Well, not necessarily great news on the surface:
Three weeks before its deadline for submitting pollution-fighting measures to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group has acknowledged that it's deadlocked on vehicle efficiency standards and probably won't propose a statewide carbon emissions reduction strategy.
This isn't necessarily a done deal, but nonetheless, it does shine the spotlight further on Minnesota's decision to join California's lawsuit against the EPA. The timing of this deadlock becoming public could be a coincidence. But it also could be a solid sign that while Minnesota isn't necessarily ready to take truly significant action, it is eager to preserve that ability in case it achieves a breakthrough the very near future.
In a separate action, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed papers Wednesday seeking to preserve Minnesota's ability to enact vehicle emissions standards in line with the California Clean Car standard, a 30 percent reduction in automobile greenhouse gas emissions by 2016.
Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung indicated Friday that the governor would be "willing to consider" a standard tougher than that signed into law by President Bush in December: 35 miles-per-gallon average fuel efficiency by 2020. But until the litigation is resolved, states are barred from adopting the California standard.
This is not uncommon when it comes to landmark state-based efforts like those on climate, particularly ones that are caught up in litigation (however weak the legal resistance may be). It often takes time and outside momentum to force a stronger consensus and overcome a desire to not become entangled in additional lawsuits, and that's what Pawlenty and his advisory group might be looking for. Swanson's legal filing recognizes this, seeking a court ruling that not only would enable Minnesota to take action if it chose, but might well directly spur the state to join with California.
In this regard, while California and the 17 other so-called "Pavley states" are definitely leading on the policy front, Swanson and her fellow AGs from Delaware and Illinois-- Beau Biden and Lisa Madigan-- also merit special recognition. By standing up for the rule of law and state authority to fight global warming as a general principle, their presence in this lawsuit highlights its ability to pave the way for further changes, and underscores the eventual likelihood of the California program spreading well beyond the half of the domestic auto market it would currently cover.