Minnesota Senate GOP bill would block ‘clean cars’ standards

March 9, 2022 GMT
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This photo provided by Edmunds shows the Tesla Model Y, a compact SUV with an EPA-estimated range of up to 330 miles. (Courtesy of Edmunds via AP)
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This photo provided by Edmunds shows the Tesla Model Y, a compact SUV with an EPA-estimated range of up to 330 miles. (Courtesy of Edmunds via AP)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A state Senate committee on Wednesday advanced a bill that would block the authority of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to adopt “clean car” standards after rules established by the agency without the Legislature’s input angered Republicans last summer.

The proposal, named the Consumer Choice of Fuel Act, would prohibit state agencies from creating rules that would restrict the sale of vehicles and other equipment based on their fuel source and require auto dealers to have a certain amount of those vehicles in their inventory.

The legislation would effectively block “clean car” rules adopted by the Walz administration in July that take effect in 2024 for the 2025 model year, which encourage a switchover to electric vehicles in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb the worsening impact of climate change. The standards — which only apply to new vehicles for sale in Minnesota — do not apply to off-road or heavy-duty vehicles and equipment, farm equipment or semi-trucks.


Minnesota and more than a dozen other states have signed onto California’s emission standards, which are stricter than the federal standards. President Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency moved Wednesday to restore California’s stricter auto emissions standards after the Trump administration rolled back the state’s authority to set its own standards in 2019.

Minnesota was the first Midwestern state to adopt the plan. An administrative law judge last year ruled in favor of the state agency, determining that it had the authority to adopt the rules.

The author of the bill, Republican Sen. Andrew Mathews, of Princeton, said the standards “cede our authority to California bureaucrats,” and that the motivation behind his bill is to ensure that rulemaking around emission standards involves the Legislature.

“The whole point of this bill is that we should not be ruled by mandates and rulemaking,” Mathews said. “We should be ruled by the rule of law, by our elected legislative bodies and being the voices of the people in our districts that have sent us here to enact statutes.”


The renewed effort from Senate Republicans to block the emissions rules comes after their unsuccessful attempts last year to prevent the state agency from imposing the rules by threatening to shut down state parks and stalling environmental legislation. MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop resigned weeks after the rules were adopted when the Senate GOP majority signaled it would vote to reject her confirmation.

Craig McDonnell, the agency’s assistant commissioner for air policy, told the committee that the Legislature granted it the authority to regulate air pollution from stationary and mobile sources when the agency was created. The transportation sector is the number one emitter of greenhouse gases, he said, and the ability to regulate vehicle emissions is imperative to fighting climate change.

“The MPCA has consistently said that Minnesota will do what’s in Minnesota’s best interest when it comes to developing vehicle emissions standards and that remains true today,” he told lawmakers. “However, (the bill) damages the agency’s ability to protect Minnesotans from harmful air pollution.”

The bill now heads to the Senate state government committee. Its prospects in the Democratic-controlled House are unclear.


Mohamed Ibrahim is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.