Lawsuit Challenges Colorado’s New Vehicle Standards
Group says emission regulations violate state and federal law in light of Trump administration changes

by Jessica Folker

A lawsuit filed Oct. 29 in Denver District Court could lead to Colorado’s Zero Emission Vehicle standards being revoked.

The Colorado ZEV standard requires a certain percentage of auto dealers’ stock to be zero-emission vehicles beginning with 2023 model year vehicles. Those standards were set in August, when Colorado joined 10 other states that adopted standards set by California. At that time, Colorado was acting under authority of the Environmental Protection Agency that allowed states to use California’s rule as an alternative to the federal government’s.

In September, however, the Trump administration rolled back Obama-era Clean Air Act regulations, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the EPA revoked California’s 2013 Clean Air Act waiver, which had allowed the state to set its own standards.

The lawsuit, filed by Greenberg Traurig attorneys on behalf of the group Freedom to Drive, claims that because California’s waiver has been revoked, Colorado’s regulations — modeled after California’s — are now unlawful.

The complaint against Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission also claims that the state didn’t follow proper rulemaking procedures in creating its standards. According to the lawsuit, the state failed to complete motor vehicle emission control studies and make recommendations based on the studies before proposing new emission controls.

Greenberg Traurig shareholder Paul Seby, representing Freedom to Drive, said a study is required to assess whether proposed regulations are appropriate for Colorado’s topography and climate, which differ from conditions in California.

“Motor vehicles behave differently at elevation and they behave differently in cold weather,” he said. By “rubber stamping” California’s regulations without first completing a study, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Air Quality Control Commission violated state law, Seby said.

To read this and other complete articles featured in the Nov. 4, 2019 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.