New rule would reaffirm Colorado’s authority to set stronger vehicle emission standards, helping to protect the climate, improve public health, and save drivers money

President Biden boosts Colorado’s clean car efforts

April 26, 2021

Travis Madsen, SWEEP | 720-937-2609
Nadia Perl, NRDC | 415-294-1878


[DENVER, CO] – Today, the Biden Administration proposed to restore state authority to adopt stronger vehicle tailpipe pollution standards. Colorado is using this authority to help reduce climate-changing carbon pollution and make progress toward reaching Governor Polis’ goal of deploying close to one million electric cars and trucks in the state by 2030.

Advocates for public health, climate preservation, consumer protection, and environmental justice celebrated the Biden Administration’s move:

“President Biden is moving full speed ahead with Clean Car Standards, and that is great news for Colorado,” said Travis Madsen, Transportation Program Director at Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. “The faster we move to electrify our cars and trucks, the bigger the benefits will be. Cleaning up passenger vehicles in line with our climate strategy will save Coloradans more than $40 billion through mid-century.”

“By standing up for the clean vehicle authority of states like Colorado, President Biden is standing up for public health and innovation,” said Luke Tonachel, director of clean vehicles and fuels at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “The administration should now act swiftly to reinstate the Obama-era tailpipe standards and set new rules that would put us on a path to sales of all zero-emitting vehicles by 2035. These standards are key to achieving President Biden’s climate and equity goals.”

“With our 2018 and 2019 adoption of the Clean Car Standards, Coloradans showed that we are ready and willing to fight air pollution, embrace the exciting technology of electric vehicles, and enact good policy to support our health, safety, and climate goals,” said Jenny Gaeng, Transportation Advocate at Conservation Colorado. “Today, President Biden stood up for our right to do so. We thank the administration for their commitment to climate and eagerly anticipate further action.”

“Clean car standards are key to curbing climate change and reducing local air pollution, while saving Coloradans money on fuel costs,” said Jenny Willford, Clean Energy Advocate with the Colorado Chapter of the Sierra Club. “The Biden Administration’s proposed rule will return a powerful tool to states in order for local leaders to protect public health and act on climate. While this is an important action, it is not enough to reverse the damage done by Donald Trump’s attacks on climate. Now, all eyes are on Biden to develop stronger national clean car standards that put the status quo in the rear view mirror.”

“The Biden administration’s full restoration of traditional state authority to address motor vehicle pollution is critical as we face a growing climate crisis, on-road vehicle air pollution that continues to result in over 20,000 premature deaths per year, and states like Colorado seeking to meet these public health crises, which disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color, by implementing Clean Car Standards. EDF analysis found that the state’s adoption of these standards will save Coloradans up to $65 million per year, and reduce one million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year by 2025.” said Alice Henderson, Senior Attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund.

The federal Clean Air Act allows states to set vehicle emission standards that are tougher than federal requirements, to address persistent air pollution problems. Colorado took advantage of this authority in 2018 and 2019, adopting stronger emission rules for climate-changing pollution from vehicles and a new requirement for automakers to increase the number of plug-in electric cars and trucks available for sale in the state. The policy is an important part of Governor Polis’ Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap and the Colorado State EV Plan.

However, in early 2020, the previous administration attempted to revoke state authority to adopt these standards. Shortly after, a coalition of states and other stakeholders, including Colorado, challenged the decision in court.

Today’s proposal, if adopted, would resolve that uncertainty and give Colorado a green light to implement its Clean Car Standards. It also would clear a path for Washington State, Virginia, Minnesota, Nevada and potentially other states to join the 13 states and Washington D.C., who have already adopted the program.


The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) is a public interest organization promoting greater energy efficiency in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. For more information, visit