Minnesota Associations Sue Over New State Emissions Regulations

Business groups say California's ‘zero-emissions by 2035’ mandate doesn't belong in the heartland
Photograph: Shutterstock

California’s zero-emissions vehicle mandate favoring electric vehicles over those powered by petroleum and biofuels doesn’t belong in Minnesota, according to several business associations that have filed a lawsuit against Minnesota’s Pollution Control Agency, saying its decision to adopt the California regulation is illegal.

“The state shouldn’t let California tell Minnesotans what kinds of cars they can and can’t buy,” said Lance Klatt, executive director of the Minnesota Service Station & Convenience Store Association. The association was one of several business organizations to file the legal challenge to the mandate Monday in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.

The California Advanced Clean Cars II Regulations say “by 2035, all new passenger cars, trucks and SUVs sold in California will be zero emissions,” according to the California Air Resources Board (CARB). 

The California regulations, which support a 2020 executive order from California Gov. Gavin Newsom for zero emissions by 2035, rely on vehicle technologies, such as plug-in hybrid electric-vehicles, battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric, to meet air quality and climate change emissions standards, the California board said. These new regulations, passed in August 2022, also include increasingly stringent standards for gasoline cars and heavier passenger trucks to continue to reduce smog-forming emissions.

The regulations don't consider the benefits of biofuels, an alternative energy source popular in Minnesota. “Some of the most significant reductions in carbon emissions from transportation have come from using more renewable fuels and more efficient internal combustion engines,” Klatt said. “This mandate is bad for Minnesota consumers, businesses and the state economy. Minnesota fueling stations are open to exploring all energy options through a free-market approach, including homegrown biofuels and electrification.”

Other associations involved in the legal complaint opposing Minnesota’s adoption of the stringent standards include the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, Clean Fuels Development Coalition and ICM Inc.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has adopted a rule requiring new cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty vehicles in Minnesota meet California’s emission limits and requirements stipulating a certain percentage of zero-emission vehicles be sold, the associations said.

These requirements violate the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), which creates a uniform national standard for vehicle fuel efficiency and prohibits states from adopting other standards that contradict federal fuel-economy standards, the associations said.

Congress passed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 in response to the 1973 oil crisis to increase energy production and supply.

The California mandate, which favors electric vehicle energy over other kinds of cleaner fuels, is counterproductive, NACS said.

“Adopting California’s rules in Minnesota would stop further investments in efficient use of renewables and other liquid fuels and would result in more net carbon emissions than we would have without these misguided rules,” said Henry Armour, president and CEO of NACS.

California shouldn’t be allowed to set state emission standards that are different from federal government standards, given the  federal law is in effect. Allowing California’s state mandate to supersede the Energy Policy and Conservation Act would violate the U.S. Constitution by granting California a greater degree of sovereignty than the U.S. Congress and the federal government, the lawsuit said.

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