Colorado Dealers Sue State Air Quality Control Commission Over New Emissions Rules

The decision may cost consumers $2,110 extra per vehicle sold

2019 Nissan LEAF Plus (e+)
New rules put forth by the Colorado Air Quality Control Emissions aim to reduce carbon emissions by 2 million tons by 2030.

The dealer association is suing the state agency over its decision to adopt California’s standards.

In November 2018, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission decided to adopt California’s low-emission vehicle standards. While some welcome the decision as the state aims to move away from internal combustion by 2040, others criticized the decision. On Monday, the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association (CADA) sued the state agency, stating it violated the state’s Administrative Procedures Act.

Colorado state capitol.

The Denver Post reports that CADA president Tim Jackson criticized the decision as being too hasty. “The Commission seemed to have made its mind up before this rulemaking process even started,” he said. “Unfortunately, it is Colorado’s consumers who will ultimately pay the price for this misguided decision.” Former governor John Hickenlooper signed an order in June 2018 for the Commission to conduct a rulemaking process that would follow California’s emission regulations. The rule is scheduled to take effect in 2022.

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A rushed decision?

Currently, states like California and Colorado have the authority to enact their own air quality regulations under the 1970 Clean Air Act. Since California adopted its own standards, 13 states and the District of Columbia have conformed to those stricter emission requirements. However, the Trump administration has proposed rolling back more aggressive fuel economy and emissions standards, and stripping California of its authority to set vehicle emissions targets in the state.

CADA alleges in its lawsuit that the Air Quality Control Commission rushed its decision without conducting impact studies or a cost-benefit analysis. Colorado state law sets forth timelines by which agencies are required to set hearings, conduct analyses, and allow for public feedback before enacting a new rule or amendment. The association argued this rule would add $2,110 to the sticker price of new vehicles in the state, and may be even more for SUVs and trucks.

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Colorado’s market leans much more heavily toward SUVs and trucks than states like California, according to the CADA.

Colorado’s automotive landscape

Matthew Groves, counsel for the CADA, said this decision failed to factor in the nature of Colorado’s automotive market. He stated that in California, 53 percent of vehicles are trucks and SUVs. In Colorado, that figure is much higher, at 75 percent.

There are other organizations, like Ceres, a nonprofit working with corporate interests and investors on environmental issues, who argue this decision won’t negatively impact the market. The Denver Post quotes Carol Lee Rawn, senior director of transportation at Ceres. “All the vehicles now will still be available. They’ll just be more fuel efficient. It’s hard to see how that’s not a win for the consumer,” she said. Under the new proposed rules, manufacturers would be required to hit higher fuel economy targets to avoid high fees imposed on vehicles they sell in the state.

Colorado’s new governor, Jared Polis, also issued an order on low-emissions vehicles this month. With it, he ordered state agencies to prepare a new rule that follows California’s lead implementing quotas on zero-emission vehicle sales in Colorado.

Editor’s Note: Since this is happening in our own back yard, we intend to follow this story closely. We know a large portion of vehicles in Colorado are trucks and SUVs, so any decision that may seriously impact sales in the state shouldn’t be taken lightly. We’ll provide more updates on this story as they’re made available.