Colorado drops demand from large employers to encourage reduced car trips

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Officials from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said on Tuesday that they would drastically reduce a proposed rule to require large employers in the Denver metro area to encourage their employees to cut back on car trips, thereby reducing a blow to the efforts to fight against greenhouse gases. emissions and local air pollution.

“The state recognizes that many businesses, employees and local communities that will be affected by the rule have concerns about the Employer Traffic Reduction Program (ETRP) as currently proposed,” CDPHE said in a statement. communicated. “Recognizing these concerns, the ministry will revise its ETRP proposal to focus first on data collection elements to establish a solid baseline for future policy, coupled with a solid foundation through a voluntary approach. reduction in travel. “

As originally proposed, the ETRP program would have required businesses in the Metro Denver area that employ more than 100 employees at one location to develop and implement a plan to reduce single-occupant vehicle travel through options such as telecommuting, flexible hours and the provision of public transport. employee passes or shuttles.

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The program was modeled on similar initiatives launched in at least 27 other state and local jurisdictions across the country, CDPHE officials said during a business presentation in April. The rulemaking hearing for the ETRP proposal will go ahead as planned in August, a spokesperson for CDPHE’s air pollution control division confirmed, but the schedule will be revamped to focus on “opportunities for employers to voluntarily develop “ETRP” plans, potentially to receive early adoption. incentives before future regulation.

“This new proposal is based on the recognition that lasting and meaningful success will require strong buy-in from employers subject to the program, and a pilot phase will provide valuable information on the successes and challenges of real-world implementation.” , indicates the CDPHE press release.

“I am extremely disappointed,” said Danny Katz, executive director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group and advocate for the ETRP program, in an interview. “It seemed like an easy and obvious step to take, to help employers expand the options they offer their employees to get around without polluting our air.”

“We need everyone to be part of the solution,” Katz added. “What was so unique about ETRP was that it was a chance to align these great employers and put us all on the same team – we are all working to create more options for people. . This was not only going to be hugely beneficial in reducing pollution, but really beneficial for employers and employees to have more options for getting around. “

I am extremely disappointed.

– Danny Katz, Colorado Public Interest Research Group

The defeat of the ETRP proposal is a victory for business groups, including the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, which said in written testimony that the rule “would hurt Colorado’s economy and burden the Colorado economy. disparate certain communities and industries ”.

For months, the pending ETRP initiative has been held up by officials in Gov. Jared Polis’ administration as a centerpiece of the state’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas pollution in the gas industry. transport, as the governor rebuffed pressure from environmental groups and many of his Democratic allies to pass tougher climate regulations. Colorado lawmakers two years ago set an ambitious set of emissions targets in Bill 19-1261, but many supporters of the bill have been frustrated with the new law’s implementation. by Polis.

Instead, the administration has taken a ‘roadmap’ approach to emissions reductions that it finalized in January, outlining a path to HB-1261 targets that relies on a combination of government regulation and private sector action.

The ETRP proposal figures prominently in the “short-term actions” listed by the roadmap as part of the state plan to reduce emissions from the transport sector by 12.7 million tonnes of fuel. ‘by 2030. Just days ago, the plan was referenced in a report from the Colorado Department of Transportation. memo describing the state’s strategy to reduce transport emissions.

“Especially for the construction and transportation sectors… we need to implement solutions that will create incentives to help millions of Coloradans have more transportation options, drive cleaner cars and heat their homes and their businesses with cleaner technologies, ”Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office, told Democratic lawmakers in April, during testimony opposing Senate Bill 21-200, a proposal supported by environmental groups aiming to demand stricter emissions rules sector by sector.

The transport sector emission caps originally proposed by SB-200 were removed from the final version of the bill as part of a compromise reached with Polis. Along with a major transport finance bill that has been criticized by conservationists for prioritizing cars and highways, the defeat of the ETRP initiative is another warning sign for those who say Colorado is not doing enough to reduce emissions across the economy.

“If this very clear strategy in the roadmap is not a strategy that we’re really going to consider, then I’m very concerned about all the other strategies that are in this roadmap,” Katz said.

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