News outlets are reporting that President Donald Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt are expected to begin the process of rolling back national clean car standards in the coming days. These standards are widely supported, save Coloradans money at the gas pump, and reduce smog and toxic pollution.

“Trump and Pruitt are forcing EPA to review and reverse years of clean air policies, including the most effective safeguards to protect public health and cut carbon pollution,” said Noah Long, senior attorney with Natural Resources Defense Council. “Coloradans will be hurt by this rollback unless the state stands up to assert its right to clean air.”

Coloradans have saved $550 million at the pump since the federal government set standards in 2012 to double fuel efficiency for cars and light trucks by 2025. Under these standards, the average Colorado household would have seen $2,700 in savings by 2030—savings that won’t happen with this rollback.

This rollback will increase carbon emissions in Colorado by 3.9 million tons per year, undercutting Governor Hickenlooper’s goals to address our changing climate. Emissions of smog-causing air pollutants from vehicles would increase by about 15 percent, making it harder for places like Colorado’s Front Range to meet federal ozone standards that protect our health. For Coloradans, especially the 343,000 people who are living with asthma, more air pollution means more coughing and wheezing, increased risk of infection, and permanent damage to lung tissue.

“These rollbacks will cancel out nearly all of the climate benefits that will be provided by the governor’s executive order on climate,” said Will Toor, director of transportation programs for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. “They will also make it harder for Colorado to meet federal air quality standards and will force consumers to pay hundreds of millions of dollars a year in additional fuel costs. They will leave Colorado residents poorer and breathing dirtier air,”

“The federal clean car standards save Coloradans money every time we fuel up our cars and result in less air pollution every time we drive,” said Danny Katz, director of CoPIRG. “The Trump administration is taking action to make cars more inefficient, which will cost us at the pump and every time we step outside for some fresh air.”

With this federal rollback, states that have adopted their own standards will continue to enjoy the benefits of cheaper car travel and cleaner air, while other states will move backward with dirtier and less efficient vehicles. Conservation groups in Colorado are calling on the governor to take action so Colorado can continue to see the benefits of cleaner cars, even as federal protections are undone.

“Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt’s rollback of the clean car standards endangers our public health and environment and will stifle Colorado’s transition to the clean energy economy,” said Jim Alexee, Director of Sierra Club’s Colorado Chapter. “Governor Hickenlooper has advocated for having the cleanest air in the nation, and now he has an important opportunity to put Colorado in the fast lane to protect our health and climate, and to keep us from wasting money on gas.”

“These rollbacks will be devastating for our climate and our air,”  said Sophia Guerrero-Murphy, transportation advocate at Conservation Colorado.  “Governor Hickenlooper has committed to cleaning up Colorado’s air pollution, and to achieve that goal we need to see bold action in our state for clean transportation.”

Background:
These national emissions standards have benefited Colorado both in terms of cost savings and better air quality.

  • According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, no other federal policy is delivering as much oil savings, consumer benefits, and carbon emission reductions as the 2012 Federal Fuel Economy and Vehicle Emissions Standards.
  • Those states that have adopted the Advanced Clean Car standards will continue with their low emission vehicle standards (ten states in total). In other states, substantially dirtier and less efficient vehicles will be allowed to be sold.
  • These standards from the EPA pushed car manufacturers to make their cars more fuel efficient. For Colorado, that means the average on-road fuel economy of new cars and trucks in 2025 will be 37 mpg versus an average of 21 mpg from before these went into effect.
  • According to AAA, the average cost of owning and operating a vehicle in 2017 is $8,649. Because of the federal emissions standard, the average Colorado household would have seen $2,700 in savings by 2030 from lower gas bills.
  • Transportation is the #2 source of greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado, and the highest in the nation.
  • The greater Denver area ranked the 6th worst in the country for bad air days in 2015, and we are still in not in alignment with federal air quality safety regulations.

Written by Audrey Wheeler

Colorado’s population is growing. How can we support our increasing population with transportation systems that work?

As anyone who’s been stuck in traffic recently can tell you, Colorado has a transportation problem. Our roads are deteriorating, our highways are overcrowded, and our public transit options have frustrating limitations.

The big reason why we have these problems is that our population has been growing, increasing the demand on our transportation systems while funding for roads and public transit has remained stagnant.

