DENVER—Colorado has become the 13th state, along with the District of Columbia, to adopt low-emission vehicle standards based on those of California, increasing the challenge for auto makers facing the prospect of a bifurcated car market as the Trump administration tries to weaken federal fuel efficiency standards.
On Nov. 16, the state's Air Quality Control Commission approved the new emissions standards for light- and medium-duty motor vehicles sold in Colorado beginning with the 2022 model year. It said the new rules would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 2 million tons per year by 2030.
The Colorado Automobile Dealers Association criticized the decision as a misguided interference in the free market that limits consumers' choice.
"This will add a $2,110 tax to the sticker price of average new vehicles in Colorado, a tax that will be even higher on the SUVs and trucks that Coloradans prefer," CEO Tim Jackson said in a statement.
"The Commission seemed to have made its mind up before this rulemaking process even started, rapidly pushing though this complex rule that will cost our state and citizens billions of dollars without taking the necessary time to fully evaluate its impacts."
In June, Gov. John Hickenlooper ordered the Department of Public Health and Environment and its air pollution component to establish a low-emission vehicle program based on California's requirements.
"I applaud the commitment of the Air Quality Control Commission and the Air Pollution Control Division to protect the quality of our air and safeguard against returning to the days of the 'brown cloud,'?" Hickenlooper said in a statement Nov. 16.
California first adopted its low-emission vehicle standards in 1990 under its authority under the Clean Air Act to set its own rules for air pollution. Other states can opt in to those standards in lieu of federal standards, but can't go beyond them. Currently, federal and California standards are equivalent because of the deal brokered by the Obama administration in 2010. Under both sets of rules, the greenhouse gas emission limits become increasingly more stringent through the 2025 model year. The Trump administration has proposed freezing the standards at the 2020 model year level and rescinding California's power to follow its own path on clean cars.
The federal EPA and NHTSA are expected to publish a final rule next year after reviewing thousands of public comments. At least 18 states, as well as localities and environmental groups are expected to immediately challenge any final rule that sticks to the administration's preferred option, making it difficult for automakers to plan how to build vehicles.
If the federal rules are implemented, but California's special authority remains, the industry could face the prospect of engineering vehicles for two markets—40 percent of the nation that follows California's standards and the rest that falls under federal standards—or not selling certain models in many states.