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Minnesota to release findings on clean fuel standard discussions in February

(The Center Square) – Minnesota state officials are preparing to release a new environmental initiative.

Officials will release a white paper in February announcing the state’s new clean fuel standard.

The paper will highlight common themes of the responses the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Department of Transportation have heard through meeting with stakeholders and the general public. The most recent meeting, the last in a series that began in December, was held Thursday.

In its stakeholder slideshow presentation, the state defined a clean fuel standard as “a performance-based incentive program that reduces climate pollution of all fuels.” It’s based on lifecycle carbon accounting, and it assigns carbon intensity scores to all fuels.

Three states – California, Oregon and Washington (in 2021) – have established their own clean fuel programs. New Mexico, Colorado and New York are considering it.

Minnesota Department of Transportation Assistant Commissioner Tim Sexton told meeting attendees that Minnesota could learn from those states’ actions while designing its own program that would reflect Minnesota values. He said that it is important to Gov. Tim Walz that any program put in place would address equity and environmental justice.

Sexton said the department has met with about 400 people who represent stakeholder groups, including those from the agriculture sector, business organizations and trade organizations. They have heard that stakeholders want the policy to be part of a broader group of policies to protect the environment, that it is fuel-neutral and that it provides incentives, to foster market-driven innovation that promotes job growth in the state.

“There’s a lot of interest in the co-benefits,” he said.

Sexton said the cost of the policy would be addressed in the rulemaking process, if the state moves forward on it. Next steps beyond the white paper have not yet been determined.

He said California’s regulatory mechanism, the California Resource Board, addresses many regulatory laws while Oregon has a handful of staff who operate the program.

“I don’t know what this would look like in Minnesota if we move forward, but … there is a way to do that in a very efficient and low sort of staff overhead way,” Sexton said.

A related bill was introduced in 2021. The Future Fuels Act, HF 2083, received a committee hearing in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Under the Act, the Commissioner of Commerce would consult with stakeholders to develop a fuel-neutral clean fuels portfolio that encourages economic development, benefits communities and consumers, increases energy security, supports equitable transportation electrification, improves air quality and public health, facilitates credit generation from renewable natural gas produced through organic waste, supports farmer-led efforts to benefit soil health and water quality while helping lower greenhouse gas emissions from clean fuel feedstocks and encourages protection of natural lands and biodiversity.

The Walz Administration directed state agencies in October 2021 to begin engaging stakeholders to determine whether the state should move forward with the policy.

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