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Opinion: To fight the climate crisis, Colorado needs more electric trucks on the road

The state is taking admirable steps, but each day of degraded air quality is a reminder that we must move more urgently.

Every Coloradan knows that there is no place more spectacular than our state. But increasingly the impacts of climate change are putting our state at risk. Wildfires now consume Colorado every season of the year and snowfall is less reliable. Our state’s eroding air quality regularly ranks among the worst in the U.S., due to increased air pollution.  

Colorado is already taking steps to address the climate challenges we face, and the Polis administration has done a good job of prioritizing efforts toward cleaner air. Still, there is one area where state leaders should act promptly to improve our air quality and reduce climate pollution — transportation. In particular, we need to tackle pollution from large commercial vehicles, like trucks and delivery vans. 

Mike Nathan, left, and Alan Henceroth

Transportation has an outsized impact on our health and climate because it is the state’s leading source of emissions. And medium- and heavy-duty vehicles pollute at a disproportionate rate: They represent just 10% of U.S. traffic but account for more than a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions from the roads. They’re also the source of even higher shares of other pollutants. 

It’s because these large commercial trucks are both the heart of our economy and responsible for an outsized impact on our climate and environment that we must find ways to operate them more cleanly.  

Colorado leaders have taken initial steps toward solving this challenge. In 2020, Gov. Jared Polis joined more than a dozen other governors in an agreement aimed at dramatically increasing the number of clean trucks on the road. It includes targets for zero-emission trucks to represent 100% of new sales by 2050. 

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

But Colorado must turn this target into action. Six of the states that signed the agreement have already adopted an important policy to accelerate the move to clean trucks. The Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) rule would require manufacturers of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles to grow their zero-emission sales steadily over time. It’s a policy that both cleans and grows the economy at the same time — and one that Colorado should move quickly to adopt. 

The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission has not yet taken up the ACT rule, and in April denied an initiative to begin the rulemaking process immediately. We remain encouraged by the Polis administration’s interest in eventually adopting it. 

But because each new diesel truck will run for a decade or more, worsening our climate and air quality issues and literally adding fuel to the fire, it is especially important to adopt the rule as quickly as possible to ensure clean trucks begin hitting the road soon. And with them, their many economic and public health benefits.

There is already massive market demand for clean trucks, as major companies know they need electric vehicles to achieve their own emissions goals and prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Moreover, they see significant business benefits from clean trucks, especially through cost savings on fuel and maintenance. 

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, where we work, was one of more than 70 companies that laid out these benefits to Governor Polis, in a letter sent to governors across the country urging their states to adopt the ACT rule and unleash the era of electric trucks. 

Electric vehicles are already more affordable to own and maintain than diesel-powered ones, an advantage that will only grow as the electric market grows and costs come down. The ACT rule is the best way to jump start this market, which needs to grow quickly for Colorado – and A-Basin – to meet its ambitious climate goals. And, as an early adopter, Colorado can lead the transition to clean trucks by ensuring the vehicle models that companies need are available in our state.  

By calling for zero-emission vehicles to represent up to three-quarters of new sales by 2035, the rule will spark the mass production and sales that make it even cheaper to build and buy clean trucks. This would also unleash investments in much-needed charging infrastructure, generating new jobs. 

The more states that adopt the policy, the quicker the industry will grow, and the faster each state will benefit. But in the meantime, as this switchover to electric vehicles happens, Colorado will need to require reductions in toxic emissions from diesel trucks still on the road, to improve air quality and health and reduce emissions now.  

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

Arapahoe Basin is committed to doing our part to protect Colorado’s winters and clean air — not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because our business relies on it. We’ve already started our transition to electric fleet vehicles and recently activated 10 EV charging ports for guest EV travel. 

We also recognize the need for the electricity to power these vehicles to continue to come from more and more clean sources. A-Basin currently gets 55% of its electricity from renewable sources and strongly supports the state’s and our utility provider’s – Xcel Energy – goals to continue to grow those renewable resources. 

We believe that we all have a role to play in meeting climate goals, and that’s why we are not just working to reduce our own emissions, we are also advocating for policies such as the ACT rule that will help our state address transportation pollution. 

Colorado is taking admirable steps to fight the climate crisis, but each day of degraded air quality is a reminder that we must move more urgently. We are joining many in asking the Polis administration to adopt the ACT rule and help position Colorado as a climate leader. There is no surer way to advance the state’s commitment to our natural resources and critical outdoor economy — while also cleaning the air in communities that suffer the most from this traffic and eliminating a significant source of climate pollution to prevent the fires of tomorrow. 


Alan Henceroth is chief operating officer of Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. Mike Nathan is sustainability manager of Arapahoe Basin Ski Area.


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