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Group protests new vehicle standards plan

NEW ULM — A series of informal events called “Say No to California Car Mandate” are being held across Southern Minnesota this month in opposition to Gov. Tim Walz’s proposed plan to adopt a set of auto emission and electric vehicles regulations aimed at fighting climate change.

Thursday, the organizers brought the presentation to New Ulm’s Country Club. The program included presentations from the President of the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association Scott Lambert and a video presentation energy expert from a conservative Minnesota-based think tank, Center of the American Experiment, Isaac Orr.

Through a series of meetings the organization is trying to raise opposition to Walz’s proposed vehicle regulations. The group’s chief concerns are that if the Walz plan is implemented, regulations made for California would decide what type of cars were available in Minnesota.

In September 2019, Walz directed the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to implement clean car standards including reducing carbon emissions and increasing the choices Minnesotans have in purchasing electric cars. The low-emission vehicle (LEV) standard requires vehicle manufacturers to deliver vehicles for sale in Minnesota that meet the more stringent greenhouse gas and other air pollutant emissions standards established by California.

The LEV standard sets a tailpipe emissions standard for auto manufacturers; it does not require a personal vehicle inspection program.

The ZEV standard would require manufacturers to deliver a certain number of vehicles with ultra-low or zero tailpipe emissions each year for sale in Minnesota, including battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and hydrogen-fueled vehicles. The ZEV standard would result in additional electric vehicles available to consumers in Minnesota but does not require any individual to purchase an electric vehicle.

The LEV standard has been adopted in 14 states and the District of Columbia, and 11 states have adopted both the LEV and ZEV standards.

Lambert and others are opposed to this mandate, believing it will hurt the Minnesota auto industry with very little gain.

Lambert emphasized this mandate was based on California regulations and if adopted Minnesota could not change the rules to better conform to this state. He warned that the adoption of these new standards would raise the cost of new gasoline-powered vehicles and force auto dealers to stock electric vehicles (EV) that are not profitable and were not in demand in Minnesota. Also, the mandate could make it harder to sell trucks in Minnesota.

A higher number of trucks are sold in Minnesota than smaller vehicles. Lambert said the Chevy Silverado was the number one purchased vehicle in Minnesota, but in California, the No. 1 vehicle was the Honda Civic.

Lambert said he was not disparaging the Honda Civic, but was emphasizing a demographic difference between California in Minnesota.

“We’re not against EVs,” he said, “But they are not in demand here.”

Lambert said part of the issue was Minnesota did not have the infrastructure needed for EVs, such as charging stations. Also, the range of EVs was limited by colder weather. Currently, EV batteries have a six-year life expectancy and were expensive to replace. Lambert said this mandate would only benefit wealthy electric vehicle (EV) buyers who wanted the vehicle to feel better about themselves and thumb their noses at everyone else.

Lambert did acknowledge that EV was likely the future of automobiles, but a mandate was not needed to make this happen. He said no one from the governor’s office had contacted his association to ask about promoting cars.

Another concern is California is looking to update vehicle regulations in 2025 and no one knows what the new standards will look like. Lambert was concerned Minnesota would be required to follow the same standard.

“(This) is signing us up to a mystery,” he said.

Say No to California Cars was further concerned this mandate would lead to other changes that would not impact climate change.

“This (mandate) doesn’t mean more EV will be on the road,” Lambert said. “I just mean more EVs on the dealer lot.”

Since the Clean Cars Standard is being implemented through the MPCA, it does not need legislative approval but the MPCA does need to hold hearings on the rule adoption to allow public comments.

Lambert said the Clean Car standard would take 18 months to two years to go into effect, but hearings on the Clean Car standard have been delayed because of the virus.

The pandemic was also part of the reason for these informal presentations. Lambert said there was a lot of news in the last year including COVID and the protests in Minneapolis. The Clean Car standard has taken a backseat to other news. These meetings were designed to raise awareness to prevent the vehicle standards being passed without notice.

“We’re trying to make as much noise as we can,” he said.

Say No to California Car Mandates presentations will next be held in St. Cloud, Alexandria and Fergus Falls on Wednesday, Aug. 12.

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