Colorado should adopt its own vehicle-emission standards |

Colorado should adopt its own vehicle-emission standards

Eagle County Board of Commissioners
Guest column

A warming climate, caused by increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse-gas pollutants in the atmosphere, has immense implications for Colorado’s snowpack, water supply, forest health, wildlife and snow-sports economy. Regionally, there are now 23 fewer days of freezing temperatures (below 32 degrees) than there were in the 1970s.

As the world continues to follow a “high greenhouse-gas emissions trajectory,” the problem of climate change is too hot not to handle. Under this scenario, the Western Slope could experience an average 2.9-degree increase by 2030 and a 9.7-degree increase by 2090. If we don’t make changes in how we power our lives and economy, Colorado’s climate could become more like that of Arizona or Texas.

To slow these temperature increases, we need to cut climate pollution from our power supply, vehicles, and homes and businesses. In Eagle County, dozens of local partners recently adopted the Eagle County Community’s Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions community wide.

The county also participates in several climate action coalitions, along with the neighboring communities of Aspen, Avon, Basalt, Carbondale, Eagle, Minturn, Pitkin County, Vail and 25 other municipalities and counties throughout Colorado. We have all joined forces to do our part, but of course state and federal policies have a greater impact because they reach more people. These high-level actions are absolutely needed to turn down the dial on atmospheric pollution and related warming temperatures.

To that end, a major United States commitment made under the Paris Climate Accord (of which the U.S. is no longer a part), was new vehicle emissions standards. These standards require cars and light trucks sold in the United States to average around 50 miles per gallon by 2025. This action would prevent more than 6 billion metric tons — roughly one year’s worth of total U.S. carbon emissions — over the lifetime of the vehicles sold. Now that is a meaningful impact!

Unfortunately, the EPA announced in April that it would weaken these clean car standards, which is contradictory to what many in the general public desire. Polling in October found that 78 percent of Colorado voters support maintaining strong fuel efficiency standards, not weakening them.

Gov. John Hickenlooper has been an enduring leader on climate action. After the Trump administration’s repeal of the Clean Power Plan, which was to be the single largest step America had ever taken to curb climate change, Colorado announced it still planned to exceed the emission reduction targets laid out in the plan. Part of that strategy was the retirement of some of the older coal-fired power plants by the energy industry.

If current emissions standards get rolled back, it will nearly wipe out the carbon pollution gains from the planned retirement of both the Comanche 1 and 2 coal-fired power plants located in Pueblo. It will also deeply undermine Colorado’s ability to meet the governor’s ambitious climate goals.

But whatever the Trump administration does, Colorado has the option of adopting our own emissions standards, as California has done, to preserve both fuel efficiency and pollution improvements.

On behalf of our constituents, we thank Gov. Hickenlooper for his diligence on this issue and urge him to adopt clean car standards for Colorado. We must keep moving forward on reducing carbon pollution and preserving Colorado’s economy, which is so heavily dependent upon a healthy environment.