Colorado squares off against EPA, will adopt California's stringent vehicle emissions rules

June 20, 2018

California's battle with the EPA over car tailpipe emissions gained a new ally. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper on Tuesday signed an executive order to have his state join a dozen others in backing California's plan to resist the EPA's intention to roll back emissions targets.

With Hickenlooper's order, Colorado becomes the first non-coastal state to oppose the Trump administration's plan to dial back fuel-economy rules put in place by the Obama administration. The coalition of states that oppose the EPA's plan to freeze fuel economy targets for six years beginning in 2020 now accounts for about a third of all new car sales in the U.S.

MORE: California, 16 other states sue Trump administration over EPA's weakened car emissions targets

“Low emissions vehicles are increasingly popular with consumers and are better for our air,” Hickenlooper said in a statement after signing the executive order. “Every move we make to safeguard our environment is a move in the right direction.”

The executive order demands that state officials in Colorado adopt California's standards by the end of 2018.

Under the Clean Air Act, California is allowed to set its own targets that exceed federal standards. The California Air Resource Board (CARB) has long had the authority to set its own standards for new-car emissions. Today, federal and CARB emissions standards are the same, but that would change if the EPA decides to dial back a 2010 agreement between CARB, the Obama administration, and automakers to double fuel-economy ratings to 50 mpg (roughly 36 mpg in real-world driving) by 2025.

DON'T MISS: Automakers tout clean cars while fighting the EPA

In addition to the federal requirement adopted under President Obama, CARB emissions standards include a mandate that at least 15 percent of all new cars sold within its borders are zero-emissions vehicles such as electric cars by 2025. About 1.5 percent of all new vehicles sold last year in Colorado were electric cars, a figure buoyed by a $5,000 state incentive, which is among the most generous in the country.

Colorado's decision Tuesday is also notable because of the state's heavy dependence on coal mining and much of its electricity is generated by coal.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents many automakers, the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, and the Colorado Auto Dealers Association all oppose the measure.

The Alliance tweeted out "This could impose many burdens on the state’s drivers & taxpayers" in response to Hickenlooper's order.

Colorado Auto Dealers Association President Tim Jackson blasted the move on Twitter.

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