ST PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota’s Clean Car Rule standards haven’t gone into effect yet, but are already being challenged in court for a second time.
A coalition of interest groups ranging from soybean growers to convenience stores is suing Gov. Tim Waltz and leaders of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in federal court, challenging the legality of the state’s decision to mirror California’s emissions standards instead of to follow federal guidelines.
“This actually hurts our farmers by deliberately reducing the need for liquid fuels,” said Joe Smentek, executive director of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. “Filing cases in court is our last resort for hearing these concerns.”
The Minnesota Court of Appeals already upheld the Clean Car Rule in January after a challenge by the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association.
According to the California Air Resources Board, 17 states have already chosen to tie their emissions standards to California’s, which are stricter than federal regulations. Under the federal Clean Air Act, states generally must follow California’s standards or adhere to federal standards.
Kent Erdahl: “This is not the first state to adopt California’s emissions standards, and our state court has already ruled. Why challenge it now and why challenge it in federal court?”
Smentek: “We decided to sue now because we’re the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, so when it’s passed in California or Colorado, it doesn’t really affect our farmers that much. EPA allows these other states to do that, but at the same time there are laws in the federal congress that say another standard has to be established or something different has to be done that would be inconsistent with it, so for us federal court, we decided was the best place.”
The plaintiffs include the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and the Minnesota Service Stations and Convenience Stores Association, along with out-of-state groups such as the Clean Fuels Development Coalition, the National Convenience Store Association and ICM Inc., which designs and builds many Minnesota ethanol plants .
On Thursday, Gov. Waltz said he could not speak specifically about the lawsuit because he is named in it. But he stood behind the rule change, which is due to come into force in January 2024.
“Climate change is an existential threat that needs to be addressed, and Minnesota will do our part,” Waltz said. “I’m not the CEO or GM who made the decision to go all-electric vehicles — or any of the many other companies. That’s the direction the economy is going.”
“Our concern is that the state is taking actions that will accelerate this faster than what the market requires,” Smentek said. “If that happens and at the same time we’re not looking at what’s going to happen to our diesel supplies, then we’re going to get to a really kind of unbalanced end game here.”
The governor insists he’s trying to fight climate change, not biodiesel or other biofuels.
“Look, I’ve been one of their biggest supporters for a long time because they’re part of the mix,” Waltz said. “But it’s not an either-or proposition. If you want to buy an internal combustion car, make your choice. If you want to buy an EV, the state will make sure we’re prepared to be able to do that and prepare for what’s inevitable.”
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