DENVER – Colorado Democrats in Denver and Washington are pushing back against new plans from federal regulators to scale back vehicle emissions standards, and one study says the plans could cost Coloradans money.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its secretary, Scott Pruitt, said Monday a review had been finished of the 2012 standards the department set, which aimed at cutting car pollution by requiring new cars built between 2022 and 2025 to have higher fuel efficiency standards.
The EPA didn’t specify the requirements of the new standards, but the announcement raised red flags for Colorado Democrats.
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said the announcement was a “true loss for American families and workers” and said Pruitt was “causing severe damage with no clear winner.”
“I have yet to hear from a Colorado company that is concerned by these standards,” Bennet said. “On the contrary, numerous companies have voiced their support of keeping the current fuel efficiency standards in place.”
The EPA and some automakers have argued recently that the Obama-era rules were too strict and would cost manufacturers who had to speed up their own technologies to save on fuel in their vehicles. The EPA said in Monday’s announcement that the 2012 rules lead to “significant additional costs on consumers, especially low-income consumers.”
But opponents of the scaling-back say the move is a step back as the U.S., and Colorado, work to reduce their overall greenhouse gas emissions – not just what is coming out of vehicles' exhaust systems.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order in 2017 that would force the state to reduce its statewide emissions to 26 percent of 2005 levels by 2025, and the electricity sector to reduce its emissions by 35 percent by 2030. The state also continues to update a climate plan with new steps to limit emissions to try and slow manmade climate change.
And in the Legislature, three Democrats – Reps. KC Becker and Jeff Bridges, and Sen. Andy Kerr – are sponsoring a bill that would further Hickenlooper’s requirement and force Colorado to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent of 2005 levels by 2050.
The measure passed the Democrat-controlled House in a 36-28 vote, and is set for its first committee hearing in the Republican-held Senate on April 11, where it will face an uphill battle.
The scaling back of the emissions standards could have financial effects in Colorado, according to a report published last August by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a group that supports higher emissions standards.
The report said each Colorado household would save $2,700 by 2030 under the standards if they are left intact, and said the state had at that point already saved $550 million. Those savings come primarily through buying less gas, despite a slightly higher up-front cost for vehicles, the report said.
The EPA’s changes will likely also lead to a battle with California, which has a federal waiver that allows the state to set its own standards for vehicle emissions. But Pruitt said his agency would be working with the states to finalize the new standards, and the changes could take years before they go into effect. Still, Bennet said he was concerned.
“States should have the ability to protect children and the environment,” he told Denver7. “I will fight against any attempt to roll back the flexibility that states have to create more stringent rules.