CDOT Releases Draft Transportation Pollution Standard

State and regional transportation plans to account for greenhouse gas emissions

DENVER — The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) released its draft Greenhouse Gas Pollution Standard today to determine how to spend more than $2.5 billion in annual state transportation funding. With this rule in place, CDOT and local transportation planning organizations across the state will be required—for the first time—to account for the greenhouse gas emission impacts of state and regional transportation planning.

In order to meet state climate goals, Colorado must reduce emissions from the transportation sector, which is the state’s largest source of greenhouse gas pollution and a significant contributor to the high ozone levels that lead to unhealthy air quality. The Greenhouse Gas Pollution Standard has the potential to make good on the state’s climate and environmental justice commitments by prioritizing investments in public transit and including a public engagement process that centers communities most impacted by transportation pollution.

Environment, health, and consumer advocates reviewed the draft based on a checklist released prior to the draft Greenhouse Gas Pollution Standard. The draft includes several elements critical to achieving the state’s climate and clean air goals, including:

  • Committing to reduce reliance on driving by investing in climate-friendly transportation options
  • Tying CDOT funding to compliance with the Standard
  • Including regional planning organizations across the state to maximize impact

As CDOT revises the draft over the next few months, advocates are looking for the following improvements:

  • Developing public participation and decision-making processes that center equity
  • Including environmental justice as a critical element in policy development to reduce pollution in disproportionately-impacted communities
  • Setting more ambitious pollution reduction targets
  • Strengthening compliance and enforcement mechanisms

“We’re always talking about Colorado’s smog issue, and this rulemaking is our chance to do something about it,” said NRDC Transportation Technical Strategist Carter Rubin. “The Colorado Department of Transportation has a chance to help us say goodbye to the brown cloud by investing in safer streets and reliable public transportation in the communities that need them most. With a strong Greenhouse Gas Pollution Standard, we can make it easier to walk, bike, and ride the bus or train anywhere in the state.”

“Colorado’s air is getting filthier, and the pollution from cars and traffic isn’t helping,” said Colorado Sierra Club Transportation Committee Chair Becky English. “Prioritizing public transit infrastructure, including safe bike lanes, electric bus fleets, and infrastructure for safe walking are of paramount importance to protect our air and to reach Colorado’s climate goals. Such sustainable modes of transportation would reduce vast amounts of emissions released from gas-guzzling cars and from highway expansions.”

"Against the backdrop of more than 60 days of unhealthy air quality in Colorado and the most definitive understanding of the climate crisis from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change yet, we are concerned that unless the rulemaking is bolder, it will miss the mark on the transportation emission reductions the Governor set in his climate roadmap,” said Conservation Colorado Transportation Advocate Jenny Gaeng. “Additionally, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color are hurt worst by transportation pollution -- and this rule needs to address that explicitly with a plan for how to do better.”

“Let’s build a future where we can get where we need to go without disrupting our climate, polluting our air, or spending all our time stuck in traffic,” said Southwest Energy Efficiency Project Senior Transportation Advocate  Matt Frommer. “To get there we need to both electrify our cars and trucks, AND build communities where driving isn’t the only option to get from point A to B. We look forward to working with Governor Polis and the Colorado Department of Transportation through this rulemaking process to help make that vision a reality.”

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.​

The Colorado Sierra Club is a powerful collective of  more than 100,000 grassroots changemakers working together across the state to  advance climate solutions, act for justice, get outdoors, and protect lands, water, air, and wildlife. We are an organization that believes in the power of working together to make change happen.

Conservation Colorado is the state's largest environmental advocacy organization working to protect our climate, communities, land, and water through our offices in Carbondale, Denver, Durango, Grand Junction, and Pueblo.

Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) is a public interest organization advancing more efficient energy use and clean transportation options in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. For more information, visit and follow @SouthwestEE on Twitter.

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