Retail & Fuel Industry Groups File Suit Against Minnesota's Zero-Emission Vehicle Mandate

They challenge that adopting vehicle efficiency standards set by California violates state sovereignty.
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MINNEAPOLIS The Minnesota Service Station & Convenience Store Association (MSSA) and National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) have filed a lawsuit against the state of Minnesota for its adoption of California's zero-emission vehicle mandate.

Other parties joining the suit include the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, the Clean Fuels Development Coalition and ICM Inc.

"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 MSSA. "Politicians have a terrible track record of deciding which technology will best meet peoples' needs, and California politicians even more so."

The lawsuit, filed on March 13 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.

In 2022, the California Air Resources Board approved new rules that put the state on track to ban the sale of new gas-powered passenger cars and trucks by 2035. The rules are intended to apply only to the sale of new automobiles; older gas-powered vehicles currently on the road would be grandfathered in and still legal to drive. 

"Duplicating California's mandate for one vehicle technology over others will not achieve anyone's goals," said Henry O. Armour, president and CEO of NACS. "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. The EPCA states 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 the EPCA, Congress expressly forbade NHTSA 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' decision to grant California — and only California — special authority to adopt its own motor-vehicle emission standards different from those set by the federal government.

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

Founded by a group of small independent service station owners, the Minnesota Service Station & Convenience Store Association has been protecting the member's rights legislatively and legally since 1966.  

Alexandria-based NACS is a global trade association dedicated to advancing convenience and fuel retailing. NACS advances the role of convenience stores as positive economic, social and philanthropic contributors to the communities they serve and is a trusted adviser to retailer and supplier members from more than 50 countries.