Arguing that the Polis administration’s unnecessary delay in considering new rules to clean up truck pollution will only lead to more harm to families and communities in disproportionately impacted areas of Colorado, a coalition of environmental justice, conservation, local government and other groups today formally petitioned the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to consider an Advanced Clean Trucks rule and a low NOx rule this spring.
“There simply is no good reason to delay consideration of these rules, and plenty of good reasons why the AQCC should act this spring,” said Ean Thomas Tafoya, the Colorado director of GreenLatinos. “Frontline communities made it clear before COVID that these toxics were of the highest priority. The deadly impacts of truck diesel pollution were made more clear during COVID. We must act quickly on many fronts, and today we reassert that we will use every tool available to us to ensure our right to clean air and a livable future.”
“Black, Brown and Indigenous families and neighborhoods in Colorado suffer disproportionately from the negative health effects of dirty trucks driving and idling near homes and businesses. Cleaning up truck pollution is good environmental policy, good social justice policy and good economic policy,” said Wendy Howell of the Colorado Working Families Party. “Delay is simply unacceptable.”
The coalition challenging the Polis administration delay includes GreenLatinos, Colorado Working Families Party, Mi Familia Vota, NAACP Denver, and Womxn from the Mountain (collectively the “Environmental Justice Coalition”); Conservation Colorado; Environmental Defense Fund; Natural Resources Defense Council; Sierra Club; Western Resource Advocates; and Boulder County. The petition was filed by Earthjustice.
At issue is how quickly the state of Colorado joins several other states in adopting an Advanced Clean Truck (ACT) rule, which would require manufacturers to sell a certain, and increasing, percentage of electric trucks in Colorado, and also adopting a Low-Nitrogen Oxides Omnibus (Low-NOx) rule, which would require fossil fuel powered trucks to burn cleaner. These rules would help clean up tailpipe pollution from medium and heavy duty trucks, delivery vans, buses and school buses. The state has already adopted zero and low emission rules for cars and light trucks.
Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles are the second-largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the transportation sector in the state, contributing 22% of on-road GHG emissions, despite comprising less than 10% of Colorado vehicles. They are also a significant contributor to emissions that lead to high ozone levels, Nitrogen Oxides and Particulate Matter (NOx and PM) that have serious impacts on air quality and human health. These vehicles contribute about 30% of on-road NOx emissions and 40% of on-road PM emissions. Communities along major highways like I-70, I-25 and I-270, and those near warehouses and railyards, often referred to as “diesel death zones,” bear the brunt of these high emission levels because of high truck traffic.
“Further delays to moving towards a clean truck solution invalidates the environmental justice needed now for disproportionately impacted communities harmed by cumulative impacts of pollution and environmental racism. The policy can not only restore our communities but finally address equity with the health and safety our future generations deserve,” said Renée M. Chacon, co founder/executive director of Womxn from the Mountain.
“BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities have long had to bear the brunt of environmental hazards through racist redlining which forced our neighborhoods into the most polluted areas of the state. There is finally an opportunity for change along the highways and major streets which are often found near our communities as well. This means clean air through ACT is a must, this year, without any further delay. BIPOC communities deserve to finally have environmentally safe livelihoods,” argued Katara Burrola with Mi Familia Vota.
“Colorado must not further delay pollution reductions from trucks and other large vehicles across the state that account for a significant portion of the transportation sector’s emissions,” said Michael Hiatt, a senior attorney with Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountain office. “We know the impact these vehicles have on communities across our state, particularly low-income families and communities of color. There is no excuse for this failure to deliver for the people who need these new rules urgently.”
Added Sarah Clark, lead organizer for Colorado Sierra Club, “It’s imperative that the air quality control commission expedite the Advanced Clean Trucks and the Low-Nox rulemaking and get us on track to meeting the state’s climate reduction obligations. The longer we wait to pass these rules, the longer disproportionately impacted communities and our environment suffer. The time to act is now.”
The coalition asserts that the Commission should not delay the ACT and Low-NOx rulemaking for several reasons. First, postponing the rulemaking hearing until 2023 would delay when the rules could go into effect in Colorado by one year, delaying air pollution and climate benefits and is contrary to the Commission’s equity and environmental justice obligations.
Second, the Commission has recently abandoned and delayed other rulemakings that would reduce pollution from the transportation sector and benefit disproportionately impacted communities, including a plan to give commuters different options and another to reduce GHG emissions from large industrial polluters. All of this delay puts the state further behind the Governor’s own plan to limit the impacts of climate change — making expedited action on the ACT and low NOx rules even more imperative.
Third, the delay will put Colorado a year behind other states in implementing these rules. Manufacturers sell vehicles where rules are in place, so buyers will have fewer choices than other states.
“The Marshall Fire has made it clear that Coloradans are already experiencing the devastating impacts of the climate crisis,” said Cindy Copeland, Boulder County air and climate policy advisor. “Now is not the time to delay new clean air and climate rules. These clean truck rules will reduce air pollution for disproportionately impacted communities living close to major truck routes and improve the quality of life for the millions of Coloradans living in the Front Range’s Severe Ozone Nonattainment area.”
Larissa Koehler, senior attorney at EDF, commented, “Colorado should move forward as quickly as possible on adopting the Advanced Clean Trucks and Heavy-Duty Omnibus regulations. We need cleaner trucks to reduce pollution, help deal with climate change, and improve air quality — particularly in communities that have an unequal burden of pollution from dirty trucks and buses. Aside from helping the state move to zero-emission and cleaner vehicles, these policies will result in good-paying jobs, as well as fuel and maintenance cost savings for fleet operators.”
The Petitioners requested that the AQCC issue a declaratory order expediting the ACT and Low-NOx rulemaking and directing the Air Pollution Control Division within the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to promptly request a rulemaking hearing that will ensure the rules are published in the Colorado Register by December 31, 2022.
“Time is of the essence,” said Tafoya. “Diesel pollution is killing us now, and climate change is threatening our health and safety now. We can’t wait to act. We urge the AQCC to consider and decide this petition at its April meeting, and help get clean trucks rolling in Colorado this year.”