Colorado last week formally joined the ranks of states that are in some way choosing to adopt California’s rules for emissions, rather than those of the federal government.

With a unanimous vote by the state’s Air Quality Control Commission, Colorado is joining Pennsylvania and Washington in agreeing to adopt California low emission vehicle (LEV) standards.

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Although it would be a separate effort to join the CARB ZEV program that mandates electric vehicles, as adopted by Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont, it sets the stage for that option in the future.

Colorado offers a generous $5,000 tax credit for electric vehicles, which went into effect in January 2017. Yet just 0.93 percent of Colorado's 287,439 total vehicle sales in 2017, according to the Auto Alliance, were fully electric.

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The most pronounced effect for those in Colorado under this move is likely going to come in the form of extended warranties for emissions-system components―15 years or 150,000 miles for certified powertrain components, as opposed to a more limited federal emissions warranty of 8 years or 80,000 miles.

Exhaust emissions from tailpipe [photo: Simone Ramella, 2005, used under Creative Commons 2.0]

Exhaust emissions from tailpipe [photo: Simone Ramella, 2005, used under Creative Commons 2.0]

The move was preceded by an executive order issued in July by Governor John Hickenlooper. State officials cited an anticipated weakening of federal standards—and a proposal to freeze federal emissions standards at 2020 levels—as a reason for joining California.

As set during the Obama administration, federal standards would have been quite closely aligned with California standards from 2021-2025.

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Colorado has been a bit different than most of the other so-called Section 177 states in that it received its own federal emissions waiver in the 1970s.

According to a state cost analysis, the average price of a 2025 model year vehicle could increase $1,138 in following the California rules; but that would be offset by a savings of up to $1,682 in fuel and maintenance costs.

The state also projected that aligning with the California rules would save 30 million tons of greenhouse-gas emissions through 2030.