MPCA seeks to adopt California vehicle emission standards

Tom Hauser
Updated: January 21, 2021 06:18 PM
Created: January 21, 2021 05:46 PM

There's a quirk in federal law regarding vehicle emissions that allows states two choices: follow the federal law or follow vehicle emission standards set by the state of California. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is in the process of adopting the California standards despite opposition from many legislators and the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association.

"Nobody's mandating or pushing that anyone buy an electric vehicle," MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop testified this week before a Minnesota Senate committee. "There is an infrastructure that is out there in Minnesota and is being built, but there are no requirements to buy one of these."

The new rules would require auto dealers to carry a certain number of low-emission or zero-emission electric vehicles starting in 2025. Thirteen other states have adopted the California standards, and supporters of the move in Minnesota say it would result in more environmentally-friendly vehicles available here.

"If we don't put the state in a place where we can compete and have these cars and move forward, we are not going to be able to compete with other states," Sen. Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-Minneapolis) said.

But opponents in the Minnesota Legislature and the the auto industry say it will significantly increase the cost of all vehicles.

"What I'm trying to figure out, if there's no requirement to buy, why don't we just let demand run the market?" Sen. David Tomassoni (I-Chisholm) asked Bishop.

The MPCA said demand will increase if more electric and low-emission vehicles are made available in the state.

However, the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association said consumers will pay at least $1,100 more for all vehicles, according to MPCA figures, and maybe as much as $2,000 more, according to the auto industry.

"What will happen is manufacturers will put several thousand more vehicles on our lots that we don't have a market for," Scott Lambert of the MADA, said, "and remember we don't take the vehicles on consignment. We have to buy the vehicles from the manufacturer."

Lambert said Minnesota's climate is another problem for electric vehicles.

"The demand in Minnesota is quite low," he said. "These rules are written for a California climate. We are a Northern Plains state. Vehicle batteries degrade in cold weather. It's simply not a good fit here."

Most Democrats in the Legislature back the rule change proposed by the MPCA and Gov. Tim Walz's administration so it's unlikely the Legislature will block the move. If adopted, the new rules would take effect in 2025.


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