Colorado adopts California auto emissions standards

 

By the Associated Press and Colorado Politics

Colorado has adopted vehicle emission rules that incorporate California standards, joining several other states in moving pre-emptively to avoid any weakening of federal standards by the Trump administration.

Friday’s vote by the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission setting low-emission vehicle (LEV) standards — 8-0 with one recusal — enacts a June executive order by Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose administration is seeking to reduce greenhouse gases by 25 percent by 2025.

Under the rules, new vehicles sold in Colorado must average 36 mpg by 2025. That’s about 10 mpg over the existing standard.

> RELATED: State senator wants AG review of Hickenlooper’s Tesla connections

Automobile dealers and industry officials argued the rules will add thousands of dollars to new vehicle prices — especially pickups, SUVs and all-wheel-drive vehicles that burn more gasoline and are widely used in Colorado’s rugged mountain areas, The Colorado Sun reported.

“Forcing our state’s small businesses to comply with and live under rules made by regulators in another state, where conditions are so much different, does not make sense,” Tony Gagliardi, Colorado director of the National Federation of Independent Business, testified on Thursday.

“This will add a $2,110 tax to the sticker price of average new vehicles in Colorado, a tax that will be even higher on the SUVs and trucks that Coloradans prefer,” said Tim Jackson, president and CEO of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, in a statement after the vote. “This is hard-earned cash that the typical new vehicle buyer in Colorado will not recover and will have the biggest negative impact on working families and the economically disadvantaged.”

> RELATED: Zero emission vehicles in Colorado: Debate revs up auto industry, enviros

But the Boulder-based Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) applauded the move, saying it will save motorists an average of $2,800 in fuel costs during an auto’s lifetime.

“By adopting California’s LEV standards, Colorado continues on the bold path forward toward greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and avoids the risk of backsliding with the proposed federal rollbacks,” said Howard Geller, executive director of SWEEP.

Currently, California’s standards are the same as the federal ones. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering freezing the federal standards, adopted by the Obama administration, at 2020 levels. Trump administration officials argue current rules will raise the price of vehicles by an average of more than $2,000.

> RELATED: Colo. to adopt low-emissions vehicle standards under Hickenlooper order

California has a waiver under the federal Clean Air Act allowing it to impose tougher standards.

Steven Douglas, director of environmental affairs for the Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers, urged Colorado regulators to delay any decision until the EPA decides what to do.

Hickenlooper cited the threat climate change poses to Colorado, including its multibillion-dollar outdoor recreation industry. He noted that Colorado’s elevation worsens pollution.

Metropolitan Denver, at 1 mile in altitude, routinely experiences ozone levels deemed to be unhealthy. Ground-level ozone, the main ingredient in smog, can cause serious breathing problems for some people.

Under the new rule, state officials say, the average price of a model year 2025 vehicle would increase by $1,138. But they also contend that car owners would save up to $1,682 on fuel and other maintenance costs.

The move would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 30 tons through 2030, according to state officials.

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