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California ‘Clean Cars’ standards for Minnesota? Bad policy, bad process

These newly proposed regulations could have a devastating effect on a strong economy, let alone the ailing economy we are currently experiencing.

Leaf charging
REUTERS/Edgar Su
We have been heartened that MinnPost has recently chosen to begin reporting on the MPCA’s planned imposition of California “Clean Cars” emissions standards on our economy here in Minnesota. Thank you for writing about the bipartisan group of legislators and candidates who committed themselves to imploring the governor to stop this overreach via powers he believes are within his executive rule-making authorities. At a minimum, especially while our economy languishes, our locally elected legislators ought to be charged with deciding whether to grant this authority through the laws they craft.

Let’s start with why legislators of both parties, our farmers, business communities and a growing number of others from across our local communities are opposed to the California emissions standards.

  • The “Clean Cars” rule is bad policy.
  • The way Gov. Tim Walz’s MPCA is imposing the California standards on our communities and the fragile economy is bad process.

Right now, emissions and air standards are governed at a federal level. Minnesotans have a governor, two U.S. senators and eight members of the House of Representatives to amplify our voice or the voice of our local media if we are happy or if we are unhappy with the rules the feds come up with.

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Primarily because California has worst-in-nation air quality issues, and probably for some historical political reason, California was allowed in the 1970s to set its own standards. Over time, states have been allowed to choose between the federal standards and California standards. States that choose the California standards, as Minnesota is planning to do, are left without a voice or any representation. Minnesota, even with excellent air quality, would be ceding its regulatory powers to an unelected California bureaucracy that hasn’t even written the next set of rules.

Marlin Fay
Marlin Fay
What we do know is that California plans to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars and trucks by 2035. We also know that California has had a historic bias against biofuels like ethanol and bio-diesel, which are cleaner, homegrown sources critical to our economy. Even if you might like the final product of California regulations (which again remain unknown), it is hard to argue with a straight face that this sort of subjugation of power isn’t terrible policy. If we like the end product, nothing is stopping us right now from advocating for similar policies through our federal delegation.

Todd Sawrey
Todd Sawrey
If it made any sense at all to hand our regulatory authority over to any other state, we must agree that that would be a huge public policy change. We would hope that with a shift in public policy this big, it would be thoughtfully developed by our elected legislators for consideration by our governor. This is the likely the reason for the bipartisan group of legislators and legislative candidates from our two regions, and those across the state, who pledged to oppose efforts to give California, or any other state, regulatory authority over the state of Minnesota without legislative approval. Unless we are OK simply being governed by a governor alone, it seems reasonable if you care about good governance that we let a big policy like this go through the legislative process.

2020 has been a tough year for our families, farms and businesses. The economy is hurting and employment suffers because of a virus we can’t yet fully control. These newly proposed regulations could have a devastating effect on a strong economy, let alone the ailing economy we are currently experiencing.

We know California is banning gas-powered cars and we know they have a bias against our Minnesota grown ethanol and bio-diesel.  We know “California cars” are more expensive than “federal cars,” and we know becoming a “California car” state would prevent our local dealers from doing “dealer trades” to help consumers get the models they desire. This should at least give us pause. We should not impose these regulations, and certainly not in this way, as we struggle to get our economy back moving again.

Marlin Fay is the Mower County Farm Bureau president. Todd Sawrey is a former mayor of Ada.

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