California vehicle standards won’t work in Colorado

State Senator Ray Scott

As a defender of Colorado’s working families, I recognize that Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ mandate to adopt California’s low-emission vehicle and zero emission vehicle (ZEV) standards affects this population the most.

Here’s a little history on these extreme environmental emission standards. Gov. Polis has aggressively pressed ZEV efforts since taking power in January, adding even more radical environmental policies and regulations alongside the previous administration’s efforts to adopt California’s way of doing things. In January, the governor’s first executive order directed the state to begin ZEV rulemaking in April and adopt the California ZEV rules by Oct. 30.

The fact is, most Coloradans will not purchase a brand-new Tesla or electric Audi or Jaguar and therefore collect the associated $7,500 federal tax rebate. Out of necessity, more than 80 percent of vehicle purchases in most rural Colorado counties are trucks and sports utility vehicles.

There has so far been only one hearing on this major rule change, which would have wide-ranging effects on Coloradans across the state, pushing benefits that exclude the many in favor of the few.

Under federal EPA rules, when another state uses federal law to adopt the California LEV or ZEV emission standards, it adopts them in total. Colorado would take on California standards no matter how clearly the transportation and environmental needs of our state differ from the “Golden State.”

A copy-and-paste mandate from California won’t fly in Colorado because — news flash to our governor and his like-minded friends in Boulder and Denver -— this isn’t California. Legislation should reflect and represent the people. The California emission standards were written and developed for the densely populated coastal urban areas that birthed them, where 60 percent of the population lives within 40 miles of the ocean and 90 percent live at an elevation of under 1,000 feet. In Colorado, both of those proportions are zero. California emission rules don’t take Colorado’s driving conditions into account, where travel distances, extreme weather and terrain are vastly different from the sunny state for which they were tailor-made.

The California standards are designed specifically to incentivize people to buy smaller vehicles and electric cars rather than the larger gasoline- or diesel-powered trucks and SUVs that rural, hard-working families need. Not news to fellow Coloradoans, where the statewide average for four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive SUVs is 75 percent. Long-time residents of 21 rural Colorado counties — including Alamosa, Custer, Gilpin and Summit — will more likely recognize that number is over 85 percent. And in 10 counties, it’s more than 90 percent of vehicles. This doesn’t happen by accident. These choices stem from the real-world necessities of living in this beautiful state and its unique geography, climate and prodigious winters.

Artificial, California-style emission regulations will impose a disproportionate burden on rural Coloradans. For example, when rural dealerships can’t meet their quota of electric car sales, they’ll need to discount them heavily and/or buy credits and make up the difference by raising the price of the vehicles their customers really need, putting their businesses at risk.

The higher prices caused by electric vehicle (EV) mandates will lead people to hold onto older, higher-emitting vehicles longer, adding more pollutants to the air, not less.

Electric vehicles aren’t the environmental cure-all advocates would have you believe with the bespoke ability to reduce carbon emissions. EVs simply can’t be the most viable solution for reducing emissions in a state that relies on powerful vehicles to perform routine jobs or even just get to town in snow, mud or extreme weather.

Here’s hoping Gov. Polis remembers how many SUVs he and his family take to his favorite ski resort and he tries to see things through the lens of the real people these policies affect.

State Sen. Ray Scott, a Republican from Grand Junction, represents District 7 in the Colorado Legislature.