Thursday, August 2, 2018

Colorado's new vehicle-emissions standards in question

Posted By on Thu, Aug 2, 2018 at 3:19 PM

click to enlarge Traffic along Interstate 25 near Interquest Parkway. - U.S. AIR FORCE/DON BRANUM
  • U.S. Air Force/Don Branum
  • Traffic along Interstate 25 near Interquest Parkway.

Barely a month after Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announced that Colorado would join California and 11 other states to adopt stricter vehicle-emissions standards, the Trump administration has tried to hit the brakes.

A 978-page document from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department, unveiled Aug. 2, proposes repealing Obama-era guidance for automakers that requires all new vehicles produced after 2025 to have an average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon. The new policy would continue increasing requirements until 2021, freezing mandatory fuel efficiency at 36.9 miles per gallon.

The Trump administration's announcement also creates a potential roadblock for the states that have joined California in creating a Low-Emissions Vehicle Program under the Clean Air Act to imposes stricter standards for automakers. The EPA says it wants to withdraw the states' waiver to depart from federal standards, in part because "[a]ttempting to solve climate change" is "fundamentally different from [the Clean Air Act's] original purpose of addressing smog-related
air quality problems" (see p. 31).

Those states include Colorado, as per Hickenlooper's June 19 executive order that came in response to news that the administration was rolling back requirements.

According to the statement, Colorado will:
• "develop a rule to establish a Colorado LEV program, which incorporates the requirements of the California LEV program; and
• propose that rule to the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission during its August 2018 meeting for possible adoption into the Colorado Code of Regulations by December 30, 2018."

Hickenlooper doesn't plan on backing down in light of the proposal's release:


The Trump administration is making the odd claim that allowing automakers to make their cars less environmentally friendly could save 12,700 lives by 2029. The numbers are based on an April report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The reasoning? Looser regulations will make it easier to produce new cars, which are safer than old cars.

"Already, the standards have helped drive up the cost of new automobiles to an average of $35,000—out of reach for many American families," reads a statement from Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao and Andrew Wheeler, the acting EPA administrator. "Compared with the preferred alternative outlined in the proposal, keeping in place the standards finalized in 2012 would add $2,340 to the cost of owning a new car and impose more than $500 billion in societal costs on the U.S. economy over the next 50 years.

"Due to these increased costs, Americans are holding on to their older, less-safe vehicles longer and buying older-model vehicles."

Conversely, the Obama administration found that improving standards would lead to about 100 fewer auto-related casualties, the New York Times reports.

The proposal won't be finalized until the end of this year, after a period of public comment, and is likely to meet opposition from states, activists and industry groups.

Colorado Moms Know Best, an activist group that has been vocal about vehicle emissions, released a statement Aug. 2 condemning the administration's actions.

"Trump is reversing protections for our kids, and parents demand to know why," Jen Clanahan, the advocacy group's "Head Mom," is quoted in the statement. "Trump ought to be ashamed of himself.

“A bright spot in the country right now is Colorado with Governor Hickenlooper’s leadership and his recent Executive Order that encourages Colorado to adopt low emission vehicle standards. We hope to see strong standards that help ensure Colorado has the cleanest air in the nation. Our children deserve it.”

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