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Opinion: Keeping up with California on vehicle emissions standards will cost Coloradans dearly

Few Coloradans are aware that at Gov. John Hickenlooper’s behest, the state’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) is hurriedly creating a regulation that will raise the prices of light trucks and SUV’s while requiring state lawmakers to greatly expand taxpayer subsidies for the purchase of electric vehicles.

With public attention understandably focused on several controversial November ballot initiatives and campaign season in full fury, this overreach of regulatory power is flying under the radar. No doubt that suits Hickenlooper and his ambitious regulators just fine.

This sellout of Colorado motorists and state sovereignty began June 19, when Hickenlooper issued an executive order that set Colorado on a path to adopt, literally and verbatim, California’s Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV) standards.

Only a handful of other states, all of them coastal states with very different geography and climate than Colorado, have adopted those costly California vehicle emissions standards.

Sen. Vicki Marble

But our governor is very unhappy that those California emission standards and sales mandates are being terminated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. He is ordering Colorado to help fight California’s battle with EPA.

That June executive order was bad enough, but things promptly got much worse when Hickenlooper’s handpicked regulators at the AQCC went rogue on Aug. 16 by initiating the adoption of California’s even more radical and costly Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandates.

That action was supposedly based on comments the commission heard from organized green groups at the August meeting, despite the fact that there was no mention of ZEV in the executive order and no mention of ZEV rulemaking on the August meeting agenda.

Folks, there’s a credibility gap here as wide as the Grand Canyon.

Did I mention that if Colorado “adopts” California’s LEV and ZEV rules, we are forever tied to California’s rules? When California makes any change in those rules, under federal law Colorado must immediately make the identical changes — with no possibility of review or tinkering by the legislature or the governor. How do you spell PUPPET?

But, hey, so what? Why should Coloradans care what state regulators are doing to promote electric vehicle sales with or without the governor’s blessing? Will it affect the average family’s pocketbook or daily life?

You better believe it.

Coloradans will soon wake up to government-engineered price increases on millions of new pickups and SUVs and a multibillion-dollar expansion of taxpayer subsidies for electric vehicles.

Over 200,000 Coloradans purchase new vehicles annually, and in 2018, 75 percent of new vehicles purchased in Colorado are light trucks and SUV’s (compared to only 53 percent in California).

According to automotive industry experts, if you are among the one million Coloradans who will want to trade their older pickup truck or SUV for a newer one between 2021 and 2026, when these new ZEV mandates take full effect, you will be paying from $4,000 to $6,000 more than you would have paid without these new rules.

You will be seeing those new vehicle price increases while you are simultaneously helping pay for an expanded $5,000 state tax credit for electric vehicle purchases. That’s because the radical increase in electric vehicle sales can only be accomplished though government-mandated, taxpayer-financed “incentives.”

What will this cost Colorado taxpayers? Although the existing tax credit was claimed by less than 2 percent of new vehicle buyers in 2017, that will change dramatically if Colorado adopts the California ZEV sales mandates.

Those new mandates are needed to advance the governor’s goal of 940,000 electric vehicles on Colorado highways by the year 2030. That target will require electric vehicles to be 9 percent of all sales by 2025 — a 600 percent increase over 2017 sales.

Do the math. If 900,000 electric vehicle purchasers claim all or a substantial part of that $5,000 tax credit over the decade 2021-30, that “sales incentive” will cost Colorado up to $4.5 billion in lost general fund revenues.

That relatively small $16.3 million loss to the General Fund in 2016 will mushroom to over $100 million very quickly. That does not include the tens of millions that will be needed annually to subsidize hundreds of state highway electric vehicle charging stations after the Volkswagen settlement money runs out.

What can be done? Sadly, when a state agency’s rogue rulemaking is endorsed and even celebrated by a legacy-hungry governor, it means judges and courts likely will have the last word on the matter, not citizens, stakeholders or their elected lawmakers.

Author: Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, serves Senate District 23 in the Colorado General Assembly. @VickiMarble
First appeared here in THE COLORADO SUN.

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