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Minnesota: Dismiss Zero-Emissions Case

By Todd Neelet

There’s nothing Minnesota farmers and biofuels interest groups can do to stop electric and other clean vehicles from coming to the state, Minnesota officials said in a motion to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to keep the state from adopting California’s EV mandate, essentially arguing this week that nothing would change even if the plaintiffs won the lawsuit.

“According to the complaint, plaintiffs’ interests in peddling liquid fuels and repairing internal-combustion engines will be harmed as Minnesotans transition to cleaner and electrified vehicle options,” the state said in a memorandum filed in support of its dismissal motion in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.

“That transition is coming anyway. There will be no injury to the plaintiffs traceable to the rule and no injury that an order setting the rule aside would relieve.”

California regulators drew a lot of attention when the California Air Resources Board approved a rule to require 100% of new light- and medium-duty vehicles sold in the state to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035.

In 2021, Minnesota adopted California’s emissions standards to force automakers to make more zero-emission electric vehicles available to dealers beginning with model year 2025.

The lawsuit filed by the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, the Clean Fuels Development Coalition, ethanol plant developer ICM Inc., the National Association of Convenience Stores, and the Minnesota Service Station and Convenience Store Association, alleges the scheme violates the Constitution’s equal sovereignty doctrine because it grants California a “greater degree” of sovereignty and capacity for self-government than all other states.

The plaintiffs have a vested interest in maintaining the availability of internal-combustion engines that use gasoline blended with ethanol and other biofuels.

Minnesota regulators argue their own rule plays no role for automakers and their decisions about the types of vehicles to sell.

“Simply put, clean vehicles are coming to Minnesota whether the plaintiffs like it or not,” the state said in its memorandum.

The state said under the Minnesota rule the EPA’s greenhouse gas emissions standards are aligned with or more stringent than the state’s standards, meaning automakers will need to meet federal standards anyway.

“Given these realities, even if the plaintiffs were to obtain a declaration that the rule is invalid they would get no relief,” the state said.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued new rules governing carbon-dioxide emissions. The rules require automakers to increase fuel economy in their fleets. The rules also mandate a sales quota on zero-emissions vehicles.

The state said in its motion the court should at least issue a stay in the case, as two other similar cases continue in other courts.

Minnesota officials argue the ag and biofuels groups have filed the lawsuit against the wrong party and in the wrong venue.

“The court does not have jurisdiction to suspend EPA’s decision to issue a Section 209(b) waiver to California — the essential component of plaintiffs’ equal sovereignty claim,” the state said.

“But a challenge to EPA’s waiver decision must be brought in a federal court of appeals according to Clean Air Act.”

On March 9, 2022, EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced the agency rescinded a Trump administration action turning down California’s request to implement zero-emissions standards.

Last year, 17 states, agriculture and fuel interests sued the EPA, alleging the agency’s March 2022 decision to reinstate California’s legal authority to implement zero-emissions vehicle sales mandate and greenhouse gas emissions standards as a backdoor way to move the entire country away from gasoline-powered vehicles. That case is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In addition, the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association lost an appeal challenging the rule in state appeals court. The association has since appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Since March 2022, 17 states and the District of Columbia have adopted California’s greenhouse-gas emissions standards and zero-emissions-vehicle mandate.

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