Colorado Attorney General And Environmental Advocates Want To Hit The Brakes On Federal Rollback Of Car Emissions Standards

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David Zalubowski/AP
Heavy traffic moves eastbound along Colfax Avenue Monday, July 27, 2020, in Lakewood, Colo.

Environmental advocates joined Colorado state officials in a virtual press conference to speak out against the Trump administration's rollback of vehicle emissions standards.

"What has been proposed is to pull the rug out from under us, not to give us the choice that has been part of our Clean Air Act regime for a very long time," said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.

The Clean Air Act allows California to seek a wavier to set its own higher standards for fuel economy, because of the state's history with poor air quality. This wavier allows other states to adopt California's higher standards over the federal ones, which Colorado has.

But President Donald Trump revoked California's preemption wavier, because of California's influence on automakers. He said a single federal emissions standard would make cars more affordable and safer.

The move has lead to a multistate lawsuit against the changes, which Colorado has joined.

"It is beyond thinkable that we would have a preemption of our state authority, because since 1978 states have been given a choice," Weiser said. "We opted into that wavier, that's part of our clean air planning."

The administration has also introduced a new rule, that would replace Obama-era emissions standards. Those would have required new vehicles to have an average fuel economy of 36 miles-per-gallon by 2026. The new rule reduces that to less than 31 miles-per-gallon.

At the press conference, Weiser said the rollback is a challenge to science and the rule of law.

"We have wildfires that as we can see from this year, are getting worse because of climate change. And we know that carbon emissions, including from automobiles is a big part of this picture. We can do something about this," Weiser said. "We already have done something about it, and we're now fighting to keep it in place."

Ean Thomas Tafoya, a field organizer for Green Latinos, which hosted the event, shared how poor air quality and pollution impact his community.

"When I'm out in the field, whether it's here or in Pueblo or in Grand Junction, we understand that we have to make this leap because we're the ones that are being impacted now," Tafoya said. "As the temperatures increase outside, how are outdoor workers, whether they're farm workers or construction workers, are going to be able to handle the heat?"

Tafoya said that rolling back clean car standards "puts us further away from fulfilling the human right to clean air for all."