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Minnesota Legislature

'Clean Car Act' gets first OK

Published (2/20/2009)
By Mike Cook
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A bill to have vehicles run cleaner got a green light from a House division, but it wasn’t a smooth ride.

Sponsored by Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park), HF690 would establish motor vehicle emission standards for certain passenger vehicles, light-duty trucks and SUVs beginning with the 2013 models. The standards would follow those set forth in the California emissions program, but with a few Minnesota modifications.

Approved 9-6 by the House Transportation and Transit Policy and Oversight Committee Feb. 18 on a party-line vote, it now goes to the House Environment Policy and Oversight Committee. A companion, SF674, sponsored by Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville), awaits action by the Senate Energy, Utilities, Technology and Communications Committee.

Hortman said the so-called “Minnesota Clean Car Act” would help the state reach its greenhouse gas emissions-reduction goal of at least 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2015, 30 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050. The levels were established in 2007’s Next Generation Energy Act.

“We have done a lot of things that start to get us towards decreasing the amount of carbon dioxide pollution,” she said. “But our goal that we set in statute is to go down. We have to take some bold and aggressive steps.”

Supporters also said the bill would save consumers money by encouraging more fuel-efficient vehicles.

“The governor’s own Climate Change Advisory Group estimated if we were to adopt the clean car standard in Minnesota, it will save consumers $225 million between now and 2025,” Hortman said.

Among concerns addressed by opponents are that the bill would compromise the state’s commitment to renewable fuels, such as E85; limit consumer choice for flex-fuel vehicles; and cede the state’s regulatory authority to California.

“We are uncertain how Minnesotan’s voices will be heard when the California legislature or the California Air Resources Board considers changes to their vehicle emission regulations,” Kevin Paap, Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation president, wrote in a statement.

Of greater consumer concern is a potential for fewer flex-fuel vehicles on dealer lots.

According to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, 30 flex-fuel vehicles were available to consumers in 2008, but only 19 were available in California or states that have adopted California emissions.

“So we have big government telling us what we can and can’t drive,” said Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston).

Others suggested the state wait and see what federal standards would be implemented by the Obama administration.

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