The Mille Lacs County board was briefed by interim county administrator Holly Wilson on proposed action by Minnesota Rural Counties (MRC) regarding Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) push to adopt California’s clean car guidelines at the Feb. 16 county board work session.

Wilson said that she received an email from MRC regarding action by MPCA to implement new guidelines for clean air with vehicles. “They’re calling it the California Car Update, and what they’re trying to do is ban gas-powered vehicles by 2035,” said Wilson.

The Minnesota Rural Counties organization, said Wilson, is requesting county boards to pass a resolution to urge MPCA to not adopt the California mandate and have the Minnesota legislature involved in that type of rulemaking.

In a letter to the County and MRC delegates, alternates and primary staff, MRC Executive Director Dan Larson said, “MRC supports legislative review of any and all issues of consequence that would bring harm to the culture and/or economy of rural counties. Further, MRC opposed the attempt by the MPCA to adopt the Minnesota Clean Car rule without consulting the legislature and encourages the Walz administration to withdraw the proposed rule and submit the issue to legislative review.”

In a presentation compiled by the group “Drive Away California Cars” to MRC, the group states that regulating vehicle emissions is the job of the federal government, and California is the only state in the country that is allowed under federal rules to set vehicle emissions standards that are more restrictive than federal regulations.

“California has enjoyed special treatment for the last 50 years because of its unique geography, climate and severe air quality issues,” states the group. “If any state besides California wants to adopt vehicle emissions standards that differ from the federal regulations, the only choice is to completely conform to California’s rules, as determined by the California Air Resources Board.

“If the Minnesota PCA adopts California’s emissions regulations,” the group goes on to state, “cars and trucks sold in Minnesota will need to be California certified and will differ from vehicles currently available to Minnesota drivers.”

Normally, legislators would hold hearings and vote on whether the state should adopt a law similar to California’s. “In the case of regulations on our cars and trucks, Gov. Walz thinks we should bypass the Legislature and trust California bureaucrats to get it right,” states the group.

The group cites concerns over cost, performance in cold weather, accessibility to charging stations, and car life spans regarding the implementation of the California clean car rules.

“As you know, eliminating gas-powered vehicles would have a cost impact on rural counties,” said Wilson.

Commissioner Phil Peterson said, “We should be prepared before going forward with this regulation.”

Commissioner Genny Reynolds noted, “I don’t think an electric car is going to tow my horse trailer.”

Commissioner Tim Wilhelm said that he was in favor of moving forward with the resolution.

Consensus was given to draw up a resolution supporting MRC’s proposal.

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