When people imagine Colorado, they might think of stunning landscapes and fresh mountain air. They probably don’t conjure an image of congested highways, smoggy skies, and alarming rates of health conditions like asthma. Yet for many people in the state, the second image is just as much of a reality as a first. For all its natural beauty, Colorado is plagued by issues with air quality, and a big part of the problem is large trucks and buses that emit dangerous pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.
When it comes to the health impacts of this pollution, low-income and Black, Indigenous, and Latine communities are disproportionately in harm’s way. The legacy of racist policies around zoning and highway construction means that major highways are most often located near these communities; for example, according to the Colorado Latino Climate Justice Policy Handbook, 69% of all highway miles in Colorado are in counties with the highest Latino populations.
Colorado’s air quality regulators are currently considering a critical solution to this problem: two new rules that would help reduce air pollution from large trucks. The Heavy-Duty Omnibus rule would significantly reduce pollution from new heavy-duty combustion engines by strengthening the standards for toxic emissions. And the Advanced Clean Trucks rule further reduces harmful pollutants—particularly greenhouse gasses—by requiring auto manufacturers to sell a minimum percentage of zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. These sales requirements vary by vehicle class and increase gradually over time.