needed to rebuild our local economies from the devastation wrought by the pandemic,” the letter said. “Neighbors from across our borders who might otherwise come to Minnesota to shop for a new vehicle would be highly unlikely to continue shopping here since vehicles will be significantly cheaper in Wisconsin, Iowa, and North and South Dakota.”
The chambers said that they were not against working with the administration to promote vehicles with cleaner emissions, but that they believed that there were better options to put clean cars — including electric vehicles — on the road.
“The relatively high cost of EV’s and lack of infrastructure to support their rapid deployment are policies that we can and should be working to address today, prior to considering mandates that force unneeded supply on our local auto dealers,” the letter said.
“We are not sure what part of the state, if any, would benefit from this rule being imposed, but we are confident that our border communities, and greater Minnesota in general, stands to lose significantly,” the letter said, calling for more input from the Legislature.
The letter also emphasized that most major farm and commodity groups, and many chambers and other business groups in Greater Minnesota opposed the rules.
“This is a serious issue for our communities. It is NOT about support or opposition to EV’s. We support EV’s where there is a market and infrastructure, or where there is a federal rule, so all states are in accordance with the same standards and Minnesota is not at a disadvantage with its regional neighbors,” the letter said.
In addition to the FMWF Chamber, other chamber groups signing the letter included: Ada, Austin, Crookston, Dakota County Regional, Fairmont, Fergus Falls, Hermantown, Luverne, Marshall, Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, Winona and White Bear.
According to the MPCA, the Clean Car standards only apply to light- and medium-duty vehicles. They don’t apply to off-road or heavy-duty vehicles or equipment like farm equipment or semi-trucks.
The standards also do not apply to existing vehicles or used vehicles for sale and don’t require emissions testing.
They also don’t affect biofuels or prevent Minnesota from supporting clean fuels, and they don’t require anyone to buy electric vehicles.
The MPCA says the auto industry has been meeting low-emission vehicle standards since 2012, and that those vehicles are already on sale on Minnesota car lots. All new vehicles sold in Minnesota from 2012 to 2020 have been LEV-certified vehicles.
The zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) standard requires auto manufacturers to deliver more vehicles with zero tailpipe emissions for sale in Minnesota.
The MPCA says Minnesota needs to meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2025 and 80% by 2050. However, the agency notes that the state missed its target for 2015 and is not on track to meet future goals.
Under the federal Clean Air Act, states can choose to either follow federal emissions standards or adopt the more stringent clean car standards. So far, 15 states use the California low-emissions or zero-emissions standards.
A June special session is ahead in which lawmakers must finalize a two-year balanced budget to avoid state government shutdowns.
Minnesota Republicans are seeking a delay in implementing the Clean Car rules and have indicated in recent weeks that they will make the issue part of state budget negotiations, including possibly shutting down funding for the Department of Natural Resources, which would affect state parks, if the governor doesn’t yield.