“Clean cars” climate change initiative discussed

A joint hearing was held this week by the Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee and the Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Legacy Finance Committee on a key climate change initiative to adopt California’s stricter “clean car” emissions standards.

Proposed by Governor Walz, the initiative involves state adoption of stronger low emission vehicle (LEV) and zero emission vehicle (ZEV) standards, following the lead of California, 13 other states, and the District of Columbia. The proposal involves requiring auto manufacturers to sell an increasing percentage of ultra-low emitting vehicles, such as plug-in hybrid-electric, full battery electric, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Manufacturers would receive a certain amount of tradable credits for each eligible vehicle sold in the state, and excess credits could be sold to other manufacturers or banked for compliance in future years.

According to Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Laura Bishop, the clean car initiative would directly impact climate change and air pollution. Minnesotans are experiencing warmer and wetter conditions, and air pollution is affecting the health of Minnesotans statewide. Minnesota is not on track to meet the goals of the 2007 Next Generation Energy Act, and Minnesota’s transportation sector is currently contributing the most to greenhouse gases in the state. Adopting California’s clean car standards addresses all of these issues.

Commissioner Bishop stressed that the Clean Car initiative does not mean anyone would have to give up their current vehicle, does not require emissions inspections, does not require anyone to purchase an electric vehicle, and does allow Minnesotans to buy pick-up trucks and SUVs.

Numerous groups spoke in support of the proposal, pointing out the urgency of the climate crisis, the demand and enthusiasm for cleaner cars among Minnesotans, the health benefits of cleaner air, and the savings for families with lower maintenance and fuel costs. While DFL senators spoke in support of the initiative, GOP senators were generally opposed, saying the California standards would mean higher costs and hardship for auto dealers.  

California’s clean car standards are currently being challenged by the Trump Administration. The MPCA’s proposed clean car rules would not go into effect until that issue is resolved and California’s waiver is restored.

Senate DFL Media