Colorado clean air advocates reacted positively to President Joe Biden's plan to return authority to the states to regulate emissions from cars and passenger trucks that was finalized Monday.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has been one of the most aggressive state leaders on auto emissions, proposing 994,000 new electric vehicles, roughly 43% of the market, by 2030 to meet his goal of sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions, considered a driving factor of climate change.
“Today’s announcement is a welcome one as Colorado has long been a leader in working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in the transportation sector," Colorado's governor said Monday. "One of my first actions as governor was to put Colorado on the path toward adopting a zero-emissions vehicle standard, which we did in 2019, and we continue taking bold action to protect the Colorado way of life."
Polis noted the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap and work in the legislature is moving Colorado in the director of modernized transportation system.
"Over the last few years, in the absence of federal leadership, states like Colorado have taken on leadership roles with aggressive efforts to clean our air and reduce emissions," Polis said. "Restoring state authority to adopt strong standards is an important step forward. In addition, our nation would be well served by new federal standards that move the entire country towards a zero emission vehicle future.”
Biden's move reverses a decision by President Trump on vehicle emissions standards a year ago when he declared California’s greenhouse gas regulations and zero-emission vehicle standards were superseded by federal law.
Trump replaced a rule put in place by the Obama administration in 2012 that allowed states to address persistent localized air quality problems by setting emissions standards that were tougher federal rules.
Colorado was one of 22 states that challenged the rule in court last May.
On his first day in office, Biden signed an executive order to undo Trump’s rollbacks.
The administration said then that from 2021-2026, the Trump rollback would have added 867 million metric tons of carbon pollution from burning another 2 billion barrels of oil and cost consumers more than $460 million for fuel.
Trump said forcing automakers to meet different standards in different states would have been onerous. And though he first raised his intentions in 2017, Democrats deemed his change to be rushed through in an election year during the distraction of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Numerous car companies since have said they would shift to more EVs and toward all-electric vehicles within the next decade.
"My proposal to the politically correct Automobile Companies would lower the average price of a car to consumers by more than $3500, while at the same time making the cars substantially safer," Trump said in a tweet when he announced his decision on March 31, 2020. "Engines would run smoother. Positive impact on the environment! Foolish executives!"
Environmentalists in Colorado don't agree with the former president.
“President Biden is moving full speed ahead with Clean Car Standards, and that is great news for Colorado,” Travis Madsen, transportation program director for the Boulder-based Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. “The faster we move to electrify our cars and trucks, the bigger the benefits will be."
Advocates on Monday also urged the president to pursue selling only zero-emission vehicles by 2035. SWEEP was one of 150 organizations that signed on to a letter urging the Biden administration to pursue 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035.
Colorado policymakers made moves in 2018 and 2019 to clean up vehicle emissions, as well as pledging the state's nearly $70 million share from the settlement of a national lawsuit with Volkswagen over its diesel emissions practices.
Jenny Gaeng, the transportation advocate for Conservation Colorado, said the president was standing up for states' efforts on zero-emission vehicles shows "we are ready and willing to fight air pollution, embrace the exciting technology of electric vehicles and enact good policy to support our health, safety and climate goals.”
Jenny Willford, clean energy advocate for the Colorado chapter of the Sierra Club said clean car standards are vital to reducing climate change, addressing local air quality and saving people money on fuel.
The Biden administration’s proposed rule will return a powerful tool to states in order for local leaders to protect public health and act on climate," she said in a statement. "While this is an important action, it is not enough to reverse the damage done by Donald Trump’s attacks on climate. Now, all eyes are on Biden to develop stronger national clean car standards that put the status quo in the rearview mirror.”