Colorado follows California’s lead for cleaner cars

Fourteen states have now bucked the EPA to adopt stricter emissions standards.

 

This article was originally published by WIRED and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. 

Colorado just moved away from Washington, D.C., and it’s headed toward California. On Monday, Governor John Hickenlooper ordered his state’s Department of Public Health and Environment to establish a Low Emission Vehicle program that goes beyond the federal standards to align with the Golden State’s more stringent rules.

Hewing to California’s emissions rules will keep Colorado on the track the EPA set for the country as a whole during the Obama administration: Each automaker’s fleet must get about 36 miles per gallon on average by 2025. And this move lets the state — whose many valleys can trap smog and exacerbate its effects — make sure that whatever happens in Washington, it’s still moving toward the goal Hickenlooper set last year, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2025.

Jack Ferrell charges his Nissan Leaf in Paonia, Colorado, at one of only a handful of electric vehicle charging stations in Western Colorado.
Brooke Warren/High Country News

“Colorado has a choice,” Hickenlooper said in a statement accompanying his signature of Executive Order B 2018 006. “Every move we make to safeguard our environment is a move in the right direction.”

A choice between two paths. The federal rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles apply in every state. But California, by virtue of Section 177 of the 1963 Clean Air Act, has the right to set its own standards, as long as they’re stricter than the national rules. The other 49 states can’t do that, but they can decide to follow California’s rules instead of those set by the feds.

Now, California’s right to go its own way — and other states’ right to follow — has become a bulwark against the EPA’s move to roll back emissions standards. Because California is the country’s largest market, automakers design their cars to meet its rules. It’s less expensive than making one version of a car for clean California and another for the other dirtier states.

That also explains why climate change skeptic and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has talked about going after that special status. “Cooperative federalism doesn’t mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country,” he said in a statement in April.

That kind of fight would require a messy legal and legislative process, but whether or not Pruitt makes the move, California has friends on this road trip. Colorado is the 14th state to adopt its standards. It also happens to be the first that isn’t on the East or West Coast and the first to make the move since Donald Trump became president and Pruitt took over the EPA.

“It makes sense that Colorado would follow California,” says Carla Bailo, president and CEO of the Center for Automotive Research. And it makes sense that the state adopted the Low Emission Vehicle rules but did not take on Cali’s Zero Emission Vehicle program, which demands automakers sell at least some vehicles that don’t pollute at all. Given the mountain state’s topography, lots of people drive trucks and SUVs, which don’t lend themselves to electric propulsion. Tesla, with its Model X, and Jaguar, with its I-Pace, may not agree. But for Colorado, one step away from D.C., and one step toward California, is probably enough for now.

Alex Davies covers transportation for WIREDHe was previously a reporter for Business Insider. A New York native, he lives in San Francisco.

High Country News Classifieds
  • 10 ACRES OF NEW MEXICO HIGH DESERT
    10 Acres of undeveloped high desert land in central NM, about 45 minutes from downtown Albuquerque. Mixed cedar and piñon pine cover. Some dirt roadways...
  • WATERSHED RESTORATION DIRECTOR
    $58k-$70k + benefits to oversee watershed restoration projects that fulfill our strategic goals across urban and rural areas within the bi-national Santa Cruz and San...
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT - (PART-TIME)
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a part-time Customer Service Assistant, based at...
  • OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    We are a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education, innovation, and collaboration....
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Come work alongside everyday Montanans to project our clean air, water, and build thriving communities! Competitive salary, health insurance, pension, generous vacation time and sabbatical....
  • CAMPAIGN MANAGER
    Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting, defending and restoring Oregon's high desert, seeks a Campaign Manager to works as...
  • HECHO DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE, COLUMBIA CASCADES
    The Regional Representative serves as PCTA's primary staff on the ground along the trail working closely with staff, volunteers, and nonprofit and agency partners. This...
  • FINANCE AND OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    The Montana Land Reliance (MLR) seeks a full-time Finance and Operations Director to manage the internal functions of MLR and its nonprofit affiliates. Key areas...
  • DIRECTOR OF CONSERVATION
    The Nature Conservancy is recruiting for a Director of Conservation. Provides strategic leadership and support for all of the Conservancy's conservation work in Arizona. The...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • BIG BASIN SENIOR PROJECT PLANNER - CLIMATE ADAPTATION & RESILIENCE
    Parks California Big Basin Senior Project Planner - Climate Adaptation & Resilience ORGANIZATION BACKGROUND Parks California is a new organization working to ensure that our...
  • SCIENCE PROJECT MANAGER
    About Long Live the Kings (LLTK) Our mission is to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Since 1986,...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES GENERALIST
    Honor the Earth is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on identity. Indigenous people, people of color, Two-Spirit or LGBTQA+ people,...
  • NEW BOOK BY AWARD-WINNING WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST, BRUCE SMITH
    In a perilous place at the roof of the world, an orphaned mountain goat is rescued from certain death by a mysterious raven.This middle-grade novel,...
  • MOUNTAIN LOTS FOR SALE
    Multiple lots in gated community only 5 miles from Great Sand Dunes National Park. Seasonal flowing streams. Year round road maintenance.
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...
  • A FIVE STAR FOREST SETTING WITH SECLUSION AND SEPARATENESS
    This home is for a discerning buyer in search of a forest setting of premier seclusion & separateness. Surrounded on all sides by USFS land...
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, HIke the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • CAUCASIAN OVCHARKA PUPPIES
    Strong loyal companions. Ready to protect your family and property. Proven against wolves and grizzlies. Imported bloodlines. Well socialized.