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Colorado first state in middle of nation to adopt electric vehicle standard

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August 16, 2019, 2:46 pm
The popular Tesla Model 3.

Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission on Thursday voted 8-1 to approve a zero-emission vehicle standard mandating a certain percentage of the new passenger vehicles sold in Colorado are plug-in electric.

“In one of my first executive orders as governor, I asked for the Department of Public Health and Environment to increase the choices Coloradans have when it comes to purchasing electric cars by increasing the number of models available in our state, and we got it done within a few short months,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a prepared statement. “It’s only the beginning. Colorado must continue to reduce smog and increase consumer choice.”

Polis’s office included a link to the administration’s roadmap to 100% renewable energy and climate action plan, including the goal of more zero-emission vehicles and commuting options.

“We are charged up and ready to roll. The adoption of the zero-emission vehicle standard is a clear demonstration of our unrelenting commitment to making sure every Coloradan has clean air to breathe.” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and a former Eagle County commissioner. The full CDPHE press release is posted below.

RealVail.com produced a story on the proposed ZEV standard for Atlantic Media’s RouteFifty.com on July 30. Here’s an excerpt:

A pickup truck state debates California’s electric vehicle rule

Even as California wages war with the Trump administration over automobile carbon emissions and fuel efficiency standards, Colorado is quietly on track to become the first state in the middle of the nation to adopt California’s mandate requiring more electric vehicle sales.

Late last year, Colorado became the 15th state adhering to a stricter low-emission vehicle (LEV) standard first adopted by California decades ago. Then-Gov. John Hickenlooper, fearing EPA rollbacks, signed an executive order requiring the state to move forward. Current Gov. Jared Polis took it a step further this year, directing a zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) rulemaking requiring electric vehicles to account for 5% of new sales in the state by 2023.

On Monday, the state moved closer to getting more electric cars on the roads, agreeing to a voluntary plan with automakers that is expected to result in more models for sale in Colorado. Still, state regulators are expected to move forward next month with hearings on the ZEV mandates.   

Colorado would be the 11th ZEV state and the first in the Rocky Mountain West, where the only other LEV state is New Mexico. The last state in the Southwest to adopt the California LEV standard was Arizona in 2008, but it was repealed when Gov. Jan Brewer took office in 2012.

California and a coalition of states are suing the Trump administration over its bid to roll back Obama administration fleetwide goals of nearly 55 miles per gallon by 2025 and maintain levels closer to 37 mpg. On Thursday, Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen struck a deal with California for a slowed pace of around 50 mpg by 2026, rebuffing Trump’s EPA and recognizing California’s federal Clean Air Act waiver to set its own tougher standards.

“Auto companies are increasingly understanding that governments are adopting climate targets that are going to require a shift away from fossil fuels for transportation—a hundred percent shift—and that’s going to happen whether they want it to or not,” said Travis Madsen of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. “It’s now just a matter of how and when.”

But opponents of a Colorado ZEV standard say the state should wait to see what happens with the California lawsuit and the EPA move to strip that state’s waiver.

“The EPA is looking at changing some of the rules that would do away with California’s waiver,” said Kelly Sloan of the Freedom to Drive Coalition, an advocacy group comprised of state auto dealers and oil industry groups. “If that happened, then [Colorado] loses the authority to attach us onto a waiver that’s no longer going to exist.”

However, some analysts say last week’s deal between California and the four automakers, which could be joined soon by other manufacturers, represents a calculated gamble that the Trump administration will lose in court. An EPA spokesman called the deal “a PR stunt.”

To read the rest of the July 30 RouteFifty.com story, click here. And here’s the entire CDPHE press release:

Air Quality Control Commission adopts a zero-emission vehicle standard

DENVER — The Air Quality Control Commission adopted a zero-emission vehicle standard for Colorado early today in an 8-1 decision. The move is directly aligned with the commission’s mission to achieve the cleanest practical air in every part of the state. 

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is pursuing aggressive strategies to reduce ozone pollution as quickly as possible, as the state continues to work to meet the federal ozone pollution standard. Fossil-fuel vehicles are a major source of ozone pollution, along with the oil and gas industry. Ozone pollution can cause asthma and other adverse symptoms. Fossil-fuel vehicles also emit greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change. 

“We are charged up and ready to roll. The adoption of the zero-emission vehicle standard is a clear demonstration of our unrelenting commitment to making sure every Coloradan has clean air to breathe.” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. 

John Putnam, environmental programs director, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said, “We are committed to a state where Coloradans can zip up the mountains in a zero-emitting vehicle and go for a hike without coughing and wheezing from ozone. It’s what Coloradans rightfully expect and deserve. We’ve made a lot of progress on cleaning up our air over the past several years, but the standards are getting more stringent.  We have to rise to the challenge.” 

The new zero-emission standard requires automakers to sell more than 5 percent zero-emission vehicles by 2023 and more than 6 percent zero-emission vehicles by 2025. The standard is based on a matrix of credits given for each electric vehicle sold, depending on the vehicle’s zero-emission range. 

The new requirement does not mandate consumers to purchase electric vehicles, but experts say it will result in manufacturers selling a wider range of models in Colorado, including SUVs and light trucks. 

“The zero-emission standard does not compel anyone to buy an electric vehicle. It only requires manufacturers to increase ZEV sales from 2.6 percent to 6.23 percent. It’s a modest proposal in the face of a critical threat. Where the federal government refuses to act– states must lead. Time is of the essence,” said Garry Kaufman, director, Air Pollution Control Division, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The Air Quality Control Commission prioritizes stakeholder engagement and public input. 

The commission invited public comment at various hours of the day and evening, and also invited remote testimony by telephone to make it easier for those who could not travel to the Front Range. The commission’s decision came after a robust public comment period, as well as significant written and oral testimony from parties providing information on all aspects of the standard. 

“The Commission was impressed by the overwhelming amount of public support for electric vehicles from urban and rural areas throughout the state. They noted that the public want these vehicles, want them more quickly, and want more choices,” said Trisha Oeth, director of Environmental Boards and Commissions, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is an award-winning freelance reporter based in the Vail Valley of Colorado, writing on health care, immigration, politics, the environment, energy, public lands, outdoor recreation and sports. His work has appeared in 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Colorado Independent, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the London Daily Mirror, the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, Atlantic Media's RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail and Westword (Denver). Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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