Salazar backs tougher fuel standards
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
WASHINGTON ” Under pressure from environmental groups, Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar on Wednesday endorsed tough new fuel economy standards for cars and trucks.
Salazar, a Democrat, had been one of just a few senators who had not yet taken a position on the new rules, which would raise Corporate Average Fuel Economy ” or CAFE ” standards for cars and trucks to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, an increase of about 10 mpg over current levels.
“I believe it’s important we adopt the CAFE standards,” Salazar said in his weekly conference call with reporters. “Other countries have done it. I expect we will be able to do the same thing.”
CAFE is a controversial and key piece of a larger energy bill being debated in the Senate this week. It is focused on reducing oil dependency and greenhouse gas emissions.
Advocates say the new CAFE standards are the best way to ensure cars reduce the amount of greenhouse gases they produce. Opponents say the standard puts too much strain on the auto industry.
Colorado’s Republican Sen. Wayne Allard has already said he opposes it because he fears it would cause the industry to cut back in other areas, such as safety or consumer comfort.
Salazar said he was convinced to support the bill after he was assured that it would allow an exemption for heavy trucks used on farms and ranches.
Auto-state senators still oppose the provisions passed by the Commerce Committee, which would increase the standard for passenger cars for the first time in 18 years.
They are expected to challenge the bill as early as this week with an amendment that would give auto manufacturers more time and flexibility in reaching the standards. Both sides expect the vote to be extremely close.
Salazar, who has sided with the auto-state senators before, said he would listen to any proposals they put forward, “but at this point I’m supportive of the CAFE standards that came out of the Commerce Committee that is part of the bill on the floor.”
Environmentalists, who normally back Salazar, have pressured him to support the CAFE bill through radio ads and phone calls.
Phyllis Cuttino, director of the Pew Campaign for Fuel Efficiency in Washington, said advocates for the tougher CAFE standards were relieved to have Salazar’s support.
“This is exactly the kind of leadership we would expect from Senator Salazar,” she said.
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The Roaring Fork Valley has, by-and-large, avoided the mountain pine beetle and spruce beetle infestations that have decimated parts of the state. However, a 2019 aerial survey showed the Roaring Fork watershed has an outbreak of Douglas-fir and western balsam beetles.