Colorado Adopts Zero Emissions Vehicle ProgramIf you keep an eye on environmental laws, you saw it coming.  In November, Colorado adopted California’s Low Emission Vehicle standards.  In January, Governor Polis signed an executive order directing CDOT to study and report on the best way for Colorado to increase electric vehicle use.

And on Friday, August 16 2019, Colorado became the tenth state to adopt California’s Zero Emissions Vehicle program.  The program includes a mandate that 5% of Colorado’s sellable vehicle inventory be zero emission by 2023, and 6% by 2025.  The move received broad support from a number of environmental and industry groups, who touted the program as a big win for air quality, health, and consumer choice.

Opponents, most notably the Automobile Dealers Association, pushed for voluntary rules instead.  They argued electric vehicles are more expensive and do not come in the SUV-sized packages most consumers want.  However, now that dealers are required to sell electric vehicles, manufacturers have a bigger incentive to expand their offerings to include, for example, electric pickup trucks.  Further, Colorado offers a $5000 incentive to consumers purchasing or leasing an electric vehicle.  That, plus a vehicle lifetime average of $5000 saved on gas should help ease consumer pain.

The Need for ZEV

Why adopt California’s ZEV here?  Denver is the 12th most polluted city in the country, smog-wise.  The Environmental Defense Fund predicts Colorado’s ZEV will result in a 50% reduction of nitrogen oxides across the vehicle fleet by 2050, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by millions of metric tons.  That’s why California’s ZEV program, although stricter than EPA mandates, makes sense for more-polluted-than-average Colorado.  Taking gas powered vehicles off the road is an easy way for our state to improve air quality.

Stricter than EPA Guidelines?

Which brings us to an interesting legal question.  Why can states impose California’s standard, which is stricter than EPA guidelines, on residents?

The answer: California’s original emissions standards predate the EPA, so they have been allowed to continue.  Other states must follow EPA guidelines, but may adopt California’s stricter standard if they choose.  However, the EPA has recently proposed to rescind California’s right to set its own standard.  That proposition was immediately protested by multiple states, so it’s hard to imagine it taking effect.

Still, laws do change to match a country’s values.  Let’s hope for clear skies and a lot less hot air.

Article by Molly Fuscher

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