Amanda J. Smith is with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and led the often raucous meeting in Marshall. (Photo: Marshall Hoffman)

Representatives of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency held a listening session on a proposed Clean Cars Minnesota rule in the Lyon County Public Library in Marshall last week that at times got contentious. Patterned after a similar rule in California, proponents argued that it would allow more models of electric vehicles into the Minnesota marketplace and lead to less emissions from all vehicles. Opponents were leery of being tied to a rule associated with “crazy California” and were mistrustful of what they perceived as another government mandate that will be dictated by a judge who’s not elected by the people – with one attendee likening the process, which is similar to how other state agencies deal with rule proposals, to communism.

Amanda J. Smith with the MPCA led the discussion and made clear to the assembled that no one is going to force anyone to purchase an electric vehicle.

“In order to achieve our greenhouse gas emission reductions and start to really address climate change, there’s going to need to be actions across all parts of our economy and there’s going to need to be actions on many different parts of our transportation system,” said Smith. “So, we see this proposed rule as one piece of a larger puzzle, one piece of the solution, an important piece. But not the only thing that needs to happen.”

Morris family physician and electric vehicle owner Dr. Julia Hoffman was in attendance at the meeting and said she has dealt with many patients with bronchitis and emphysema who could only benefit from communities that have less air pollution.

“Even those who do not drive an electric vehicle are benefitting by not having us emit any pollution,” said Hoffman. “Anything that can be done to give rural Minnesotans more options for efficient vehicles and to make it easier to own such vehicles would be a great benefit for the whole state.”

But one Marshall resident felt the rules were infringing on his freedom to buy whatever vehicle he wanted to buy.

“The amount of tax that has to be collected on all of this stuff, to be able to fund all the things we need to do to try to improve everything, are we really gaining anything, other than we’re losing a lot of our freedoms and our freedom of choice and our freedom to move around and do what we want to do,” he said. “If I want to buy a gas guzzler, why in the heck can’t I?”

Attorney Brian Wojtalewicz of Appleton said he put up solar panels on his property in an effort to get America closer to energy independence.

“We were sick of spending money on our oil industry, which is massively tax subsidized, and we’re sick of spending money that goes to Saudi Arabian dictatorships and other dictatorships,” said Wojtalewicz. “We’re sick of the amount of pollution that’s going into our air, that our grandchildren are going to live with. So we made these freedom choices and we would like the ability to buy better vehicles so we plug them into our garage, use less electricity. We want to see it happen, we want those options, instead of being enslaved to the greed masters of the oil industry.”

Following their listening sessions, the MPCA will draft a proposed rule and a series of public meetings will then be held for further discussion. A judge will make a ruling after that process. Public input on the issue can be offered anytime on the MPCA website under the Air tab in the Clean Cars Minnesota section.

 

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