ST PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota's "Clean Car Rule" standards have yet to go into effect but are already being challenged in court for a second time.
A coalition of interest groups ranging from soybean farmers to convenience stores is suing Governor Tim Walz and leaders of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in federal court, challenging the legality of the state's decision to mirror California's emissions standards, instead of following federal guidelines.
"It actually hurts our farmers by purposely lowering the need for liquid fuels," said Joe Smentek, Executive Director of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. "Suing in court is our last venue to get those concerns heard."
The Minnesota Court of Appeals already upheld the Clean Car Rule in January, following a challenge from the Minnesota Auto Dealer's Association.
According to the California Air Resources Board, 17 states have already chosen to link their emission standards to California's, which are stronger than federal regulations. Under the federal Clean Air Act, states generally must follow California’s standards or default to the federal standards.
Kent Erdahl: "This isn't the first state that has adopted California's emissions standards, and our state court has already weighed in. Why challenge it now, and why challenge it in federal court?"
Smentek: "We've decided to sue now because we are the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, so when it gets passed in, California or in Colorado, that doesn't really affect our farmers as much. The EPA is allowing these other states to do this, but at the same time, there are federal congressional statutes that say another standard should be set, or a different thing should be done that would conflict with it, so for us, federal court, we decided, was the best venue."
The plaintiffs include the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and the Minnesota Service Station & Convenience Store Association, along with out-of-state groups like the Clean Fuels Development Coalition, the National Association of Convenience Stores and ICM Inc., which designed and built many Minnesota ethanol plants.
On Thursday, Governor Walz said he couldn't speak specifically to the lawsuit because he is named in it. But he did stand behind the rule change, which is set to take effect in Jan. 2024.
"Climate change is an existential threat that has got to be addressed and Minnesota is going to do our part," Walz said. "I am not the CEO or GM that made the decision to go to fully electric vehicles - or any of the numerous other companies. This is the direction that the economy is going."
"Our concern is that the state is doing an action that is going to accelerate that faster than what the market is demanding," Smentek said. "If that happens, and we're not - at the same time - looking at what is going to happen to our diesel supply, then we're going to get to a really kind of unbalanced endgame here."
The governor insists that he's trying to fight climate change, not biodiesel or any other bio-fuels.
"Look, I have been one of their biggest proponents for a long time because they are part of the mix," Walz said. "But this not an either-or proposition. If you want to buy an internal combustion car, make your choice on that. If you want to buy an EV, the state is going to make sure that we are prepared for you to be able to do so, and prepare for what is inevitable."
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