Colorado Air Quality Commission to Consider Proposed Employee Traffic Reduction Program

The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission will soon consider several regulation revisions that would require some employers to survey and report on how their employees commute and implement plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On August 18-20, 2021, the Commission will hear testimony and then take final action on the proposed Employee Traffic Reduction Program (ETRP).

The Denver Metropolitan/Northern Front Range area is currently designated as a serious nonattainment area for ozone by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); this means it does not meet the applicable ambient air quality standards. In other words, the Front Range has air pollution problems.

In January 2021, Colorado released its Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap, which proposed numerous action items intended to reduce pollution in the state and accelerate the transition to clean energy. The specific science-based goals were part of a previous House Bill and include a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The Roadmap identifies key programs that Colorado can implement that would help achieve these goals. One such program is the Employee Traffic Reduction Program (ETRP).

The proposing entity, the Air Pollution Control Division, has stated that ETRP is not intended as a ban on commuting or a way to penalize employers for the commuting preferences of their employees. Rather, ETRP would require employers of 100 or more employees at a single worksite within the Ozone Nonattainment Area to develop and implement a plan to reduce single-occupancy vehicle commuting to and from work. A “worksite” as defined by ETRP is a temporary or permanent building or grouping of buildings that are on physically contiguous parcels of land or on parcels separated solely by private or public roadways or rights-of-way.

Covered employers would be required to identify an Employee Transportation Coordinator by January 1, 2022, and complete an initial assessment of their commuting practices by early or mid 2022. The proposed regulations require that employers determine their Single-Occupancy Vehicle (SOV) Drive Rate, a metric calculated by dividing the number of vehicles that arrive at a worksite by the number of employees who report or are assigned to the worksite, from all shifts, seven days a week, averaged over the calculation period. “Vehicles” are defined as scooters, motorcycles, and on-road vehicles powered by a gasoline or diesel engine; zero-emission vehicles are excluded.

Currently, the proposed regulations set certain SOV Drive Rate reduction goals. For instance, an employer’s plan should be designed to achieve a reduction of 75% in SOV Drive Rate in the first year of implementation. If an employer fails to meet the reduction goals, it must revisit its plan. Failure to meet the goals in three consecutive attempts requires that the employer consider an alternative compliance plan that could include worksite equipment or process changes, employer vehicle emission reductions, or other approaches not otherwise required by law.

Covered employers would also be required to develop and implement an ETRP plan tailored to their unique business needs, including telecommuting, flexible work schedules, public transportation, ridesharing, and electric vehicle charging stations. In addition, employers would be required to provide annual surveys and reporting. The Division has indicated that ETRP Guidance and an Employer Toolkit will be provided to assist employers.

The Division references the success of similar programs in 27 other states. Several years ago, Arizona implemented a program that requires all employers in Maricopa County with 50 or more employees to implement a plan to reduce the number of employees who drive alone to the worksite to 60 percent or less of the total employee population.

If ETRP is approved, covered employers should begin planning immediately. Some Transportation Management Associations have already offered assistance with similar voluntary programs. The Way to Go program from the Denver Regional Council of Governments provides commuter consultants to help employers evaluate their options.