How far are GOP lawmakers willing to go to stop Walz’s rules on “clean cars”?
Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature have opposed Gov. Tim Walz’s efforts to adopt California auto emissions standards since Walz began pushing for vehicle rules in 2019.
But while the GOP has blocked most of Walz’s climate change agenda on Capitol Hill, the governor’s âclean carâ regulations are something Republicans couldn’t stop. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency unilaterally enforces California standards, a power granted to them in anti-pollution law by previous legislatures and upheld by an administrative judge.
As lawmakers set a two-year budget, the Republican-majority Senate deployed a new tactic last week: pledging to shut down state funding for Minnesota’s environmental agencies and programs – including parklands. ‘State – unless Walz drops the emission rules.
The threat marked a serious escalation for the GOP, casting a new wrinkle in budget negotiations and signaling vehicle rules to be a high priority. But while Republicans quickly reneged on their demand to drop the rules, they now insist that a two-year delay in their implementation is key to a budget deal.
Oppose “ clean cars ”
Under federal clean air laws, states can choose to follow national rules for tailpipe emissions or adopt standards drafted by California, which has a special waiver to establish more stringent regulations. .
Under the Trump administration, which aimed to roll back pollution rules, Walz in 2019 announced that Minnesota will adopt California standards. This includes rules for low emission vehicles (LEVs), which oblige automakers to create cleaner cars; and regulations for zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), which require automakers to offer more electric, plug-in hybrid or hydrogen cars for sale.
Washington, DC and 14 states outside of California have LEV standards, while 12 have ZEV rules. Minnesota would be the first in the Midwest to adopt either.
Walz and many fellow Democrats say standards are crucial to bring more electric vehicle options to Minnesota grow the limited electric vehicle market. More electric vehicles would also help reduce emissions of carbon and other pollutants, moving Minnesota closer to its greenhouse gas reduction targets. The transportation sector is currently the state’s main source of carbon emissions.
But Republicans and a few Democrats have opposed the vehicle standards, saying electric cars are more expensive to buy, even though they save money on fuel and maintenance costs over time. Opponents of the standards also say the regulations would be costly and difficult for auto dealerships and set Minnesota apart from neighboring states.
A report by administrative law judge Jessica Palmer-Denig Last week, AMPA’s decision has the power to move forward without the Legislature noting widespread opposition to clean car rules in rural areas and among interest groups. with ties to Greater Minnesota, where the vast majority of Republican senators come from.
In the ALJ report, associations of wheat growers, truckers, cattle ranchers, hemp growers and the biofuel industry all criticized Walz’s plan. Many feared that vehicle standards would be extended to regulate diesel-powered vehicles. For example, the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association said any effort to ban or limit diesel-powered vehicles “would endanger Minnesota’s food supply chain and Minnesota’s ability to feed the world,” the report said. (The rule does not regulate heavy-duty vehicles or prohibit diesel vehicles, and if California adopts such a standard, Minnesota would not have to automatically follow it.)
The Minnesota Biofuels Association, the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and the Minnesota Farm Bureau have all told Palmer-Denig they feared the rules might properly account for biofuels, or could potentially put Minnesota on. a path that completely eliminates the need for biofuels.
Palmer-Denig also noted that some in Greater Minnesota support clean car rules, such as a Roseau County car dealership, which said customers have asked for EV options and is eager to sell them.
Yet Senate Republicans have summoned several times in the AMLA to hearings and asked the agency to send the decision back to the Legislature. The MPCA refused, saying it had the power, under state law, to pass the standards unless the legislature votes otherwise. This probably won’t happen because Democrats hold a majority in the House and Walz can veto the legislation.
Republicans pledge to maintain environmental budget
Last week, the GOP stepped up the political struggle. Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, a Republican from Alexandria who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance, Environment and Natural Resources, said the GOP will not accept any environmental budget that does not stop California’s emission standards . That would force state parks to close after June 30, at the end of the fiscal year, along with a plethora of environmental programs and state agency work, if the DFL did not comply.
