Judge greenlights Clean Cars Minnesota, cements Minnesota as climate leader in Midwest

In a huge win for climate and electric vehicle advocates in the state, an Administrative Law Judge today issued a ruling recommending the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) move ahead with Clean Cars Minnesota. This clears the last major hurdle to final adoption of Clean Cars Minnesota in the coming months. 

Announced in 2019, Clean Cars Minnesota is one of the key climate actions targeted by Governor Tim Walz to reduce climate-change causing and health harming pollution from passenger vehicles while expanding access to electric vehicles (EVs) for Minnesotans. Fresh Energy has long supported these common-sense “clean car standards,” working with a broad coalition of advocates to educate the public on what the standards would mean for Minnesota’s climate goals and consumer choice. During the rulemaking, Fresh Energy submitted rigorous technical comments with its partners and gathered more than 700 comments from supporters across the state.   

“From clean air and water to healthier communities to more consumer choice, clean car standards will benefit everyone as Minnesota moves toward a clean energy future,” said Michael Noble, executive director of Fresh Energy. “We applaud the work of Governor Tim Walz and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Laura Bishop in moving this critical policy ahead and look forward to continued partnership with them as the rule is implemented in the coming years.” 

With this ruling, Minnesota is set to be the first Clean Cars state in the Midwest. Clean car have already been formally adopted by 14 others states and Washington, D.C., with Virginia on track to become the next state to adopt after its state legislature approved the standards in February 2021. 

In her summary of the agency’s analysis and advocates’ comments, Judge Palmer-Denig wrote that “[t]he MPCA established it has the statutory authority to adopt the proposed rules, it complied with all procedural requirements of law and rule, and that the proposed rules are needed and reasonable. Therefore, the Administrative Law Judge APPROVES the proposed rules and recommends they be adopted.” 

Clean Cars Minnesota rulemaking had the most public engagement of any MPCA rulemaking yet, attracting over 4,000 responses in support of standards that will expand electric vehicle availability in Minnesota and reduce climate and air pollution from all new passenger vehicles. While enforcement will not begin until vehicle model year 2025 (roughly equivalent to calendar year 2024), the standards incentivize “early action” by automakers to send more of their EVs to the state as soon as the rule adoption is finalized this year. This means more choices of EVs sooner for the Minnesotans who want them, and more fuel savings for those who want gasoline-powered cars and trucks. 

“Clean Cars Minnesota builds a strong foundation for Minnesota’s broader transportation electrification goals,” said Anjali Bains, senior clean transportation manager at Fresh Energy. “It signals to the rest of the country that Minnesota embraces innovation and is ready for an EV future, and highlights what many Minnesotans already know – that EVs work great here and are welcomed additions to our roads.” 

Transportation is the number one source of climate change-causing pollution in both Minnesota and the U.S. Studies show that living with air pollution can lead to higher rates of heart and lung disease, especially among communities of color and under-resourced communities which are exposed to air pollution more so than the state average.  

Next steps in the rulemaking are largely procedural, with the MPCA reviewing the judge’s recommendation to incorporate minor changes before sending to Governor Walz for final review and approval. Once MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop signs the final rule and sends it to the state registrar, clean car standards will be considered formally adopted and Minnesota will officially be the first “Clean Cars” state in the Midwest. 

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