Cheers from environmental groups drowned out nearby construction noise in downtown Denver Thursday morning after Gov. Jared Polis announced an executive order that aims to bring more electric vehicles to Colorado.
After arriving in a blue electric car, Polis said at the press conference he is creating a working group to lead the effort to reduce vehicle emissions. He also said the state will spend some of the $70 million it got from the Volkswagen emission cheating scandal on electric charging stations.
"Electrifying vehicles today leads to cleaner air today as well as saving consumers money," Polis said.
He cited a 2017 study that estimated the switch to zero-emission vehicles would save drivers billions of dollars on fuel and maintenance costs.
Polis was joined by state lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and his new transportation director, Shoshana Lew, as he outlined the plans.
The move was applauded by environmental groups who view it as an important step toward combating the effects of climate change.
Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado, predicts the governor's actions will entice electric car manufacturers to offer more models in the state.
"States that have adopted this zero-vehicle emission standard … the auto dealers follow that leadership," she said. "Putting this in place says to auto dealers 'we're serious about electric vehicles. Come to Colorado. Offer consumers a lot of choices.' And that's how you grow the market and really clean up the air."
Polis campaigned on a goal of getting the state's electric grid to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.
As he outlined his plans for promoting electric vehicles, the governor appeared to acknowledge his zero-emission program might concern some Colorado residents. He sought to reassure farmers and ranchers the order would not affect their choice of vehicles.
"Change presents opportunities and challenges," Polis said. "Nothing in this executive order adds any restrictions on tractors or specialized farm equipment that are important for the competitiveness of our agriculture community."
Some Republican state lawmakers were critical of the executive order. In a statement, Sen. John Cooke, of Greeley, and Sen. Ray Scott, of Grand Junction, said it would lead to increased costs for car buyers.
"While the Governor is correct in showing growth in the purchase of electric vehicles, what he forgets is that those in the lower and middle class of Colorado are undeniably sticking with gas-powered automobiles due to their overwhelmingly lower costs and reliability," the senators wrote.
Capitol Coverage is a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Eleven public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.