Denver — Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, has sponsored a bill that would prohibit the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) from enacting air standards on vehicles mandated by former Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Senate Bill 19-053 would align Colorado’s standards on vehicle emissions with federal standards under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and specifically prohibit the commission from adopting standards and test procedures identical to California standards unless they are identical to the federal regulations.
States may adopt either the federal standards or the California standards. Currently 13 states, including Colorado, and the District of Columbia have adopted California Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) standards, which are more stringent than the EPA’s.
The bill has been assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, it is expected to be heard in February.
Last year, Hickenlooper signed an executive order directing the AQCC to adopt rules identical to California’s LEV standards. Those rules became official in November.
Hickenlooper stopped short of mandating Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) sales. However, the AQCC is conducting stakeholders’ meetings on the matter and is expected to ask for a hearing to consider ZEV regulation in May.
CLEAR or the Colorado Low Emission Automobile Regulation requires manufacturers of new light-duty (less than 8,500 pounds) and medium duty (less than 14,000 pounds) vehicles to meet California’s low emissions standard for vehicles sold in Colorado beginning with the model year 2022. Any change to California’s standards would automatically apply to Colorado as well, effectively putting Colorado’s emissions standards under the control of the California governor and that state’s version of the AQCC.
The AQCC did not initially require the piece of California legislation that requires a growing percentage of all vehicles (capped at 10 percent) to meet a Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) standard by certain timelines.
ZEV is highly controversial as it requires auto manufacturers to purchase “credits” from competing companies if they fail to make the minimum mandates of ZEV automobiles in a given year.
Currently, the only auto manufacturer of 100 percent electric vehicles that could sell and benefit from the credits is Tesla. Tesla’s owners, Elon and Kimbal Musk are close friends with Hickenlooper. In fact, Hickenlooper is currently under investigation by the Colorado Ethics Commission for accepting travel on the brothers’ private planes.
Cooke said he’s been fighting Hickenlooper’s mandate since he announced it.
“He wanted to do this legislatively last session, and couldn’t get it done,” Cooke said. “So he does it through Executive Order. This isn’t a dictatorship. It’s going to hurt people because they can’t afford new cars. The (manufacturers) aren’t going to lose money on it because they’re going to jack up the price of their cars.”
Tim Jackson, President of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association said his organization supports the bill, which is facing an uphill battle, with Democrats in control of both chambers of the legislature.
“It becomes an economic development issue for California because that’s where Tesla’s based,” Jackson said. “So long as (auto manufacturers) are having to buy the credits, they have to add on the cost of those credits to the consumer.”