The gas tax, which pays for our roads, has not been increased since 1991 and doesn’t rise with inflation. Colorado is ranked 29th among states in per capita funding for public transit. On average, states cover 24 percent of the costs of operating public transit; Colorado provides only 1 percent. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) estimates that we need $9 billion just to boost our transportation network to a level adequate to meet the needs of our state right now.

It’s no wonder our leaders — like Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran, Senate President Kevin Grantham, and Governor John Hickenlooper — agree that transportation funding is a top priority. Coloradans should have the freedom to get to where they need to go, and our state government has a responsibility to address these problems.

So why haven’t we agreed on a solution? Last year, a few decided the fate of many. In 2017, a bipartisan state bill (House Bill 1242) would have proposed a tax increase to voters to fund highways, local infrastructure projects, and bike, pedestrian, and transit options. Even this thoughtful, bipartisan effort that would have needed voter approval on the ballot did not make it out of the legislature. It was killed by a select group of Senate Republicans (read: The New “Kill” Committee).

This legislative session, we’ve seen ill-fated efforts at bonding measures to fix our transportation problems, but none have been the solution we need.

For a transportation solution to truly solve our problems, it must:

  • Be statewide and flexible. We want a system that provides funding to the whole state, addressing a full array of needs and creating flexible local funds.
  • Have a new, sustainable funding source. The general fund in Colorado alone cannot meet this need. While there may be some patches or band-aid solutions from the legislature, we will ultimately need an updated funding source. It’s worth repeating: CDOT estimates we need $9 billion just meet the transportation needs of our state right now.
  • Dedicate significant dollars to multi-modal (non-car) options. We need a system that works for all people, and that means all modes of getting around. This might mean funding for transit districts, sidewalks, shuttles for people who are disabled or elderly, rapid bus transit on highway corridors, and more. The system needs to move people, not just cars.

Time and again, the debate comes down to these problems. This year’s funding proposal is an irresponsible attempt to address this serious problem. It fails to meet criteria #2 and #3 above, prompting us to ask two questions:

Where’s the money coming from?

Some people seem to think the funding solution is easy and straightforward, that using existing resources to bond for transportation. But taking a bond (or loan) against our already narrow budget is not free money. Locking hundreds of millions of dollars into bonding without creating a new revenue source merely shifts the problem down the road to future generations. If Colorado is stuck making bond payments during another recession, we would need to cut other critical areas from the budget, which could mean less money for things like schools or health care. The general fund cannot be the only source of funding. Solutions for transportation can include bonding, but it should be done responsibly, with a new source of revenue to pay for it and in a way that does not mortgage our future.

How is it addressing our long-term needs?

We can’t have a transportation solution that doesn’t include funding for transit, bikes, and pedestrians. There are three reasons why:

First of all, transportation is a climate issue. The transportation sector is now the leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions nationally, surpassing the energy sector. In order to fight climate change, we must change the way we move.

Second, we need to boost transportation options if we want to get serious about reducing traffic. Widening highways doesn’t reduce congestion. When we add lanes to a highway, there is a short time during which congestion does drop – but studies show that within a few years, traffic is as bad as it was before the road was widened. Instead of focusing on highways alone, we need to focus on mobility, and providing different options for moving people — not just cars — is the best way to do that.

Third, we need transportation options because they are good for our economy, public health, and safety. Increasing walkability and bike-ability of neighborhoods boosts property values and increases revenues for local businesses. People who use public transit take 30 percent more steps per day than people who drive, meaning that more transportation options can improve public health in more ways than one. Transportation is one of the largest sources of air pollution, which is especially important in places like Colorado’s Front Range that suffer from ozone pollution and smog. Breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems, particularly for children, the elderly, and people of all ages who have lung diseases such as asthma.

We can’t keep arguing in circles about how to fund transportation. We need to agree on a new funding source that will prioritize flexible, statewide funding and invest in transit, bike, and pedestrian options as well as highways and roads.

Only then will we be sure that the Colorado of the future is a great place to live.

Conservation Organizations and Business Groups Commend Plan

Today Governor John Hickenlooper released Colorado’s Electric Vehicle Plan, which outlines a process to electrify the state’s transportation corridors and includes bold goals to further accelerate adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and ensure Colorado remains a leader in the EV market. This plan represents the next step for the Governor’s July executive order to support Colorado’s clean energy transition and make Colorado a climate leader.

Conservation groups applauded this plan for its goals of almost a million electric vehicles on the road, 500 electric buses, a larger network of charging stations by 2030, and attention to expanding electric vehicle access across the state and urban neighborhoods.

