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Governor Walz’s Effort to Impose Draconian New Vehicle Standards on Minnesotans Goes Forward

Governor Walz’s plan to force an onerous new vehicle standards rule on Minnesotans, which had been delayed due to the COVID-19, is now proceeding. On December 21, 2020, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency published a draft rule on the new emission standards and the 60-day public comment period has begun. A hearing before an administrative law judge on the draft rule will be held February 22, 2021.

Governor Walz first announced on September 25, 2019, that Minnesota, by rule making, would adopt California’s stringent vehicle emission standards.  California, one of only fourteen states to have adopted a zero emission vehicle (ZEV) program for its citizens, requires car makers to sell a certain percentage of ZEVs, as determined by a convoluted formula and currently estimated to be between 4% and 8% (15.4% by 2025) of all sales per year, or lose their right to sell vehicles in the state at all.

In support of his move, Walz makes unsubstantiated claims that requiring the zero emission vehicles (mostly electric), will improve health, save money and reduce Minnesota’s gas emissions by up to 5% per year.  (It should be noted that Walz’s rule making move, for which his authority is doubtful, is an end-run around Minnesota’s lawmakers who rejected adopting California’s standards in the 2007 and 2008 legislative sessions.) 

Minnesota automakers feel differently about the benefits of this forced rule making scheme.  In a 2019 opinion piece in the Star Tribune, Scott Lambert, president of the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association, (“California fuel standards don’t make sense for Minnesota,” Oct. 8), points out that California is a poor model for Minnesota.  Lambert states that adopting California rules would limit consumer car-buying options and increase bureaucracy and expense for buyers who would be forced to buy cars only available under California’s ZEV quota mandate.  He also notes that, for many reasons, including the weather, 98% of Minnesotans “purchase safe and efficient combustion engine vehicles.”

Further complicating matters is the fact that in September (effective November 18, 2019), the Environmental Protection Agency revoked California’s federal waiver to issue auto emission standards.  Therefore, the federal waiver authority on which variant rules in California and Minnesota (would) depend has been rescinded, subject to court review of a rule challenge. 

Upper Midwest Law Center will represent Center of the American Experiment in this rule proceeding.

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