From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):
Victims testified left and right at the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission hearing on Wednesday.
Gov. Jared Polis directed the commission to consider adopting provisions of the California zero emission vehicle standard. This would require vehicle manufacturers to increase the number of electric vehicles delivered to Colorado for sale beginning in 2023. With more variety, according to the thinking, consumers will be more likely to purchase electric vehicles.
Why electric vehicles? Two good reasons.
One is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Colorado has adopted aggressive goals of GHG reduction. The second reason is to reduce precursors of the ground-level ozone that blankets the northern Front Range from Denver to Fort Collins and Greeley on hot summer days. This area is out of attainment with federal standards.
The standards are based on adverse health impacts. A new study has found that air pollution— especially ozone—can accelerate the progression of emphysema of the lung. Researchers found that bad air pollution can have as much impact as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
The Denver-based Regional Air Quality Council testified why electric cars will help the metropolitan area to improve air quality. What the agency calls “on-road mobile sources” contribute 31% of nitrogen oxides and 16% of volatile organic compounds, two contributors to ozone pollution.
Local government groups—including representatives of both Eagle County and Aspen—as well as environmental advocacy groups testified why they supported the ZEV standard.
Then, as the afternoon wore on, two groups with very different opinions took turns at the microphones. First was a collection of groups collectively called the Environmental Justice Coalition. Several identified themselves as being from along Interstate 70 as it passes through Globeville and other communities north of downtown Denver, east of Interstate 25. One woman, speaking in Spanish, which was interpreted, told about the injustice of sending her children to an elementary school there, near the intersection of the two interstate highways, and the pollution from the vehicles that caused harmful health effects such as asthma.
They opposed the widening of I-70, what one speaker, Drew Dutcher, called a 20th century solution to a 21st century problem. They lost that battle. But Dutcher suggested that electric vehicles will reduce the pollution to low-income areas such as his.
Ean Tafoya, from the Colorado Latino Forum, broadened that thought to include those who live along all busy highways. He said that Polis had visited poorer Latino communities and said that prioritizing public health was a high priority. “That’s what makes this an environmental justice issue,” he said.
Then came a group called Freedom to Drive Coalition. It includes Mesa County, Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, Colorado Motor Carriers Association, Colorado Wheat Growers, Colorado Petroleum Association, and others.
They reject mandates and argued that electric vehicles will be subsidized by purchasers of internal combustion engines, a cost one speaker said would amount to $500 per vehicle. They argued that upper- and middle-class residents of metropolitan Denver as well as places like Aspen would be burdening Colorado’s rural residents.
Elise Jones, a Boulder County commissioner who is also on the Air Quality Control Commission, asked the wheat industry representative if wheat farmers were worried about the effects of climate change. They were worried, he replied, but that was a long-term threat, whereas earning a profit on next year’s crop was an immediate concern. Wheat growers only make money in one out of five years, he said.
The testimony went on and on, and as the afternoon grew long, John Medved, talked. “I have never had anyone tell me they are going on a mountain adventure with an electric car except maybe in the summer,” he said.
Medved also shared this detail: He makes only $400 when sale of a car. All of his significant profits come from other arms of his car dealerships.
It’s perhaps useful to note here that electric vehicles have a reputation of requiring much less maintenance than internal combustion engines, because they have few or no moving parts. As such, they don’t need to be returned to a dealer or some other mechanic for servicing.
What was hard to digest was the argument that rural Colorado would be forced to subsidize urban Colorado. “Simple economics,” one of the Freedom to Drive Coalition. He tried to explain, but the explanation was completely lost on me. Those simple economics also overlook the projections that electric vehicles will reach price parity with internal-combustion engines by 2024-2027.
The Freedom folks also testified that accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles in Colorado will simultaneously raise the price of electricity and raise the price of diesel. Perhaps cause dandruff and bad breath, too?
As I write this, late Thursday afternoon, more than two days after testimony began, the testimony and the questions continue. By the time you read this, a decision will probably have been rendered by the Air Quality Control Commission.
The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission did pass the standards. Air Quality Control Commission adopts a zero-emission vehicle standard (Jessica Bralish):
The new standard will provide Coloradans with more vehicle choices
DENVER: The Air Quality Control Commission adopted a zero-emission vehicle standard for Colorado early today in an 8-1 decision. The move is directly aligned with the commission’s mission to achieve the cleanest air practical in every part of the state.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is pursuing aggressive strategies to reduce ozone pollution as quickly as possible, as the state continues to work to meet the federal ozone pollution standard. Fossil-fuel vehicles are a major source of ozone pollution, along with the oil and gas industry. Ozone pollution can cause asthma and other adverse symptoms. Fossil-fuel vehicles also emit greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.
“We are charged up and ready to roll,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the department’s executive director. “The adoption of the zero-emission vehicle standard is a clear demonstration of our unrelenting commitment to making sure every Coloradan has clean air to breathe.”
John Putnam, environmental programs director at the department, said, “We are committed to a state where Coloradans can zip up into the mountains in a zero-emitting vehicle and go for a hike without coughing and wheezing from ozone. It’s what Coloradans rightfully expect and deserve. We’ve made a lot of progress on cleaning up our air over the past several years, but the standards are getting more stringent. We have to rise to the challenge.”
The new zero-emission standard requires automakers to sell more than 5 percent zero-emission vehicles by 2023 and more than 6 percent zero-emission vehicles by 2025. The standard is based on a matrix of credits given for each electric vehicle sold, depending on the vehicle’s zero-emission range.
The new requirement does not mandate consumers to purchase electric vehicles, but experts say it will result in manufacturers selling a wider range of models in Colorado, including SUVs and light trucks.
“The zero-emission standard does not compel anyone to buy an electric vehicle, said Garry Kaufman, director of the Air Pollution Control Division at the department. “It only requires manufacturers to increase ZEV sales from 2.6 percent to 6.23 percent. It’s a modest proposal in the face of a critical threat. Where the federal government refuses to act, states must lead. Time is of the essence.”
The Air Quality Control Commission prioritizes stakeholder engagement and public input.
The commission invited public comment at various hours of the day and evening, and also invited remote testimony by telephone to make it easier for those who could not travel to the Front Range. The commission’s decision came after a robust public comment period, as well as significant written and oral testimony from parties providing information on all aspects of the standard.
“The commission was impressed by the overwhelming amount of public support for electric vehicles from urban and rural areas throughout the state,” said Trisha Oeth, the department’s director of environmental boards and commissions. “They noted that the public want these vehicles, want them more quickly, and want more choices.”