17 states are considering adopting California’s electric car mandate

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Seventeen states with vehicle emissions standards tied to rules passed in California face major decisions about whether to follow that state’s tougher new rules requiring all new cars, pickups and SUVs to be electric. or hydrogen 2035.

Under the Clean Air Act, states must comply with the federal government’s standard vehicle emissions standards unless they choose to at least partially follow California’s stricter requirements.

Among them, Washington, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Vermont are expected to adopt California’s ban on new gasoline vehicles. Colorado and Pennsylvania are among the states that probably won’t. The legal terrain is a little murkier in Minnesota, where the state’s “Clean Cars” rule has been a political minefield and the subject of a legal battle. Meanwhile, Republicans are rebelling in Virginia.

The Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association says its reading of state and federal law is that California’s new rules automatically apply in the state, and it’s taking this case to court as it tries to block them.

“The technology is such that vehicles don’t perform as well in cold weather,” said Scott Lambert, president of the trade group. “We don’t all live in southern California.”

Officials with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency say the state would have to start an entirely new rulemaking process to adopt California’s changes. And in court filings and legislative hearings, they’ve said they don’t plan to do so now.

“We are not California. Minnesota has its own plan,” Gov. Tim Walsh said in a statement. He called Minnesota’s program “a smart way to increase, rather than decrease, choices for consumers. Our priority is to lower costs and increase choice so Minnesotans can drive whatever vehicle is right for them.”

Oregon regulators are taking public comments until Sept. 7 on whether to adopt California’s new standards. Colorado regulators, who adopted California’s older rules, won’t follow California’s new ones, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis’ administration said.

“While the governor shares the goal of a rapid transition to electric vehicles, he is skeptical about requiring 100 percent of cars sold to be electric by a certain date, as technology is changing rapidly,” the Colorado Office of Energy said in a statement. .

Regulators in Pennsylvania, which only partially adopted California’s older standards, said they will not automatically follow its new rules. Under Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania began the regulatory process last year to fully comply with California’s rules, but abandoned it.

Virginia was on a path to adopting California’s rules under legislation passed last year when Democrats had full control of Virginia’s government. But House Republicans and GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin say they will push for their state to secede.

Minnesota auto dealers are trying to make their state’s current rules — and the possibility of incorporating California’s new restrictions — a fall election issue. Control of the Legislature and the governor’s office is on hold, and dealers hope to convince the 2023 Legislature to roll back the regulations unless they win in court first, Lambert said.

The MPCA, backed by Walz, adopted California’s existing standards through administrative rules last year amid a bitter dispute with Republican lawmakers upset that the Legislature was cut out of the decision. Lawmakers even tried unsuccessfully to withhold funding from Minnesota environmental agencies. One casualty was Laura Bishop, who resigned as an MPCA commissioner after it became clear she didn’t have the votes in the GOP-controlled Senate to win confirmation.

Walz and his administration have framed Minnesota’s Clean Cars rule as a fairly painless way to increase the availability of electric vehicles and help the state meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals. The rule seeks to increase battery and hybrid vehicle offerings starting in the 2025 model year by requiring manufacturers to comply with California standards currently in place for low- and zero-emission vehicles.

Lambert said the state’s auto dealers are not opposed to electric vehicles. They currently make up 2.3% of new vehicle sales in Minnesota, and he expects consumer interest to continue to grow. But the reduced range of battery-powered vehicles in cold weather makes them less attractive in the northern tier states, he said. Minnesota’s rules already threaten dealers with more electric vehicles than their customers will buy, he said, and adopting California’s ban would make matters worse.

Under federal law, according to Lambert’s reading, states must either fully adopt California’s rules or follow less stringent federal emissions standards. He said they can’t pick and choose from each other’s parts. And that essentially means there’s a “ban on the books” in Minnesota for sales of new conventionally fueled vehicles starting in the 2035 model year, he said.

Lambert’s club was already fighting Minnesota’s existing clean-car rules in the Minnesota Court of Appeals, and its petition predicted California would make the changes it announced late last month. A key issue is whether “any future amendments to California’s incorporated regulations automatically become part of Minnesota’s rules,” as the delegates argue.

MPCA lawyers claim they do not and have asked the court to dismiss the appeal. MPCA Commissioner Katrina Kessler has made similar arguments for months, including before a skeptical state Senate panel last March.

Aaron Klemz, chief strategist for the Minnesota Environmental Advocacy Center, which will file its own arguments against the dealers in court, acknowledged the legal landscape is confusing. And he said it’s unclear whether his group will ultimately ask Minnesota to follow California’s new ban.

“We haven’t done enough analysis of the California rule to know whether to push for adoption in Minnesota,” Klemz said. He noted that other issues come into play, including incentives for electric vehicles in the Inflation Reduction Act recently signed by President Joe Biden and the stated intentions of some of the major automakers to go all-electric.

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Associated Press reporters Jim Anderson in Denver. Gillian Flaccus in Portland, Oregon. and Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, contributed to this story.

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