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Minnesota auto dealers ask court to block 'clean car' rule

The state auto dealer association said the rule set to take effect in 2024 would force car dealers to carry more electric and hybrid vehicles than customers would want, spurring losses.

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An electric car charging station.
File / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Auto Dealers Association on Wednesday, June 9, filed a lawsuit against the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in an attempt to block a "clean car" rule set to take effect in 2024.

The organization in a petition filed with the Minnesota Court of Appeals argued that the agency overstepped its statutory authority in implementing the rule that would require auto manufacturers to make more electric and hybrid vehicles available in Minnesota.

State law prohibits agencies from delegating authority to other entities, the group argued, and in this case, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency turned over its authority to the California Air Resources Board when it adopted that state's standard. Minnesota is also barred from adopting the rule under federal clean air standards, the association said.

Since the introduction of the Clean Car standards in 2019, pollution control officials said the plan would help Minnesota reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the state's top source: transportation. Roughly 25% of the heat-trapping gasses that spur warming temperatures and more extreme weather events in the U.S. stem from cars and low-duty trucks. And they argued it could help put the state back in line with 2007 goals set in statute.

From the start, the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association has vocally opposed the standard and it has tried to quash it during the rule-making process, in the Legislature and in the courts. A federal judge last year dismissed a similar lawsuit that the association brought forward.

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Auto dealers and Republican lawmakers have argued that consumer demand should drive the market and that dealers shouldn't have to carry vehicles that might not be in high demand in their area.

“Dealers are all in for the adoption of EVs and are making sizable investments in their businesses to get ready for an expected increase in demand, but they’re making plans based on consumer appetite, not what California dictates," Association President Scott Lambert said.

The MPCA held hearings around the state on the proposal and an administrative law judge last year approved it. But the change has spurred years of tense debates at the Capitol about the state's role in moving the industry toward more fuel-efficient options.

Agency spokesman Darin Broton on Thursday said the MPCA stood by the rule and believed the court would allow it to remain in place.

“While the agency reviews this new legal action, it is important to recognize that gas is $4.64 per gallon and Minnesotans want more choices that are better for their pocketbooks and the environment," Broton said. "The auto dealers last year filed a similar lawsuit and it was dismissed. We are confident that the clean car standards, developed through authority granted by the legislature and approved by a judge, will stand.”

Republicans proposed a plan to strike the Walz administration standards and prevent the MPCA from limiting emissions in the future.

Earlier this year, the Minnesota Senate brought forth a bill that would strike the "clean car" standard and prevent the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency from putting forward similar requirements moving forward. The proposal didn't pick up support in the DFL-led House of Representatives.

After the proposal languished in the Legislature, the auto dealers said they had to take on the matter on their own and bring the issue before the court.

MORE FROM DANA FERGUSON:
Several incumbent state legislators, particularly in the Senate, edged out competitors with more extreme views on COVID-19, election security and more.

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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