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Colorado Resists Pruitt’s Polluting Agenda by Adopting California Emissions Standards

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U.S. Highway 50 in Colorado. Doug Kerr / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Colorado joined 12 other states and the District of Columbia in adopting California's stricter vehicle emissions standards Tuesday, The Denver Post reported.


Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an executive order calling on the state to adopt low-emissions vehicle standards by 2025 and to begin drafting the standards in time to start implementing them by the end of 2018. Hickenlooper said in a statement that the move would help reduce air pollution, which poses a greater risk at Colorado's high altitudes, and be in line with the state's commitment to fighting climate change.

"Our communities, farms and wilderness areas are susceptible to air pollution and a changing climate," his order said. "It's critical for Coloradans' health and Colorado's future that we meet these challenges head-on," The Associated Press reported.

Colorado's move is necessitated by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt's announcement in April that the agency would reduce national emissions standards through 2025. California has a waiver under the Clean Air Act to adopt stricter emissions standards than the rest of the country, and other states can choose to adopt them as well. But during the Obama era, the national government's standards were strict enough that California and the other states following its lead were willing to accept them, meaning that automakers only had to make cars for one national set of standards. Pruitt's decision changed that.

Now, Colorado is invoking the Clean Air Act to adopt California's standards as well, saying it will help the state to meet its 2030 target for lowering greenhouse gas emissions, The Denver Post reported.

The move makes Colorado one of the few non-coastal states to adopt California's rules. Both New Mexico and Arizona took on the California standards, but later reversed their decisions, according to The Denver Post.

"This is really daring on the governor's part to put a mountain state in the mix of the coastal states," CEO and president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association Tim Jackson told The Denver Post. "It has never been tried and I'm not sure how much it will cost consumers."

Jackson said he was concerned that Colorado was allowing another state, that tested air quality under different conditions, to set its standards, but environmental activists applauded the decision.

"Adopting clean-car standards means fewer bad-air days and a better quality of life for citizens across our state," Environment Colorado Director Garrett Garner-Wells told The Denver Post.

This isn't the first time that Colorado has stepped up to represent non-coastal states in the fight against climate change. Two Colorado counties and the city of Boulder became the first inland municipalities to sue oil companies for damages incurred by rising temperatures in April.

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