Guest Opinion: Colorado clean-car standards are an important opportunity
A common topic of conversation in the Roaring Fork Valley is traffic. While congestion is an important issue, so too are the tailpipe emissions and fuel economy of the cars that drive through our neighborhoods and up and down Highway 82. Environmentally and economically, these are significant subjects with profound local, state, and national policy and health implications.
On Aug. 2, the federal government announced its intention to roll back the federal fuel efficiency standards that require automakers to reduce tailpipe air pollutants and also save drivers money at the pump. Unfortunately, this proposed rollback would mean that these beneficial improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency would not be required beyond 2020.
The good news is that states are stepping up and adopting their own clean car standards. We believe that Colorado should do the same. Twelve other states and Washington, D.C. have already committed to uphold the low emissions vehicle (LEV) standards previously established by the EPA. Nine of those states also adopted complementary zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) provisions that require a certain percentage of cars sold to be electric vehicles (EVs). A ZEV provision makes more EV models available to people in those states and helps states and communities like ours meet air quality and climate targets. Together, LEV and ZEV create a comprehensive clean car solution that provides great benefits to the health and livelihood of citizens. We want Colorado to become the 10th state to adopt this comprehensive solution, and we are encouraging Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission to move in this direction.
Adopting these measures in Colorado will save citizens and local governments money. More efficient vehicles cost slightly more up front but save their owners thousands in fuel costs over the life of the vehicle. Recent analysis indicates that with a comprehensive solution (LEV and ZEV), the additional average cost of a car in Colorado in 2025 would be $382-$647 but that over the life of the vehicle, fuel savings would keep an extra $3,584 to $3,892 in the pocket of that Colorado driver. That is a significant net savings. With long commutes and high gas prices in our communities, residents and workers in the Roaring Fork Valley could save even more.
Statewide, clean car standards lead to a reduction in dangerous air pollution going into our lungs and less of the carbon pollution that continues to threaten our economy, lifestyle, and environment. Currently, 25 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in Pitkin County come from transportation, and projections show there will be more cars on the roads in the future; RFTA estimates a 32 percent increase in traffic on Highway 82 by 2038.
These factors emphasize the local need to ensure that the cars on the road, now and into the future, are cleaner. Local officials across the Roaring Fork Valley are working to encourage mass transit, biking, walking and new mobility options to reduce traffic and emissions, but our hands are tied when it comes to automotive technology. For this, we rely on state and national safeguards. In case the national standards are compromised as proposed, it is critical that Colorado secures its own.
Earlier this summer, Governor Hickenlooper issued a “Maintaining Progress on Clean Vehicles” Executive Order to start a rulemaking process for cars sold in Colorado to maintain the fuel economy standards originally set by the EPA in 2012. This would position Colorado to adopt LEV standards, but notably, it would leave out the ZEV option. Without ZEV adoption, Coloradans will have fewer EV models to choose from; currently, a wider array of EV options are available in states that have adopted ZEV standards than those that have not.
We applaud and support Governor Hickenlooper’s Executive Order to create LEV fuel economy standards. Critically, that would maintain progress on clean vehicles. We further urge the governor and the Air Quality Control Commission to drive progress by including a ZEV standard. Together, fuel economy and zero emissions standards will protect our air, climate and economy, while also saving Coloradans money and improving access to emissions-free vehicles that meet the needs of mountain drivers.
Take Action: Over the next few months, your elected officials will be working with state regulators to represent Aspen and Pitkin County in supporting advanced clean car standards in Colorado. On Aug. 16, representatives from both Aspen City Council and the Pitkin County Commissioners will testify at the Air Quality Control Commission in Denver to request that Colorado’s rules include requirements for both low and zero emission vehicles (ZEV). Your voice matters! Please email email@example.com to let the state regulators know why advanced clean car standards matter to you.
Steven Skadron is the mayor of the city of Aspen, and Patti Clapper is the chair of the Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners