Minnesota Zero-Emission Vehicle Mandate Faces Challenge

Lawsuit says the state shouldn’t impose California standards on Minnesota.

March 14, 2023

MINNEAPOLIS—The Minnesota Service Station & Convenience Store Association and NACS, along with the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, Clean Fuels Development Coalition, and ICM Inc., filed a lawsuit on March 13 against the state of Minnesota for its adoption of California’s “zero-emission vehicle” mandate.

“The state shouldn’t let California tell Minnesotans what kinds of cars they can and can’t buy,” said Lance Klatt, executive director of the Minnesota Service Station & Convenience Store Association. “Politicians have a terrible track record of deciding which technology will best meet peoples’ needs, and California politicians even more so. This mandate is bad for Minnesota consumers, businesses and the state economy. Minnesota fueling stations are open to exploring all energy options through a free-market approach, including homegrown biofuels and electrification.”

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, challenges the legality of Minnesota Pollution Control Agency rules requiring that new cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty vehicles in the state meet emission limits set by California and match California’s requirements for the sale of a certain percentage of so-called “zero-emission vehicles,” as defined by California regulators.

“Duplicating California’s mandate for one vehicle technology over others will not achieve anyone’s goals,” said Henry O. Armour, NACS president and CEO. “Some of the most significant reductions in carbon emissions from transportation have come from using more renewable fuels and more efficient internal combustion engines. Adopting California’s rules in Minnesota would stop further investments in efficient use of renewables and other liquid fuels and would result in more net carbon emissions than we would have without these misguided rules.”

The lawsuit contends that the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), which creates a uniform national standard for vehicle fuel efficiency, prohibits states from adopting policies “related to” federal fuel-economy standards. EPCA says that a “State or a political subdivision of a State” cannot “adopt or enforce a law or regulation related to fuel economy standards or average fuel economy standards.”

In EPCA, Congress expressly forbade the National Highway Safety Administration from considering the fuel economy of vehicles that run on “alternative fuels” (such as electricity) in setting fuel-economy standards, according to the lawsuit. The suit also challenges Congress’s decision to grant California—and only California—special authority to adopt its own motor-vehicle emission standards different from those set by the U.S. government.

This scheme, the lawsuit contends, violates the Constitution’s equal sovereignty doctrine because it grants California a greater degree of sovereignty and capacity for self-government than all other states.

“Having Minnesota blindly follow California’s rules gives up our ability to make our own decisions and would sabotage our own growers and producers of liquid fuels in the heartland,” said Bob Worth, president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. “Minnesota consumers know better than California politicians what is best for their own lives.”

Founded by a group of small independent Service Station owners, the Minnesota Service Station & Convenience Store Association (MSSA) has been protecting the member’s rights legislatively and legally since 1966. For over 50 years, the association has built a strong and loyal following of independent retailers assisting each and every one of them through strong membership programs-building a stronger foundation towards success.