Elections have consequences: What can Minnesotans expect on California car mandates?

On Tuesday, Minnesota Democrats won control of the Governor’s mansion, the House of Representatives, and the State Senate, giving the DFL unified control of the legislature for at least the next two years.

This Democratic trifecta will almost certainly have important implications on energy policy, including regulations on the cars we are able to purchase in the future.

California car mandates

The victory of Democrat Tim Walz in the Governor’s race means that Minnesota will enact California’s regulations requiring auto manufacturers to deliver a certain number of Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs), which essentially means electric cars, to the state.

Under the rules adopted in Minnesota, auto dealers would be required to stock approximately 14,000 vehicles in Minnesota once the rules go into full effect.

One thing to keep in mind is that the regulation requiring EVs to be stocked in Minnesota would only be in effect for one year because California has updated its ZEV mandates to ban the sale of new internal combustion engines in 2035.

Under the Clean Air Act, states must either follow federal environmental standards or California’s standards, and because there is no federal ZEV mandate, Minnesota would either need to adopt California’s ban on selling new gas and diesel-powered engines or allow the current electric vehicle mandates to expire after one model year.

If I had to guess, I would say it is probably unlikely that Democrats in the state legislature would pass a law requiring Minnesota to adopt California’s ban on selling new gas engines in the next two years because I think such a move would be out of step with what the electorate expects them to do.

However, I do think the legislature will pass legislation that opens the door for the Walz administration to adopt these rules in the future by clearly granting the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) the authority to adopt California’s gas engine ban through the administrative rulemaking process.

Whether or not the MPCA has the authority to adopt any of California’s ZEV regulations is currently the subject of a lawsuit filed by the Upper Midwest Law Center (UMLC) on behalf of the Minnesota Auto Dealers Assocation (MADA). The legislation that will likely be passed in the next two sessions will remove some, if not all, of the legal objections argued by UMLC.

Time will tell if the Walz administration will decide to enact California’s ban on the sale of new gas and diesel powered engines, but unified Democratic control will almost certainly mean the Walz administration, or any future administration, will be able to impose these rules if and when they decide to do so.