Colorado recently joined 13 states, including California, to set new limits on vehicle emissions.
This means that nearly all new vehicles sold in state by 2025 must average 36 miles per gallon of gasoline, bumping up the current standard by about 10 mpg.
In June, Gov. John Hickenlooper said he favored the move. Gov.-elect Jared Polis said the same thing in September, while his opponent in the race, Republican Walker Stapleton, said such regulations “certainly will not work for Colorado.”
Six years ago, under President Barack Obama, the Environmental Protection Agency set these standards.
Last year, the EPA under President Donald Trump announced that it would seek to roll back the standards, freezing them at 2020 levels.
The average citizen could be forgiven for thinking we are driving in circles.
Colorado’s new standards probably will make the air cleaner and the climate perhaps a little safer and drive up the cost of a new pickup truck.
Our greater concern is that what they may principally do is lead to protracted litigation.
If the current EPA rolls back Obama-era standards, it will not let California or any other state impose the higher ones.
It looks to us as though Colorado would then have no choice but to sue or be sued in the federal courts – a fight that must be fought, we think, now that the commission has acted.
It could take years to wend its way to the Supreme Court. John Cooke, who was chairman of the Colorado Senate Transportation Committee, said last summer that he was sure the Court ultimately would uphold the new EPA rules, which would gut Colorado’s.
That would be unfortunate, but we still do not see an alternative. We wish we did. We also wish that important federal agencies were not used like amusement park rides by successive administrations.
There is a host of issues that are pressing on which the states are at odds, such as immigration and sanctuary cities, combating climate change, promoting renewable energy, limiting gun ownership and socializing health care.
It makes sense that not all the people of all the states would be of one mind about these things. It makes less sense that we would find states squaring off with the federal government again about who has the authority to make policy, particularly because the states often have the weaker argument in principle, no matter how much we may like their policies.
There is an answer. It is for Congress to act by making laws so just and clear that the executive branch cannot end-run them with administrative rule-making. If it needs instruction in what not to do, it might examine the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 – the one that it has avoided reforming for so long that the Trump administration now devotes significant energy to assaulting it with novel enforcement.
For that to happen, it would require an enlightened, bipartisan consensus among the people’s representatives. It would mean moderates from both parties, should they be found, would come together.
We are waiting for the day.