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Board agrees to resolution against California standards

The Mower County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday voted unanimously to adopt a resolution opposing the Minnesota Pollution Control Agencies Clean Cars Minnesota air pollution standards.

The standards, signed by Gov. Tim Walz in December of last year, formally adopts California standards in regards to low-emissions and zero-emission vehicle air pollution standards.

The standards would require auto dealers to increase the number of vehicles with low emission tailpipes (hybrids, electric and plug-in hybrids); however the standards do not require people to buy them.

This has led to concerns that because of the higher prices, people would pull back from purchasing vehicles all together.

The move is set to go into effect in 2024, but it is receiving pushback from groups in the auto industry that worry the move will cause damage to local economies and businesses.

Pushback has also come from Republican legislators who argue that the move by Walz bypasses the Minnesota Legislature and that prices on vehicles in Minnesota will be driven up.

“They want it to go through the Legislature versus the governor making that decision,” said Commissioner Jeff Baldus.

Reinartz voiced support for the resolution, saying “I would definitely be against the governor having sole control on something this major. I feel it should go to the legislature.”

Austin Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Elaine Hansen, who has spoken with Austin auto dealers, pointed out two details that would have a detrimental impact locally when speaking to the board.

“It would impact their market because no one from Iowa would be coming to Minnesota to buy a vehicle,” she said, adding. “We do not currently have the infrastructure currently to support electric vehicles.”

Hansen said there are just three charging stations in the City of Austin.

Another sticking point in the debate is the question of whether or not Minnesota needs to have standards based on the fact that it’s pollution is not as serious as California’s and would cut down the flexibility to self-mandate.

“There’s a lot of things to consider and certainly the fact that the Minnesota Chamber and Austin Chamber all are supportive of having a good environment,” Hansen said. “California’s standards don’t allow for that flexibility.”

In other news

• The county celebrated the retirement of Facilities Supervisor Norm Hagstrom after 13 years. While board chair Polly Glynn acknowledged the county was losing a great employee, she also told him, “You certainly have a nice staff you’re leaving behind.”

• The board also unanimously approved the latest round of Development Corporation of Austin’s list of Business Relief Program Grants. Seventy-seven businesses will now receive $773,000 in grant money.