Colorado will fight Trump administration’s rollback to vehicle emissions standards

Emissions from trucks and vehicles are the nation's largest source of planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions

Traffic congestion on I-25 northbound. (Photo by John Herrick)
Traffic congestion on I-25 northbound. The Trump administration finalized new rules on March 31, 2020 to rollback vehicle emissions standards. (Photo by John Herrick)

Colorado’s Attorney General Phil Weiser said on Tuesday he plans to sue the Trump administration over its new rule undoing Obama-era vehicle emissions standards. 

The planned multi-state lawsuit adds to about two dozen already planned or filed against the Trump administration, which in the last three years has sought to undo about 100 environmental protections in the U.S. aimed at reducing planet-warming and toxic emissions. 

“The administration’s rollback of clean car standards will harm public health and air quality,” Weiser said in a statement on Tuesday. “It rejects science, innovation, and the American problem-solving spirit, leaving America to trail the world in this important frontier.” 

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser on Oct. 23, 2019. (Photo by John Herrick)

The new rule seeks to weaken regulations aimed at making cars and trucks more fuel-efficient. The Obama-era rules, first issued in 2009 and updated in 2012, required new vehicles to average about 54 miles per gallon by 2025. The Trump rule drops the 2025 vehicle efficiency requirement to 40 miles per gallon for new cars and trucks. 

“Bottom line: This final rule will save lives, reduce pollution and provide significant benefits to the American economy,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former oil and gas lobbyist, said in a tweet on Tuesday. 

Cars and trucks are the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. In Colorado, they are the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after electricity generation, about half of which comes from burning coal. The new rules will generate about a billion more tons of carbon dioxide by 2040, environmental analysts estimate

Environmentalists also say the Trump administration’s new rule will increase costs to consumers at the pump. So, too, did EPA’s draft environmental assessment. 

In an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and toxic ozone formation, Colorado in 2018 adopted new vehicle emissions standards that align with those in California. In 2019, air quality regulators also adopted a zero-emission standard requiring that at least 5% of vehicles sold after 2023 be electric. 

But backers of the Trump administration’s new rule said it will help drive down the cost of new automobiles. 

“We are absolutely for clean air,” said Matthew Groves, a board member with the Freedom to Drive Coalition, which is suing the state over its 2019 zero-emissions rules in the Denver District Court. “At the end of the day, electric vehicles are great for the people who can afford them.” 

In September last year, Colorado joined California in a lawsuit asserting the states’ power to set more stringent vehicle emissions standards than those set by the federal government. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, will likely end up being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.


  1. I agree that vehicle emissions and pollutants can negatively affect our health, but do you understand what would happen if the government didn’t relax the EPA laws right now? Refineries make summer and winter fuel blends to reduce emissions during cold and hot weather – every state has their own blend regulations based on their weather. Refineries currently have a surplus of winter blends because movement across the US has slowed down due to Covid. They have no additional tanks or free resources to refine crude into summer blends. If the government didn’t relax EPA regulations. there would be a massive shortage of fuel across the US until refineries could start producing winter fuels again – sometime in late fall. How would that affect delivery services? What about freight delivery services? What about the necessary movement for essential workers? What if doctors couldn’t get to work because they didn’t have fuel? It’s not a good solution because it is not healthy, but what alternative do we have?

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