Why FMR is working on a Clean Transportation Standard

The tire of an electric car can be seen in the foreground, with an electric vehicle charging station visible in the background.

A Clean Transportation Standard in Minnesota could help accelerate the transition to vehicle electrification for everyone.

At FMR, we often work on a variety of local, state and federal policies and incentives that enhance water quality and river health. It’s safe to say transportation policy is not usually in the mix.

This year, things are different. Why? Because a Clean Transportation Standard has the potential to not only reduce transportation emissions, but also dramatically impact water quality, agriculture and environmental justice statewide.

What is a Clean Transportation Standard?

A Clean Transportation Standard (which you might sometimes see shortened to "CTS") is a performance-based incentive program that can reduce climate pollution from all transportation fuels. That includes gasoline, diesel, biofuels and electricity.
A Clean Transportation Standard would establish (by rule) a maximum aggregate carbon intensity of Minnesota’s transportation fuel portfolio in any given year. Any transportation fuel provider generating fuels below that carbon intensity level (such as an EV charging station or low-carbon biofuel producer) generates credits. Those credits can be sold to higher-polluting fuel providers (e.g. a refinery). 

Revenue from the purchase of credits also represents an innovative revenue stream that can be used to fund EV infrastructure and rebates for the purchase of EVs — accelerating the transition to vehicle electrification for all.

How would this work in Minnesota?

A Minnesota Clean Transportation Standard would be based on successful efforts already on the ground in California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia  — but with some significant upgrades.

The most important improvement: The Minnesota rule would establish a Clean Transportation Standard that reduces the aggregate carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 25% by 2030, 75% by 2040 and 100% by 2050. These goals are more aggressive than other states, but they are still achievable, and better align with greenhouse gas reduction goals set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (The State of Minnesota reinforced its commitment to achieving these goals as part of the Climate Action Framework announced last fall.)

The bill (which is under final development) would instruct the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to lead a rulemaking process that would establish a Clean Transportation Standard in consultation with other state agencies and a diverse stakeholder advisory body.

Why this is important for the Mississippi River

There are four major reasons we’re working on a Clean Transportation Standard for Minnesota.

1. Climate health is river health

Climate change impacts water quality in numerous ways, and can’t be ignored when pursuing our river health goals. Transportation is the number one source of greenhouse gases in Minnesota — accounting for about a quarter of our state’s emissions.

A Clean Transportation Standard has the power to transform the transportation sector by reducing emissions to zero by 2050, which in turn helps protect the river.

2. Reducing cropland runoff

Today, by far the largest source of pollution to the Mississippi River is from cropland runoff, which is heavily influenced by our reliance on annual row crops (such as corn and soybeans) to produce liquid transportation fuels.

By accelerating the transition toward electrification, a Clean Transportation Standard can reduce the need to rely on millions of acres of corn and soybeans for biofuels, opening up new opportunities for cropland conservation and crop diversification.

3.  Promoting Continuous Living Cover

A Clean Transportation Standard can include credit bonuses that incentivize soil health practices and continuous living cover crops (like the clean-water crops camelina and pennycress) that produce low-carbon biofuels while greatly improving water quality and habitat.

4.  Promoting environmental justice

The bill includes language that addresses air quality and public health while directing credit revenue to support transportation electrification for the primary benefit of disadvantaged communities, low-income communities and rural communities — those that are most impacted by the production and use of traditional combustion fuels.

We’re excited to share more details soon

We’re currently working with a large and diverse group of allies and stakeholders to finalize the initial Clean Transportation Standard bill language. 

The best way you can keep up to date is to become a River Guardian. Sign up, and we'll email you when opportunities to support a Clean Transportation Standard are on the horizon.

River Guardians are also invited to special social hours and other events about legislative and metro river corridor issues.

Upcoming Events

Saturday, April 29, 2023 - 9:00am to 11:00am
Hastings Sand Coulee Scientific and Natural Area
Saturday, May 13, 2023 - 9:00am to 11:00am
Nicollet Island, Minneapolis
Applications due Fri, May 5 - 5 pm
Virtual and in-person