The sun is shining on environmentalists in Colorado

By Kelsey Maxwell
Environment Colorado Associate

In a huge victory for Colorado environmentalists, Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order on electrifying transportation as one of his first orders of business. This move is a key step toward tackling climate change and reducing air pollution.

As the Clean Cars Organizer at Environment Colorado, my primary campaign goal is to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles in our state. I’m thrilled that Gov. Polis’ new mandate will not only be a huge boost to the state but will also provide me with regular reminders that we’re moving in the right direction on the problems I tackle on a daily basis.

For example, Gov. Polis declared that the money Colorado received from the Volkswagen “clean diesel” scandal will be allocated to electric modes of transportation. This means that cities across Colorado can transition their public transportation fleets to electric for no added cost. Considering the catastrophic health effects of tailpipe emissions, this has the potential to protect millions of Coloradans as well as protect our planet.

On a personal level, this means that when I ride my bike home from work, I know that while I choke on tailpipe emissions from diesel RTD buses for the time being, I’ll likely breathe easier in the future.

The executive order also calls on Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission to adopt zero emission vehicle (ZEV) standards in Colorado. These regulations are essential in the fight to bring more electric vehicles to Colorado. They will also reduce the smog created by the millions of Colorado drivers who commute in and out of urban centers each day. If implemented, I’m confident Denver and Fort Collins, which currently rank 14th and 19th, respectively, in pollution, will plummet on that list.

As a result, when I’m running up Mount Falcon in Jefferson County this weekend, I can look out at the smog-engulfed city of Denver and be very hopeful that, in the next decade, my view will be crystal clear.

And finally, next month, when I’m sitting at my desk frantically trying to organize a team of interns to effectively host car shows across the state, I can look forward to updates on a host of state projects that will encourage personal and public use of electric vehicles. Gov Polis told our government that it’s time to get to work, calling on the Department of Transportation and other agencies to repair and electrify our dirty transportation system.

Polis’ push couldn’t come at a better time. For the past few months the wind has been at the back of the Colorado environmental movement. There’s been so much promising Colorado news on the fight against climate change.

  • In July, Denver released its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent over the next 30 years.

  • In November, the state’s Air Quality Control Commission voted to adopt vehicle emission standards, which will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Colorado’s transportation sector.

  • In December, Xcel Energy and other utility providers across the state announced bold commitments to 100 percent% carbon- free energy.

Between those developments and the governor’s new mandate, it’s clear that the communities across Colorado who have been calling for action on climate change are finally being heard. Now, we’ll wait eagerly for what the future holds during this administration -- and we can do so with a smile.