Flouting Trump, Colo. to vote on tougher car rules

Source: Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, November 16, 2018

Colorado is poised to take a big step to defy President Trump on climate.

The state’s Air Quality Control Commission will vote soon — either tonight or tomorrow morning — on whether to adopt California’s more stringent tailpipe pollution standards for cars and trucks.

A June executive order from outgoing Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper set the vote in motion (Climatewire, June 19). The order made Hickenlooper the latest state leader to resist the Trump administration, which in August proposed rolling back federal fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions for cars and trucks.

His opposition was underscored by Colorado’s status as a battleground state that leaned toward Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. She beat Trump by 5 percentage points.

If Colorado adopts the tougher car rules, it would become the 14th state to do so — and the only one after the Trump administration’s proposed rollback.

Local environmental groups are optimistic about the outcome of this week’s vote. They say the tougher clean car standards are good for both the environment and consumers’ pocketbooks.

“The numbers are there that show this would be good for Colorado,” said Danny Katz, director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group. “It wouldn’t just cut air pollution; it would also save consumers money.”

So far, a coalition of environmental groups has garnered 7,600 signatures on a petition urging the commission to vote yes, Katz said. The signatures have come from individuals, businesses, public health agencies and cities.

“I’m feeling very optimistic,” said Sophia Mayott-Guerrero, an energy and transportation advocate with Conservation Colorado. “I’m cautious to count my chickens because I work in politics. But the different types of Coloradans who are so interested in seeing this happen has been really impressive.”

There’s widespread recognition that adopting the tougher car rules would help the state comply with federal air regulations, Mayott-Guerrero added, noting that the Front Range has been in nonattainment for the 2015 ozone standard.

Still, Colorado state Sen. John Cooke (R) has emerged as a lone voice of opposition. Cooke penned a recent opinion piece in The Denver Post in which he called Hickenlooper’s order a “strange and disturbing spectacle.”

This week’s vote will only focus on whether to adopt California’s Low Emission Vehicle program. The commission punted a decision on whether to adopt the separate but related Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program until December.

California and nine other states already participate in the ZEV program, which requires automakers to sell a certain number of electric cars and trucks. The number of vehicles is linked to the automaker’s overall sales within the state.

Hickenlooper won’t be around for the ZEV deliberations, if they occur. He’s due to retire in January, when he’ll be replaced by Gov.-elect Jared Polis (D), who campaigned on a promise of 100 percent renewable energy.

“If they do kick that ZEV process off, it will be a three- or four-month process, and Gov. Polis will be important,” Katz said.

Katz added: “He ran on 100 percent renewable energy pledge. The electric vehicle program is similar in that the idea is to completely transition us off of dirty fuel in the transportation sector. So we’re very excited to work with his administration, not just on the renewable energy side, but on the transportation side.”