“We’re excited to see Governor Hickenlooper set bold goals for electric vehicles in Colorado. These actions will help cut down on harmful air pollution and move the state toward a healthier future, especially when paired with more renewable energy on our grid. We look forward to learning about the ambitious policies that will make this plan a reality,” said Sophia Guerrero-Murphy, Transportation and Energy Advocate at Conservation Colorado.

“Governor Hickenlooper is taking a bold step forward by setting a target of nearly a million electric vehicles on the road by 2030. This would save consumers over half a billion dollars a year in fuel costs, would drive down electricity rates, saving utility customers $50 million per year, and would have a major impact on cleaner air and lower carbon emissions. Colorado has already adopted the nation’s best tax credit for electric vehicles and begun investing in charging stations. But we will need to increase electric vehicle adoption by a factor of ten to meet this goal. We look forward to working with the state on the legislation, investments, and policies that will be needed,” said Will Toor, Transportation Program Director for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP).

“We need to eliminate pollution from cars, trucks, and buses. The best way to do that is to move to a 100% electric vehicle transportation system. We applaud Governor Hickenlooper for releasing a plan that highlights many of the steps we need to take. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get moving,” said Danny Katz, Director of CoPIRG (Colorado Public Interest Research Group).

“Colorado leads the nation with the highest tax credits for purchases of electric vehicles, and the EV plan sets the stage for the state to continue to position itself at the front of the pack in the transition to a clean energy economy,” said Matthew Shmigelsky from CLEER/Refuel Colorado.

“Encouraging the rapid transition to electric vehicles is an all-around win for our climate, our public health, and our economy. Coupled with Colorado’s transition to clean energy, electric vehicles offer the promise of 100 percent clean transportation as we move forward. The Colorado Sierra Club applauds Governor Hickenlooper for accelerating our transition to a 21st century clean transportation system,” said Jim Alexee, Director, Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter.

Due to tax credits, Colorado is the cheapest state in the country in which to buy an electric vehicle. As of August 2017, there were 11,238 electric vehicles in Colorado, according to the Zero Emission Vehicle Sales Dashboard.

Electric vehicles are already more efficient than traditional, gasoline engines. They have more power, fewer maintenance needs, and pollute less than a 35 mile per gallon gas car. As Colorado’s energy providers work to bring more renewable energy onto our grid, charging an electric vehicle will pollute less than a car that gets 88 miles per gallon in the next decade. This will result in fewer harmful toxins in our air for everyone.

About Conservation Colorado
Conservation Colorado protects Colorado’s environment and quality of life by mobilizing people and electing conservation-minded policymakers. Learn more at conservationco.org.

About SWEEP
SWEEP is a Colorado based advocacy organization that works to advance energy efficiency in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

About CoPIRG
CoPIRG Foundation is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education, and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety, or well-being.

About CLEER
Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER) develops and delivers creative clean energy programs and services for communities, governments, businesses, and households in western Colorado.

About Sierra Club
With 24,000 members and 80,000 supporters, the Colorado Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action.

Written by Emelie Frojen

1) MYTH: They’re incredibly expensive.


Fact: Colorado is the cheapest place in the U.S. to buy an Electric Vehicle.

First off, the United States government offers $7,500 in federal tax credits for purchasing an electric car. In addition to that, Colorado offers another $5,000 off at the time of the purchase, making it the cheapest state to get an electric vehicle. Colorado locales such as Fort Collins, Aurora, Durango, Garfield county, and Colorado Springs also have programs that offer discounts on electric vehicles. Our largest utility provider, Xcel, has partnered with Nissan to make many aspects of purchasing and owning an electric vehicle cheaper, including one year of free charging at public stations.

2. MYTH: Road trips are out of the question.


Fact: There are countless charging stations in both urban and rural Colorado.

Photo via Green Car Reports

Switching to an electric vehicle doesn’t mean you have give up weekend skiing or long summer road trips. With a little research and planning ahead, you’ll find that an electric vehicle can get you anywhere a gas-powered car can go. Websites like Plugshare are popping up all over the internet with tools to find charging stations that are fast and compatible with your car. They even have a trip planning tool so you can travel with ease. In addition to the ample amount of charging stations we have right now, the recent money Colorado received from a settlement with Volkswagen will be used to add around 600 new fast-charging stations to our state. These fast charging stations, referred to as “DC chargers,” charge electric vehicles for 170 miles in 30 minutes, making it easy to get around in an electric vehicle. On top of that, the tech industry has its sight set on improving charging stations as electric vehicles gain popularity.

