The State Government and Elections committee held a hearing this week to receive an update from the Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) on the Clean Cars rules that were finalized by an administrative law judge last summer. Despite marketing the agenda item as an ‘update’ from the agency, Senate Republicans took the opportunity to continue spreading their long-held misinformation about the adopted rules.
The rules, originally proposed by Governor Walz in 2019, require the state adoption of stronger low emission vehicle (LEV) and zero emission vehicle (ZEV) standards, following the lead of 14 other states and states, and the District of Columbia. The proposal requires 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.
The Clean Car initiative will directly impact climate change and air pollution in the state. Minnesotans are experiencing warmer and wetter conditions, and air pollution is affecting the health of Minnesotans statewide. The state 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 the Clean Car standard addresses these issues while expanding the market of available EV models in the state, which are becoming increasingly popular among Minnesotans and are currently difficult to obtain due to the limited available supply.
Under the rules, no one is required to give up their current vehicle, emissions inspections are not required, no one is required to purchase an electric vehicle, and Minnesotans are still allowed to buy pick-up trucks and SUVs. Despite these facts, Senate Republicans continue to claim that automobile dealers will be forced to carry EV models they believe will not sell, and argue that the rules will open the door for MPCA to create mandates against other sorts of equipment, such as off-highway vehicles and snowmobiles, watercrafts, and farm equipment – mandates that the agency has no plans to pursue.
Though the Clean Cars rules have been a controversial topic of discussion for the last two years, many hoped that the finalization of the rules in 2021 would bring an end to the conversation and force Senate Republicans to move on to more pressing issues facing Minnesotans. Unfortunately, this week’s hearing signals that the topic is still on the table for their caucus this session. Senate DFLers are prepared to continue combatting Senate Republicans misinformation while advocating for policies that combat the threat of climate change and protect Minnesotans’ health, and we will do so while working on other legislation that Minnesotans care about – such as those that enhance our economy, allow our communities to thrive, and provide the wellbeing and quality of life we all want for one another.