Colorado to adopt California's stricter car pollution rules

Posted at 4:31 PM, Jun 19, 2018

DENVER (AP) — Colorado's governor on Tuesday ordered his state to adopt California's vehicle pollution rules, joining other states in resisting the Trump administration's plans to ease up on emission standards.

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper told state regulators begin writing rules that incorporate California's low-emission vehicle standards, with a goal of putting them in place by the end of the year.

Hickenlooper said strict emissions standards are important to Colorado, citing climate change and noting the state's elevation makes pollution worse.

"Our communities, farms and wilderness areas are susceptible to air pollution and a changing climate," his order said. "It's critical for Coloradans' health and Colorado's future that we meet these challenges head-on."

Hickenlooper's order comes about three months after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it would not implement stricter new emissions rules adopted the Obama administration. Those rules would have started with the 2022 model year.

California has a waiver under federal Clean Air Act allowing it to impose tougher standards than the federal rules. Currently, California's standards are the same as the federal standards. But if the Trump administration foregoes the stricter Obama-era rules, California could still impose them, or others.

The law allows other states to apply California's standards. Colorado would be the 13th state, excluding California, to do so, said Luke Tonachel, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's clean vehicles project. The District of Columbia has also adopted them.

The states that currently apply California's rules are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

"Colorado is recognizing along with other states that the federal rollback is both unjustified and harmful, so the governor is joining others in protecting his state's citizens," Tonachel said.

The Colorado Automobile Dealers Association said California standards might not be a good fit for Colorado because a higher percentage of Coloradans buys pickups, SUVS, vans and all-wheel-drive vehicles, which burn more gas.

"We're disappointed that the state of Colorado, the governor, or regulatory board or anybody else would cede air quality control regulation to an out-of-state, unelected board in Sacramento (California,)" said Tim Jackson, president of the association.

The Obama rules would have required the nationwide fleet of new vehicles to get 36 miles per gallon (15 liters per kilometer) in real-world driving by 2025. That's about 10 mpg (4 liters per kilometer) over the existing standard.

The EPA announced in April it would scrap the Obama-era rules, questioning whether they were technically feasible and citing concerns about how much they would add to the cost of vehicles. The EPA said it would come up with different rules.

California and 16 other states sued the Trump administration over the plan to drop the tougher rules. All the states that joined the lawsuit have Democratic attorneys general. Colorado, which has a Republican attorney general, did not join.