State puts kibosh on Clean Car proposal

Published 1:45 pm Saturday, April 25, 2009

Molly Schultz’s spirit is bent, but not broken.

“The question we have for legislators is, ‘What is your plan and are you ever going to put one in place, because right now you’re pretending?” the public policy director for the Minnesota Environmental Partnership said during an Earth Week visit to Austin. Schultz was the guest speaker at a Minnesota Clean Cars Forum held Thursday night at Ruby Rupner Auditorium, Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.

She is disappointed the Clean Car Program has died in the 2009 legislative session.

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“We did not make our committee deadline,” Schultz said. “We did not have the support to get out of committee. It’s dead for the 2009 session.”

The Clean Car Program legislation would, supporters argued, reduce air pollution from Minnesota’s cars and light-duty trucks by requiring automakers to employ readily available technology to make their vehicles cleaner.

To date, 14 states have adopted stricter car emission standards in order to reduce the impacts of global warming effects caused by passenger vehicle emissions.

According to Schultz, that represents 41 percent of American car-buyers.

Stricter state-based car emission standards in Minnesota would have been phased-in beginning 2012. A 30 percent reduction in car emissions could have been realized by 2016, according to the legislation’s supporters.

Schultz said the defeat could have been the result of procrastination by state legislators.

“In 2007, the Minnesota Legislature passed a goal of reducing our global warming pollution by 80 percent by 2050,” she said.

A task force appointed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed 67 recommendations to create a “road map” to reach the goal.

The car emissions standards were among the recommendations.

“The unfortunate thing is that since they passed the goal, the Minnesota Legislature has not passed any of those recommendations,” she said.

“We are now at the point where they (state legislators) seem very interested in the goal, but not interested in what you need to do to achieve that goal,” she said.

Global warming is not longer the inconvenient truth of Al Gore’s move. According to environmentalists, it’s real and it’s growing more dangerous every day.

Turning their backs on legislation that could have helped combat global warming sounds naive in the wake of mounting evidence of its threat.

That begs the question: Does the Minnesota Legislature get it? Do they understand the consequences?

Schultz stops short of condemning the legislators’ inaction and she has a reason: A $4.6 billion reason for their indecision.

“Part of the reason is that we have a massive budget deficit to tackle,” she said. “A lot of legislators with tunnel-vision are thinking the only thing we can deal with this year is the budget deficit.

“I don’t fault them for that thinking,” she said.

However, Schultz said the state budget cuts proposed fall far short of erasing the massive deficit.

However, she ignoring environmental threats as severe as global warming shouldn’t be ignored in the tough budget times.

“You can’t lose sight of the fact you need to be putting policies into place, so that we’re not continually ending up in the same place,” she said.

“I think they do get it, that there is a real danger out there, but they’re feeling very overwhelmed by the budget problems,” she said.