Court upholds Minnesota’s California-bound clean car rule

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) — The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday upheld the state’s clean car rule, which ties the state’s vehicle emissions standards to California’s regulations, as judges accepted assurances that California’s proposed phase-out of gasoline-powered cars is winning would. t automatically apply in Minnesota.

A three-judge panel dismissed arguments by Minnesota auto dealers, who argued that the state environmental agencies had overstepped their powers and unconstitutionally delegated their legislative authority to California.

The Court of Appeals concluded that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency acted within its statutory authority and therefore the state rule is valid. The decision was a victory for the administration of Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, who passed the 2021 rule amid a battle with Republican lawmakers who were upset that the Legislature was left out of the decision. It will come into effect in the 2025 model year and is intended to increase the range and selection of electric vehicles.

The Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association expressed disappointment with the ruling and said it will consider whether to appeal. As manufacturers ramp up production, the company claims the rule could still burden dealers with more EVs than consumers want to buy.

“The only good thing about today’s decision is that if Minnesota is to implement the new rule recently passed by California, the MPCA must adopt new rulemaking in the affirmative,” Scott Lambert, president of the Merchant Association, said in an email.

According to the California Air Resources Board, 17 states have decided to tie their emissions standards to California’s, which are stricter than federal regulations. Under the federal Clean Air Act, states are generally required to follow California standards or conform to federal standards by default. The issue was further heated after California went even further last August, embarking on the nation’s toughest path to requiring all new vehicles to be electric or hydrogen-powered by 2035.

This decision is forcing other states to decide whether they want to follow California down this path. Vermont, New York, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, and Delaware have either already passed similar new rules, have begun rulemaking, or have expressed an interest in doing so. Colorado has decided not to follow California’s ban but has committed to continue expanding its electric vehicle market and increasing consumer access to more models.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals accepted the MPCA’s arguments that the state would have to initiate an entirely new rulemaking process to adopt California’s ban on new gasoline-powered vehicles. Agency officials said in court filings, lawmaker hearings and at a press briefing with the governor last year that they had no immediate plans to do so, but they didn’t rule it out either.

The agency welcomed the decision, saying the Clean Car Rule will give drivers more options to buy electric and hybrid vehicles, which will help them save money on gas while tackling climate change.

“This standard is an important part of Minnesota’s reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as the state also expands the electric vehicle charging network, advances alternative modes of transportation and works to develop cleaner fuels that support Minnesota’s economy,” said MPCA spokeswoman Andrea Cournoyer .

A coalition of environmental groups, which filed a Friend of the Court brief in the lawsuit, said the sharp rise in electric vehicle registrations shows the need for the rule to ensure consumers have a full choice of models amid volatile gas prices.

“Minnesota’s Clean Cars rule was passed after a lengthy public participation process during which many Minnesotans made it clear that they want more opportunities to purchase electric vehicles,” Joy Anderson, an attorney with the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, said in a statement.

But Lambert said California’s rules never sat well with Minnesota.

“This utility mandate from California bureaucrats doesn’t remove the biggest hurdles in getting consumers to EVs,” he said.

Upholding the Clean Car Rule was part of a broader framework to combat climate change that Walz launched in September, and the governor reiterated his commitment to it in an interview earlier this month. Meanwhile, Democrats, who now control both houses of the Minnesota legislature, have made tackling climate change one of their top priorities for the current session. The House of Representatives earlier this month passed accelerated legislation to put Minnesota on the path to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040 and is now awaiting a Senate vote.


Associated Press writer Lisa Rathke contributed to this story from Marshfield, Vermont.

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