DENVER — The president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association (CADA) says the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rollback of California’s waiver from federal clean air rules is good news for car manufacturers.
“Industry-wide, whether it’s automakers or auto dealers, historically, we’ve always supported a single national standard on fuel efficiency for cost efficiency,” said Tim Jackson.
Jackson’s comments were in response to President Donald Trump’s decision Wednesday to rescind decades of waivers granted to California to set its own automobile emissions standards. Many of those standards — which tend to be stricter than federal EPA standards — have been adopted over the years by other states in preference to the EPA regulations.
Colorado is one of the most recent states to sign onto those regulations that include mandates for minimum sales requirements on both low emissions vehicles (LEV) and zero emissions vehicles (ZEV) over the next 4-5 years.
Jackson said requiring all states to follow one set of rules makes auto manufacturing much more affordable and effective.
“We think this is a very important action on the part of the EPA at the federal level to end the California cartel on fuel economy standards,” Jackson said. “In doing so, it wipes out the ability for the current Colorado administration to needlessly increase the cost of new cars in Colorado.”
But the fight may not be over as both Gov. Jared Polis and Attorney General Phil Weiser have vowed to join other states in fighting the decision.
California was granted an initial waiver in the 1970s under the federal Clean Air Act because they already had standards in place that exceeded those of the EPA. They have received several dozen waivers over the years.
While proponents of California’s waivers say it’s a state’s right, others — including Jackson — say California should not be setting regulations for other states, only the federal government has the power to do that.
“What I don’t think that was anticipated was that other states would adopt onto that same waiver,” Jackson said. “Just the mindset at the time they granted it, they thought they were granting it to California.”
However, Jackson said, the issue changed significantly when California adopted yet another set of standards in a deal with four specific auto manufacturers earlier this summer. The standards for Volkswagen, BMW, Ford and Honda, would be more stringent than new relaxed federal standards expected to be released by the EPA soon, but also less stringent than California’s existing standard.
“So suddenly, now (California) is granting permission to go something in between,” Jackson said. “So, whether you’re for California having its own set of standards or not, all agree, there isn’t a third standard. So, it appears they are setting their own laws and not adhering to their own standards.”
Jackson said theoretically the LEV and ZEV standards that Colorado adopted will no longer be enforceable and revert to federal standards under the rollback.
“Conceptionally, this pulled the rug out from under not only California but the other 10 states that have adopted ZEV and 13 states that have adopted the LEV standards,” Jackson said. “But we all know what will happen practically. They are going to sue so that they can have the separate standard.”
Jackson said he expects the higher standards will be enforced in states where they’ve been adopted while the lawsuit works its way through the courts. That could take 3-5 years. For Colorado, however, where the new LEV and ZEV standards don’t take effect until 2022 and 2023, respectively, there could be a legal decision by then.
Former Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Tweeted out it was shameful that Trump would “actively undo the critical progress we’ve made,” saying “even the auto industry has embraced” the new regulations.
Jackson said that statement is just false.
“It’s a matter of record,” Jackson said. “(The auto industry) was a filed party in opposition to LEV.”
Hickenlooper was responsible for the LEV mandate just before leaving office in 2018.
Colorado’s Freedom to Drive Coalition, of which CADA is a member, said in a news release that it supports the EPA’s decision because it allows “consumer demand to steer the future of transportation, instead of California’s Air Board.”
“A single national emissions standard will make vehicles more affordable for all Coloradans and allow auto manufacturers to focus on safety features that consumers most want in their family vehicles,” said the Coalition’s Public Affairs Director Sara G. Almerri. “Without this waiver, federal law will prevent Colorado from penalizing manufacturers who meet the federal standard, but not the former California standard. This is welcome news for Colorado and should serve as a shot of adrenaline for the state’s economy.”