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MPCA addresses falsehoods in Nobles County's resolution regarding Clean Cars rule

Nobles County adopted resolution Feb. 16 opposing the rule based on untrue information, according to state agency.

WORTHINGTON — Following Feb. 16 action by the Nobles County Board of Commissioners to oppose the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s efforts to advance its Clean Cars Minnesota Rule, the MPCA is responding to inaccuracies in the resolution.

For starters, the resolution adopted by the county states the MPCA’s rule will require only low-emission vehicles (LEV) and zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) be sold in the state by 2035.

In reality, the proposed rule does not at all restrict the sale of internal combustion engines in 2035 or any other year.

Another inaccuracy the MPCA identified was a statement that Minnesota car dealers could no longer trade in non-compliant vehicles.

“This is incorrect,” shared Mary Robinson, the MPCA’s public affairs specialist. “In fact, the proposed rule includes a specific exception for Minnesota dealers to continue to stock and sell non-LEV-certified vehicles for registration out of state, and it does not impact their ability to trade those vehicles between dealerships.”

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Finally, the MPCA took issue with board chairman Gene Metz’s claim that, based on current wording, if the rule goes into effect — and since it follows California emission standards — any time California changes its standards, Minnesota will automatically adopt them.

“If or when California develops new rules, the MPCA would need to evaluate whether to continue to follow the clean car standards or revert to the federal standards,” responded Robinson. “If Minnesota decided to continue to follow the clean car standards, the MPCA would need to conduct a new rulemaking, again involving multiple opportunities for public input and another analysis of potential costs and benefits.”

Robinson acknowledged that Nobles County commissioners weren’t the only ones to adopt a resolution based on several inaccuracies.

“It’s a high profile rule and there’s a lot of information out there and a lot of misinformation, too,” added Craig McDonnell, MPCA’s assistant commissioner for air and climate policy.

McDonnell said the Clean Car Rule, which was presented earlier this week before an administrative law judge, was developed in response to greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.

In 2007, Minnesota adopted the Next Generation Energy Act, which included aggressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the state. Since then, the state failed to meet its interim goal in 2015, and isn't on track to meet its interim goal in 2025.

McDonnell said a recently completed study looking at greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 through 2018 showed the transportation sector is the No. 1 emitter of greenhouse gasses.

“If we’re going to get ourselves on track with these goals, we’ve got to address greenhouse gas in the transportation sector,” he said. “That’s a key part of this rule.”

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The rule includes two different standards for Minnesota, including both low-emission vehicles, which requires internal combustion engines be the cleanest possible, and zero-emission vehicles, which requires a gradual increase in the number of electric vehicles offered for sale in the state.

Adoption of the rule would send the message to vehicle manufacturers that Minnesotans want access to consumer choice when it comes to having the cleanest models of cars available. In 12 other states that have already adopted the standards, manufacturers are offering a greater range of LEV and ZEV models, including sport utility vehicles and pickups — the most popular vehicle choices among Minnesotans. Those vehicles aren’t currently available in Minnesota and other states that don’t have a LEV or ZEV rule in place.

“If we want to be on the front end of getting that technology, this rule helps ensure we are receiving more electric vehicles for sale here in Minnesota,” McDonnell said. “It does that by requiring manufacturers — not dealers — to offer more of those electric vehicles for sale here in Minnesota.”

McDonnell also noted that the rule provides flexibility. It doesn’t state how many vehicles should be LEV or ZEV, what type they should be or where they should be marketed in Minnesota. That flexibility gives manufacturers the option to deliver the vehicles where it makes the most sense.

Since the proposed rule was completed in September 2019, McDonnell said there have been numerous informational sessions throughout the state to gather public comment. The draft rule was introduced Dec. 21, 2020, with a public comment period open until mid-March. On Monday and Tuesday, the MPCA took the proposed rule to an administrative law judge, where public testimony was provided.

“The judge will take this all into consideration and issue a report in mid- to late-April, and that report will make a recommendation to the agency about whether we should or should not adopt the rule,” McDonnell said.

This process is standard procedure for the MPCA, as Minnesota statute gives the agency the authority to set vehicle emission standards.

McDonnell said as part of the process to encourage more availability and sales of LEV and ZEV vehicles, the state also realizes that infrastructure needs to be in place to support these vehicles. Charging stations, particularly in southwest Minnesota, are few and far between.

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McDonnell envisions a future in which those charging stations will be just as common as gas stations.

“As a state, we’re continuing to build out our public charging infrastructure,” he said, adding that the state’s settlement with Volkswagen on vehicle emission standards is being used to help build 3,000 miles of charging network. In addition, the state recently received $2 million to build public charging infrastructure. Depending on the type of charger, it can take as long as 20 to 30 minutes to charge a vehicle. Those times are being reduced as technology improves, McDonnell said.

The range of electric vehicles varies, but McDonnell said some get close to 300 miles on a charge. Cold weather has a negative impact on how long the charge lasts as well. He said hybrid vehicles, which operate both on electric and internal combustion engines, may perhaps make more sense for some people. Those vehicles may also help manufacturers meet their obligations for LEV availability.

McDonnell said no single strategy will get the state to where it needs to be, which is why the MPCA continues to promote the use of biofuels as well.

“One of the things going forward, the governor’s budget includes $4 million to increase ethanol and biodiesel to install new technology at gas stations to offer higher blends of ethanol and biofuels,” McDonnell shared.

If the Clean Car Rule is adopted in Minnesota, McDonnell said the state could see a reduction in greenhouse gasses by 8.4 million tons over the first decade.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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