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Minnesota judge OKs California Clean Car standard, potentially opening door to more electric vehicles

The decision could make Minnesota the first Midwestern state to adopt the rule change modeled in California.

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An electric car charging station. (Forum News Service file photo)
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ST. PAUL — A Minnesota administrative law judge on Friday, May 7, approved changes to the state's car emission standards, paving the way for more electric and hybrid vehicles to be made available for sale.

Judge Jessica A. Palmer-Denig in a report approved the proposed rule changes aimed at putting Minnesota's emission rules in line with California and a dozen other states and she recommended that they be adopted. Under the rules, automakers would be required to bring more electric vehicles and hybrid models to Minnesota.

Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency put forth the proposed changes in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the state's top source of emissions: transportation. Roughly 25% of the heat-trapping gases that spur warming temperatures and more extreme weather events in the U.S. stem from cars and low-duty trucks.

“The Governor’s Clean Cars plan will increase options for Minnesotans when they shop for their next car," Walz's spokesman Teddy Tschann said in a statement. "This plan will also improve public health, combat climate change, and help Minnesotans save money at the pump. This is good news for our state.”

The governor and MPCA officials said the proposal would help put the state in line with the goals of reducing greenhouse gases. And they argue it could help put the state back in line with 2007 goals set in statute. A bipartisan law at the time called for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2015, 30% by 2025 and by 80% by 2050 as compared to 2005 levels. The state missed its 2015 goal and is not on track to meet its targets moving forward.

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It is estimated that the goal could reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state by 8.4 million tons over the next decade.

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Vehicles travel on Washington Street through Brainerd Wednesday, Jan. 27. The session also looks to be another battle over new emission standards and rules being proposed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency that would, in its estimation, reduce environmentally harmful emissions by 4.5% through requiring vehicle manufacturers to deliver passenger cars, trucks and SUVs that produce lower greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants for sale in Minnesota. In addition, this rule would require automobile manufacturers to deliver more vehicles with ultra-low or zero tailpipe emissions for sale in Minnesota, including electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid models. Gabriel Lagarde / Brainerd Dispatch

Minnesotans won't see an impact right away, as the MPCA will have to implement the rule and it could take several model years to become effective. Once in place, the number of low-emission vehicle models available in the state could grow from 19 to 43, based on other states that have adopted the rules.

Clean energy and environmental advocacy groups along with Democratic-Farmer-Labor lawmakers on Friday applauded the decision while Republican legislators and other opponents said it was the wrong move and urged delayed implementation.

Republican state lawmakers have opposed the plan, saying the rule should've been vetted by the Legislature rather than through the administrative rulemaking process. And Senate Republicans this week said they would push for a two-year delay in implementation as they enter budget negotiations.

Auto dealers in the state echoed the calls to get lawmakers more involved in the decision-making process and to let federal policy debates play out.

" Moving forward with this divisive policy makes zero sense," Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association President Scott Lambert said in a news release.

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Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email dferguson@forumcomm.com

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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