By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Minnesota and New Mexico, in a rebuke to the Trump administration, plan to join 10 other states in adopting both of California's tough rules on tailpipe emissions and zero-emission vehicles.
The announcements came a week after President Donald Trump said his administration would strip California of the legal ability to regulate vehicle emissions.
Minnesota and New Mexico would become the 11th and 12th states to adopt California's zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate and the 14th and 15th states to adopt its tailpipe standards. Colorado said in August it would adopt the ZEV mandate.
On Friday, a group of 23 states, including Minnesota and New Mexico, sued to block the Trump administration from undoing California's authority to set strict car pollution rules, one of the biggest U.S. battles over climate change.
The legal fight pits California, a Democratic-majority state that has become the U.S. environmental champion against a Republican president who wants to boost the economy by cutting regulation. The debate already is playing out ahead of the presidential election next year.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said on Wednesday the state planned to adopt the California rules but must first write regulations that would take at least 15 months. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said on Tuesday the state would adopt the standards by the end of 2020.
Walz, a Democrat, said state residents would benefit from "cleaner air, more car options, and less money spent on gas."
"While President Trump threatens to rob New Mexico and indeed all states of a valuable tool for combating air pollution and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, New Mexico will stand up and deliver on our commitment to environmental leadership," said New Mexico's Lujan Grisham, also a Democrat.
California's vehicle emissions rules, more stringent than the Trump EPA's rules, are currently followed by states that account for more than 40% of U.S. vehicle sales.
Minnesota Sierra Club Chapter Director Margaret Levin said the state was rejecting "the Trump administration’s indefensible attack on our communities and our future."
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing General Motors Co, Volkswagen <VOWG_p.DE>, Toyota Motor Corp and others, said in a statement if a state "is going to adopt the California mandate, it would need to make a massive investment in creating the necessary infrastructure to make the program work. That would include creating tax incentives, HOV lanes and in building charging stations across the state."
The U.S. Transportation Department said last week that federal law pre-empted state regulation of vehicle fuel economy, including California's vehicle rules, while the Environmental Protection Agency said it was revoking a 2013 waiver California received to set emissions standards. Both changes do not take effect until November.
The Obama-era rules called for a fleetwide fuel efficiency average of 46.7 miles per gallon by 2025, with average annual increases of about 5%, compared with 37 mpg by 2026 under the Trump administration's preferred option to freeze requirements.
The Trump administration escalated its fight on Tuesday with California by threatening to withdraw billions of dollars in federal highway funds because of poor California air quality.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Peter Cooney)