Colorado Joins California in Adopting Low Emission Vehicle Standards

low emission vehicle
(Photo Credit: normalityrelief, Flickr Creative Commons)

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed an executive order this week committing the state to adopting low emission vehicle standards. He is asking the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to establish an LEV program that incorporates requirements from California’s version.

“Colorado has unmatched natural beauty, but our topography makes us especially vulnerable to greater impacts of pollution,” Hickenlooper said. “The LEV action helps the state meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2025.”

The order intensifies the fight between the states and the Trump administration, which is moving to roll back ambitious vehicle-emissions targets, Evan Halper reported in the Los Angeles Times. In April, the federal government announced intentions to roll back vehicle greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards starting with the 2022 model year.

Shortly afterward, 17 states including California filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the decision. Halper reported that the federal government is also positioning to strip California of its authority to set emissions rules tougher than those imposed by the EPA.

“The administration has not yet publicly released its plan, but a draft reviewed by several federal officials who shared details with The Times calls for freezing the mileage standard in place for six years,” he wrote. “Under that plan, the coalition of states led by California — which accounts for more than a third of all vehicles sold nationwide — would be preempted from imposing their own rules.”

Colorado is using the federal Clean Air Act to adopt California’s stricter standards for alternative vehicles, the Denver Post’s David Migoya reported. “Twelve other states — nearly all of them along the West and East coasts — and the District of Columbia have already done so, instituting programs that would require the sale of a specified percentage of low-emission and zero-emission vehicles.”

Environmental groups in Colorado applauded the executive order. “Governor Hickenlooper deserves credit for taking bold action to make Colorado the first state in the Mountain West to adopt the Clean Car Standards,” said Zach Pierce, senior campaign representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in the state.

Auto dealers in the state expressed concern over the announcement, saying it leans too much on California’s program for a much different market, Migoya reported. “In particular, nearly 75% of Colorado’s registered vehicles are considered trucks, such as pickups and SUVs, whereas California’s figure stands at 53%.”

Another challenge may be encouraging customers to buy the new vehicles. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers told Migoya that vehicle incentives are critical to the success of any new programs — and tax credits to buy innovative vehicles were nearly repealed in Colorado. California, however, has lined up $2.5 billion in investments over the next seven years for its low emission vehicle program.

Hickenlooper is asking the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to bring up the state LEV program proposal at their meeting in August for possible adoption by the end of this year.

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