Playing hardball on vehicle emissions

Republicans in the Minnesota Senate have decided to play hardball on the issue of auto emission standards in the state. Hardball is the only game available to them, unfortunately.

Republicans are willing to shut down the state parks, indeed, much of the state’s environmental administration, if Gov. Tim Walz continues with plans for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to adopt the California vehicle emissions standards for the state. This move is coming from the administration side of state government with no legislative involvement. The MPCA writes the rules for state emission standards, and the governor’s office has decided Minnesota needs to have the same rules as California.

These rules would require a lot of things that make sense in California and other states with clean air problems. They would require automakers to deliver more zero-emission, electric vehicles to state auto dealers, requiring auto dealers, by 2035, to maintain a higher inventory of electric vehicles whether people want to buy them or not. It will make the inventory of regular fuel vehicles lower and drive up the cost of new vehicles beyond want the average family may be able to afford.

The governor says this is part of his commitment to climate change and cutting global warming gases.

Lots of people, including auto dealers, think this is a bad idea. California emission rules were developed in the land of smog and air alerts brought on by bumper-to-bumper gridlock on some of the nation’s busiest highways. They need those rules. Minnesota’s air quality is vastly superior to California’s and other gridlocked states, and these rules will make little difference in our air quality while forcing us to buy and drive vehicles that don’t fit our needs and climate.

This is an issue that could use the kind of debate and analysis that the legislative process provides. But the Legislature is not being asked to make this decision. The governor made it and has ordered the MPCA to make it so.

And so Republican legislators have been left with no recourse but to threaten the continued operation of state parks and other environmental agencies in order to have its say in the matter.

This is not the kind of legislative action anyone wants to see, but in this case it is the only kind available.


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