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MPCA moves ahead with electric car incentives

MARSHALL — The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is moving forward with plans for electric car incentives aimed to spur interest throughout the state.

The agency is working toward a final proposal that includes requirements for manufacturers to deliver a minimum number of electric cars to auto dealers. It would also promote the start-up of more charging stations along highway corridors.

The guidelines are expected to be ready for public review sometime this fall. They will be evaluated through information meetings, public hearings and an administrative law judge review.

“It’s still under consideration,” said MPCA Information Officer Mary Robinson. “There will be additional opportunities for public input before it goes before a judge.”

MPCA conducted a group of six regional meetings last winter, including one in Marshall. About 50 people attended the Marshall session.

Robinson said the rule-making process has been slowed down since then partly because of the COVID pandemic. Additional time has also been taken to study new federal policy terms adopted in April.

Minnesota would join a group of states, mainly in the northeast and on the West Coast, that already have electric car measures. They’re in place as part of an overall goal to reduce automotive air emissions. Passenger vehicles account for a large share of emission totals.

Robinson noted that state initiatives coincide with interest in the private sector for expanding electric car utilization. Many electric utilities want to make electric cars part of their overall energy delivery strategy.

“It’s both a public and private sector process,” she said. “Part of the goal is to expand market access for consumers. One of the ways to do that is to have more of an electric car infrastructure in Greater Minnesota.”

The meeting last winter featured a combination of public support for electric car availability and opposition to mandates on the auto industry. Those in opposition stated that the industry wants to offer the cars that are in greatest public demand, which at this point includes large sport-utility vehicles with gas engines.

Supporters contend that no one would be required to drive an electric car under MPCA’s planned policies. Instead the electric option would become more feasible for consumers who want to utilize it.

“We want strong public participation in the decision making process,” said Anne Borgendale, a public affairs specialist with the Clean Up Our River Environment office in Montevideo. “We’re waiting for the final proposal. It’s still on track. We’re hoping to see something in September.”

She said rural Minnesota has much to gain from having more opportunity to buy and use electric vehicles. Without a wide charging station network, residents face limitations on how far they can travel from home with a car that depends on electric fuel.

She added that a stronger electric option could be useful for farm sector transportation, business travel, and regional travel for personal reasons such as health care.

“Rural residents often have to travel a significant number of miles,” Borgendale said. “Electric cars could allow them to save money on every trip. There’s a very strong upside to making them more available.”

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