3. MYTH: Electricity isn’t more sustainable than gasoline.


Fact: Colorado’s grid is getting greener, and so are electric vehicles.

Photo via High Plains Public Radio

An EV on the road today has dramatically lower emissions of the two pollutants that contribute to ozone pollution (a huge problem for Colorado): volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. They have 99 percent lower lifecycle emissions of volatile organic compounds and 63 percent lower life-cycle emissions of nitrogen oxides. Electric vehicles also emit 43 percent fewer greenhouse gases than the average gas-powered vehicle. On top of this, Xcel Energy just released a four-year plan, which will result in making renewable energy 50% of their energy mix in Colorado. Under this new energy plan, much of Colorado’s electricity mix will be so green that by 2026 an EV that you buy today will have greenhouse gas emissions as low as a car that gets 88 mpg! Even if our grid were was run entirely on oil, natural gas, and coal, electric vehicles still use two thirds less energy than gasoline vehicles.

4. MYTH: They put too much pressure on our electric grid.


Fact: The American grid is currently very well-equipped to handle millions of electric vehicles.

Photo via Nissan

It may seem like electric vehicles would increase demand for electricity so much that we could get a power shortage, but in reality, all of the peak power use in the U.S. comes during summer afternoons, when air conditioning units are turned on. Electric vehicles, on the other hand, are usually charged overnight when electricity use is at its lowest. A study done by Navigant Research found that we can add millions of electric cars to the current American grid without requiring any new power generation. This will help the grid operate more efficiently, which means that by 2030, for every additional EV added, utility customers in aggregate receive $630 in benefit.

5. MYTH: Electric vehicle batteries are dangerous to dispose of.


Fact: They’re easily recyclable into materials for solar and wind energy.

Photo via Green Car Reports

Even though electric vehicle batteries are safe for landfills, they won’t have to be put there. Lithium-ion batteries can be recycled for many uses- including solar and wind energy! They can also be made with recycled materials.

Photo via Vail Daily

In conclusion, there is no doubt that electric vehicles are our future and a critical piece to tackling growing clean energy in our state and country. They are more economical, emit fewer pollutants, and aren’t required to run on a limited resource. With that said, we still need to put policies in place that support the deployment of electric vehicles — join us and help us fight for them!

 

Header photo via wallhaven.

Contact: Jessica Goad 720-206-4235

This evening the Colorado state Senate Finance Committee voted down HB-1242, a bipartisan transportation funding bill. In response, Pete Maysmith, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado, stated:

It is extremely disappointing that just three Senate Republicans stood against the very tenants of TABOR and refused to let the people of Colorado vote on whether to tax themselves to improve our crumbling transportation system.

Coloradans from across the state weighed in and said they wanted a way to fix our roads and bridges, build safer sidewalks and routes to schools, and  invest in infrastructure to move people, not just cars.

We are committed to working with Senate and House leadership to continue to find solutions that allow Colorado to be prepared for future growth and changes. We thank Senator Grantham and Representative Duran for their tremendous efforts.

Senate President Kevin Grantham and House Speaker Crisanta Duran this evening announced H.B. 1242, a bill to fund transportation in Colorado. Pete Maysmith, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado, stated:

We are pleased to see Speaker Duran and President Grantham working together to develop legislation to address our long-standing transportation needs. While we’re still analyzing the details of the bill, we are encouraged by the significant amount of dedicated funding to multimodal transportation as well as provisions giving local governments the freedom and choice to spend money on these options.

As the second-fastest growing state in the nation, we must invest in modern transportation options, especially those that are designed to move people, not just cars. Coloradans across the state deserve a transportation system that reflects the future.

More information about multimodal options:

  • Dozens of local officials, from both sides of the aisle and from rural and urban communities, sent a letter to leadership last week urging “significant dedicated funding for multimodal transportation options.”
  • Multimodal options are critical to generating the public support needed to pass a measure should it come before voters. Recent polling from the Colorado Contractors Association found that more than 70 percent of voters say they are more likely to support a measure when told that it includes funding dedicated to multimodal options.
  • Multimodal options are severely underfunded (a recent study found Colorado is ranked 29th among states in per capita funding for transit, investing just one-twentieth of the national average).