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Gov. Walz Seeks California's Clean Car Standards For Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- There's no disputing the fact that transportation is the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota.

That's the motivation behind a goal of replacing more of the state's seven million gas- and diesel-fueled vehicles with low- or zero-emission electrics.

Gov. Tim Walz spoke Wednesday to announce plans to begin rulemaking on new clean car rules.

"We do have the clear authority to do this," Walz said.

The effort would enact California-like strict fuel standards in the state. Under the rules, vehicle manufacturers would be forced to offer more electric vehicles for Minnesota consumers to choose from.

"The manufacturers want to do this because the market is demanding these vehicles. This puts no burden on the consumer nor dealerships. It simply allows the fleet, which is the manufacturers, they have to meet those standards," Walz said.

A new report from the United Nations shows that global climate change is direr than many thought. Glacial ice is melting faster, oceans are rising higher and water temperatures are warming more than anticipated. It's a major reason the governor says citizens of the state want to do their part to reverse the trends.

Unfortunately, many electric vehicle models sold in states with stricter fleet car standards aren't sold here.

"This is about choice," Walz said.

While environmental and Democratic leaders applaud the move, others worry it could ultimately be bad for auto dealers. Eighty percent of vehicles sold in Minnesota are light trucks, SUVs and minivans.

"We do see it as troublesome," said Amber Backhaus with the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association. "We're all for cleaner cars and getting them out in the marketplace, but we don't think we should be following the lead of California."

Getting more electric vehicles on the road will require a larger network of charging stations to support the growing fleet. But that goal can only succeed if vehicle affordability matches the consumer demand.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will head up the rulemaking and expects the effort to be completed by late 2020.

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