The regular legislative session takes place on May 17, but lawmakers are likely to return for an extraordinary session in June.
“We are an outlier”, Ingebrigtsen said at the time. âWe’re the only ones in the Midwest moving forward with this. It’s very infuriating for me and I think it is for a lot of people.
However, the GOP quickly softened its stance. On the same day, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka of R-East Gull Lake made a large state budget offer to the DFL which only included a two-year deadline for relative rules. to cars.
Two days later, Ingebrigtsen also offered a two-year moratorium to House LDFs in a joint committee that negotiates budgets and environmental policy. Ingebrigtsen has remained there ever since, presenting it as an intermediate compromise.
Democrats hesitated at the idea. A two-year delay would mean AMPA has to restart its rule-making process, according to a spokesperson for the agency, meaning the delay would likely be more than two years. And since the existing rules won’t come into effect until 2024 (vehicle model year 2025), that would push the rules back even further.
“It’s a long, essentially, six years where there would be no action to protect the air quality of Minnesotans and try to deal with the climate change crisis,” the state representative said. Rick Hansen, an LDF from South St. Paul who is the counterpart of Ingebrigtsen’s House. in negotiations.
For Walz and House Democrats, auto emissions standards are one of the few major environmental initiatives they can accomplish. Republicans have refused other laws, such as DFL’s plan to make the electricity grid carbon-free by 2050 or before.
Hansen called the GOP’s actions on clean cars a “hostage-taking” that would not only shut down parks and agency work, but withhold money for the Minnesota Zoo, the Minnesota Science Museum and potentially lottery money that finances environmental spending.
Jon Severson, a lobbyist for the Science Museum, told the joint committee on Thursday that the museum “would likely consider cutting program and education staff.”
âAt this point, it really robs us of the opportunity to really look at the plan to bring people back and increase our hours,â he said.
Is the GOP already backing down?
Gazelka told reporters on Wednesday California standards were a big deal for the GOP and compared their actions to Democrats’ insistence on new police accountability measures against Republican opposition after a former officer of the Brooklyn Center shot Daunte Wright last month.
Gazelka also said that Ingebrigtsen was “very passionate” about stopping or postponing California emission standards. But he appeared to distance himself from his colleague’s intransigent stance. âThis is where he was, but in the end we have to figure out how to find our way,â Gazelka said.
Some top Democrats seemed skeptical that auto standards were really a big deal for the GOP. House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, told reporters Senate Republicans could be tough in their stance against the new taxes, but he said he was not ‘ sure about the issues that Senate Republicans would shut down state government for – if they really want to shut down parking on Clean Cars. “
House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said car standards are a “talking point in settlement negotiations” but just one of many “conservative ideologically driven” things that the GOP wants which she believes will probably not happen.
Ingebrigtsen declined to comment on the issue as he left the Senate on Thursday after an unrelated vote. But at the House and Senate conference committee on Thursday, Ingebrigtsen said he had not waived his requests for a two-year delay.
âI think it’s a really reasonable and inexpensive way to keep these functions open to the state,â he said. âThere seems to be some confusion out there – whether on Facebook or elsewhere – that the Senate is dropping its California show proposal. There is nothing further from the truth.
Gazelka also broached the subject again on Thursday, appearing to be in favor of funding parks and at odds with those who would block budgets for a specific policy. The majority leader noted that the courts could previously order the continuation of essential services while the government is shut down. But that changed after a state Supreme Court ruling in 2017.
If there is a shutdown, ânow it’s really the resources that don’t go to a lot of different people, from nursing homes to state parks,â Gazelka said. “We don’t need” to have a stop, he continued.
“I think I probably had five or six different groups, on both sides of the aisle, that said, ‘You should shut down the government if you don’t get this or that,’ and we just can’t not do that, “Gazelka said. “We want to open Minnesota, we don’t want to close it.”