An electric vehicle charging at a Colorado College parking lot on Sept. 27, 2021. (Julia Fennell/Colorado Newsline)
In my neighborhood, and many others in Colorado, I can hear the cars from the highway rush past and feel the pollution from tailpipes in my lungs. Though I experience personal discomfort, I am more worried about my asthmatic son and ailing mother, as they experience far worse health impacts from this pollution. Still, I do not want to move. Commerce City is my home.
What needs to change is not my location, but the emissions from our vehicles.
Colorado took a step in the right direction — the Air Quality Control Commission passed a regulation that outlines a plan for us to achieve serious emissions reductions from transportation, the No. 1 source of health-harming greenhouse gas emissions in our state. This is crucial, especially for communities like mine who disproportionately bear the burden of poor air quality.
With this new rule, Colorado will scale up its sales of zero emission electric vehicles to 80%of car sales by 2032 starting with model year 2027, so Coloradans will start to see the benefits of this regulation as soon as 2026. These health benefits aren’t guaranteed with a future rule (we don’t know the politics of the future) but at least the AQCC is required to revisit this and consider standards beyond 2032
These regulations include important provisions for charging infrastructure, access, and affordability, which are crucial components of ensuring justice and equity. As a public health nurse and family nurse practitioner with extensive years of clinical experience in hospital and community settings, I have seen firsthand the impact of environmental factors on all Coloradans, especially our most vulnerable children and seniors. By transitioning to electric vehicles, we contribute to a cleaner environment and invest in our wellness and that of future generations. Coloradans would experience lower health care costs, better overall health, and clean air and water.
Research by the Colorado Fiscal Institute shows the county-level benefits of adopting the so-called Advanced Clean Cars II rule in Colorado and highlights that cleaner air from increased EV adoption can help reduce respiratory illnesses, heart diseases, and other pollution-related health issues. By reducing our reliance on gas-powered vehicles, we safeguard marginalized communities’ health, mental health, and well-being that often bear the brunt of pollution exposure.
Clean cars should not be considered a luxury but a necessary step towards an equitable health care system that protects everyone.
Other states have introduced regulations that mandate 100% of new vehicle sales within a timeline. Adopting a similar policy here in Colorado can expedite the transition to electric vehicles while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating substantial economic, health, and environmental benefits.
While our state took a step in the right direction, we fell short of our commitment to being a climate leader. A commitment to obtaining 80% clean vehicle sales by 2032 will be beneficial to our communities, but Coloradans will not realize all the benefits of a full rule adoption. We will see cleaner air, yes, but could have breathed cleaner air and remained a leader in just and fair environmental regulations.
According to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Western Resource Advocates, the difference that 20% makes (through 2050) is 20 premature deaths, 20 hospital visits, 13,780 minor cases (cases of respiratory illness and associated lost work days, and $300 million in health costs. These numbers matter; if we have the ability to save a single human life, we should do everything in our power to do so.
As the President of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses—Denver Chapter, a member of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, and a member of the Environmental Justice Advisory Board for Commerce City, I have witnessed the disparities in health outcomes among our communities. Clean cars should not be considered a luxury but a necessary step towards an equitable health care system that protects everyone.
As Coloradans, we have immense power to catalyze change through embracing clean cars; we can improve the environment, save money, and generate better health outcomes for all. It’s time for us to invest not only in clean cars but also in the well-being of our communities and to ensure that no one is left behind in our journey towards a greener, healthier future.
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