The Colorado Automobile Dealers Association sued a state agency Tuesday, seeking to overturn recently adopted vehicle emission regulations based on California standards.
The dealership group charges that the state’s Air Quality Control Commission violated constitutional requirements and skipped steps in the rule-making process by reaching a predetermined outcome based on an executive order issued last year by then-Gov. John Hickenlooper.
In November, Colorado adopted vehicle emission rules incorporating California standards, after an order by Hickenlooper aimed at reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“The Commission seemed to have made its mind up before this rule-making process even started, rapidly pushing through this complex rule that will cost our state and citizens billions of dollars without taking the necessary time to fully evaluate its impacts,” the dealers’ group said in a news release. “Unfortunately, it is Colorado’s consumers who will ultimately pay the price for this misguided decision.”
Citing a figure produced by the Trump administration, the dealers said the rule would add more than $2,000 average to the cost of new vehicles in Colorado.
“This is hard-earned cash that most Coloradans will not recover and will have the biggest negative impact on working families and the economically disadvantaged,” the dealers said. “Rather than trust the citizens of our state to choose the vehicles they need and want to drive safely in Colorado’s unique conditions, the Commission has concluded that California’s regulators, not Coloradans, should decide what vehicles must be bought and sold in our state.”
State officials came up with a different number, however, maintaining that under the new rule, the average price of a new vehicle in 2025 will be $1,138 higher. But car owners will save as much as $1,682 on fuel and other maintenance costs, officials said, amounting to a net savings.
Federal and California standards are identical, with increasingly strict emission limits imposed on manufacturers through 2025. But the Trump administration has proposed freezing federal standards starting with the 2021 model.
For decades, California has been the only state with a waiver under the federal Clean Air Act allowing it to impose tougher standards. Under federal law, states are only allowed to operate under federal standards or adopt those set by California.
Colorado’s move was designed to establish “a cost-effective and sensible backstop for Colorado in the event of a federal rollback,” the commission said when it voted to incorporate the California rules. Another 12 states, mostly in the Northeast, and the District of Columbia have also adopted the California standards.
In their lawsuit, the auto dealers argue that dealerships will no longer be able to trade inventory with dealers in neighboring states under the new rule, substantially increasing transaction costs and overall prices of new vehicles sold in Colorado. Because costs will be higher in Colorado, the lawsuit maintains, state residents will simply buy their new vehicles in nearby states.
The lawsuit also contends that the state violated a requirement when officials failed to calculate how much tax revenue will be lost if the regulation reduces fuel sales by an anticipated 1.6 billion gallons.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment had no comment on the lawsuit, a spokeswoman said.
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