Updated: Oct 22, 2019

On September 25, 2019  Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced “Clean Cars Minnesota”—a new package of vehicle emissions standards that will reduce transportation pollution and improve the options that Minnesotans have for purchasing zero and low-emission vehicles.

This is a critical step forward for Minnesota’s efforts to reduce dangerous climate pollution and secure cleaner air and water throughout our state. According to a report earlier this year by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the transportation sector is now Minnesota’s single largest source of pollution that contributes to climate change. Addressing this unchecked climate pollution is a critical first step toward meeting Minnesota’s climate change-causing pollution reduction goals, which—as a recent Rochester Post Bulletin editorial noted—Minnesota has consistently failed to meet.

States like Minnesota have the authority under the Clean Air Act to adopt standards that are stricter than Federal emissions standards. Governor Walz’s announcement will make Minnesota the 15th state to adopt such standards. New Mexico also recently announced their own clean car standards soon to be developed, and Colorado completed rulemaking to finalize clean car standards earlier this year.

Minnesota’s public rulemaking process is now underway. Finalizing the rule will take some time—likely well over a year, followed by a mandatory implementation time of two model years—to complete, with the goal of having the state’s new standards fully in place no later than the 2024 model year. The first step in this process is the “Request for Comment” (RFC). During this initial phase, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will consider comments from organizations and the public in advance of preparing a draft rule. All Minnesotans are welcome to submit written comments and are also invited to attend any of six public meetings that will be held around the state this fall.

While national polling shows broad public support for state clean car standards—67 percent in a recent Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll—the process of actual adoption is likely to be challenged by oil industry opponents. Colorado’s rulemaking experience is indicative of what Minnesotans are likely to see and hear in the coming months. Colorado has long faced serious air quality challenges. As DeSmog notes:

“Air quality in the Front Range—where more than 60 percent of Colorado residents live—has been so bad that it has violated national clean air standards for the last seven years. In 2018 alone, “there were 55 days when Coloradans were warned that exercise outdoors could be damaging to their health due to high ozone levels,” according to Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). That’s an average of one day per week where the air in this Rocky Mountain state’s most populated counties is so bad, it’s too dangerous to go out for a jog.”

Of course, even this dire situation didn’t stop oil industry interest groups from doing everything in their power to block Colorado’s clean car standards. In response to Colorado Governor Jared Polis’s announcement of Colorado’s zero-emission vehicle standard earlier this year, oil industry groups and their allies formed “Freedom to Drive”, an advocacy group that has spent most of 2019 spreading misinformation about the impact of Colorado’s new standards (not to be confused with a Minnesota-based coalition of the same name that advocates on immigrant rights issues).

Fortunately, Colorado stayed the course and cleaner air is coming soon to the Rockies. Here in the Midwest, Minnesota will be the first state to adopt clean car standards. Minnesota has its own challenges with transportation pollution. In addition to transportation now leading all other sectors in climate pollution, motor vehicles also contribute more than half of all carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon pollution statewide according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Over the coming months, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will be conducting a public rulemaking process to formally adopt the Clean Cars Minnesota standards. It is nearly certain that interest groups in opposition to these standards will be ramping up swiftly. Minnesotans who want clean air, clean water, and progress on climate will need to make their voices heard. As always, Fresh Energy and the Coalition for Clean Transportation will be ready with real facts backed by sound science—and we look forward to supporting completion of the Clean Cars Minnesota package as quickly as possible.

Justin Fay is the the Government Affairs Director at Fresh Energy

Plan includes important transportation advances, but needs work to fully meet goals

TO: Minnesota News Organizations

FROM: Coalition for Clean Transportation (cctmn.org)

DATE: February 20, 2019

CONTACT: Noa Shavit-Lonstein, MN350 (noa@mn350.org / 651-233-4210)

The Coalition for Clean Transportation, an alliance of leading Minnesota environmental and social justice organizations, released a statement Wednesday commending Gov. Tim Walz for his formal budget proposal, which includes timely investments in transportation for the health of our state and our climate.

Gov. Walz’s proposal, announced Tuesday, includes $1.5 million to expand the Pollution Control Agency’s program to install electric vehicle chargers. This marks the first major dedication of state funds to the vital infrastructure for a zero-emission transportation system in Minnesota. “Expanding vehicle chargers will allow more Minnesotans to take advantage of cost-effective electric car models, saving drivers and their communities on the costs of gasoline,” said Noa Shavit-Lonstein of MN350.

