Colorado Agrees to Compromise With Automakers on Electric Vehicle Rule

Colorado Agrees to Compromise With Automakers on Electric Vehicle Rule
As Colorado regulators consider adopting a rule that would require car manufacturers to sell more electric vehicles, state officials and industry groups have agreed on a compromise that could give automakers more flexibility in meeting its requirements.

Will Toor, director of the Colorado Energy Office, told lawmakers today, July 29, that his office had reached an agreement with automaker groups on a “compromise approach” to the proposed Zero Emissions Vehicle rule.

“Our collaborative efforts in Colorado build on months of hard work and discussion,” Toor said in a statement issued late Monday. “The result of having the two major associations of automobile manufacturers supporting our resulting joint alternative regulatory proposal is unprecedented and a testament to the success of our careful analysis and collaboration.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Air Quality Control Commission launched the ZEV rulemaking earlier this year, following an executive order signed by Governor Jared Polis in January. Modeled on a rule enacted by California and at least ten other states, the ZEV standard requires automakers to sell a certain number of electric vehicles as a percentage of their overall sales within a state, subject to a complex system of credits that can be traded and "banked."

The Colorado agreement, outlined in a joint filing to the AQCC by the Energy Office and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers, “will accelerate availability of ZEV options for Colorado consumers beginning next January while also ensuring a smooth transition into the program for automakers,” state officials said Monday. It would make several modifications to the ZEV credit system, and includes incentives for automakers to sell more EVs beginning in January 2020, two years earlier than the date that federal law allows the ZEV mandate to go into effect.

Automaker groups had previously lobbied state officials to consider a "voluntary" alternative to the ZEV rule, pledging to make more EV models available in Colorado as the state continues its push to reduce climate-altering greenhouse gas emission from the transportation sector. But despite a month of negotiations, officials in June rejected the proposed alternative and said they would move forward with the full ZEV rule.

At the time, Toor, CDPHE director Jill Ryan, and Colorado Department of Transportation director Shoshana Lew issued a joint statement that read, in part: “Despite good faith efforts by all parties, we were unable to reach agreement on a voluntary approach that could be considered as a potential alternative to the zero emission vehicle (ZEV) standard. However, we believe the insights we have gained will inform and benefit the rulemaking process, as well as our implementation strategy, so we can see more zero emission vehicles move from the factory floor to dealer showrooms to customers all across Colorado."

The compromise announced Monday would augment the ZEV rule rather than replace it. State regulators at the AQCC are expected to continue to move forward with the ZEV rulemaking process, with a public hearing scheduled for next month.

“The electric vehicle market is maturing rapidly as automakers invest in more electrified models," Lew said in a statement Monday. "This agreement will ensure that Coloradans have access to the range of clean car choices that are increasingly available to consumers in other states."

Reducing emissions from transportation will be a crucial part of the state's efforts to meet its new climate goals. Transportation emissions make up about 22 percent of Colorado's overall total, and have continued to rise even as progress has been made in sectors like electricity generation. That will need to change quickly if the state is to meet the targets outlined in House Bill 1261; enacted this year, it commits Colorado to an emissions cut of 26 percent by 2025 and a 50 percent cut by 2030.

The CEO's Colorado Electric Vehicle plan, released in 2018, set a goal of putting nearly one million electric vehicles on the road by 2030, or about 15 percent of all light-duty vehicles in the state.

Update, 7/29: This story has been updated with details of the agreement announced by CEO and CDOT late Monday.
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Chase Woodruff is a staff writer at Westword interested in climate change, the environment and money in politics.
Contact: Chase Woodruff