The budget also includes a substantial increase in new, dedicated funding for roads, bridges, and public transportation, in the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota. An official briefing even highlighted funding for Metro Transit’s plans to purchase zero-emission buses, providing clean air for riders and community members alike.

"Transportation is the greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota,” said Margaret Levin, Executive Director of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter. “We applaud Governor Walz for proposing initiatives to increase adoption of zero emission electric vehicles throughout our state. We hope this is just the beginning, and look forward to partnering with state leaders to realize clean transportation options for all Minnesotans.”

Levin and Shavit-Lonstein stressed the governor’s budget still fails to fully fund the state’s need for charging infrastructure. The coalition has recommended added at least $10 million in the next biennium. The budget also contains taxes that will penalize electric vehicle drivers for switching to vehicles that are better for the state.

“Minnesota should incentivize electric vehicle adoption, not discourage it through tax increases,” said Andrew Twite of Fresh Energy. “Under the Governor’s proposal, an electric vehicle owner would pay 20-50% more in taxes than a gas car over the life of the vehicle, even with the proposed gas tax increase.”

The Coalition’s member organizations plan to continue working with legislators on full funding for clean vehicles, and encourage political leaders to take bold action for an affordable and fossil fuel-free transportation system.

The Coalition for Clean Transportation is a collaboration of Minnesota environmental and social justice groups working for a better future in our transportation system. Membership includes MN350, Fresh Energy, the Sierra Club North Star Chapter, Take Action MN, and ISAIAH. More information about the coalition is available at https://www.cctmn.org.

After months of requests and pressure from environmental and equity groups, Minnesota’s Metro Transit announced a plan Monday to transition the entire Twin Cities bus fleet to electric buses, as a way of combating pollution and cutting carbon emissions. The plan will begin with the purchase of fifty electric buses over the next three years, with a goal to purchase no more diesel vehicles starting in 2022.

Environmental and equity groups hailed the decision as a victory in their efforts to prevent damage to our climate. The Coalition for Clean Transportation (CCT), a team of Minnesota environmental and social justice groups, strongly supports the target as an important step to reduce pollution and climate change.

Members of the coalition, along with the Twin Cities Transit Riders Union, have canvassed transit riders for the past several months to learn what they want from their transit system.  Improving health by reducing pollution is a critical concern. “I have COPD, which is a chronic lung condition,” said regular bus rider Maureen Benson, who MN350 spoke to during a canvass. “I breathe in all the pollution from the bus every day.” Another rider, Paris Mullins, echoed this concern: “My daughter has asthma and when she's around pollution her lungs get closed in… she always wears a scarf to cover her mouth."

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has reported air pollution creates 2000 premature deaths a year. The costs of air pollution in the Twin Cities fall disproportionately on low income communities and communities of color. Rates of asthma-related ER visits due to air pollution are five times higher in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and four times higher in neighborhoods in which the majority of residents are people of color.

The purchase of such a large number of electric buses is also an important step to fighting climate change and help local cities to meet their greenhouse gas emission goals. Transportation has been a growing contributor to carbon emissions for years. New zero-emission vehicles will allow for travel powered by locally made renewable energy, a priority for coalition members. “Renewable energy and transit are critical pieces to transitioning Minnesota to a livable environment free from fossil fuel emissions, where everyone can travel without the burden of pollution safely and economically,” said Janiece Watts of Fresh Energy. “Policies make this transition possible, but only with vision, leadership and inclusion of all impacted by this policy and the plans to follow.”

Local jobs advocates were also on hand to applaud Metro Transit’s bold plan. Leaders from the Communications Workers of America were on hand to celebrate the decision, which could benefit union employer New Flyer and their production plants in St. Cloud and Crookston. “This will help bring good manufacturing jobs into Northern Minnesota,” said CWA Local 7304 Vice President Renee Brand.

Metro Transit and Xcel Energy have already started work on moving Metro Transit to 100% renewable energy for all of its operations by 2040. Powering buses through renewable energy means that they emit no greenhouse gases during their service lifetime. The first use of electric buses will be along the new C Line service, which will provide service between downtown Minneapolis and and Brooklyn Center in 2019.  

Coalition for Clean Transportation

Organizing Lead: Madi Johnson, MN350



©2018 by MN350 and the Coalition for Clean Transportation. Proudly created with wix.com