New Rules Proposed To Curb Colorado Suburban Businesses | Premium
The state of Colorado wants all major businesses in the Denver metro area to track what their employees are doing before and after work when it comes to commuting.
He wants these employers to “increase parking fees” for gasoline-powered vehicles, appoint an “employee transportation coordinator” to administer programs that reduce “single occupancy vehicle” trips and offer passes for them. fully or partially subsidized public transport – even if the company is nowhere near everything.
And he wants those plans of 2,764 companies employing some 900,000 employees – which could cost between $ 7,200 and $ 811,643 a year to implement – by Jan. 1, 2022, according to state records.
The effort dubbed the Employee Travel Reduction Program, part of legislation passed in 2019 to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado, comes as businesses recover from a year of pandemic which has seen entire industries shut down and unemployment soar.
Some businesses are understandably concerned about the new regulations, officials from the Denver Subway Chamber of Commerce, Denver South Economic Development Partnership and Colorado Business Roundtable said.
“We recognize that air quality is a significant issue and the business community recognizes the need for action – many are already taking these steps,” said Thomas Book, president and CEO of Denver South. But he asks the state “what can you do to put in place a voluntary or regulated program in such a way as to have a significant impact on air quality and to do so in a way that is least intrusive to the public. business world, whose function after all is to run a business.
First round of aerial surveys of emissions from Boulder, Weld and Larimer counties
The House and Denver South on Friday submitted comments to the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission – the nine-citizen panel made up of people appointed by Governor Jared Polis, up to five of whom can be from the same political party .
The commission will meet in mid-August to develop rules and regulations, after obtaining a full report from the Air Pollution Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, including a report on the economic impact and the contribution of 25 stakeholders (such as the Chamber).
ETRP is governed by Regulation # 22 under Colorado’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting and Emissions Reduction Requirements.
These demands came from the Colorado legislature through the HB19-1261 Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution, which Polis enacted in May 2019. It included ambitious goals, without many specific critics asserting the implementation, to reduce “greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 by at least 26%, 2030 greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% and 2050 greenhouse gas emissions by at least 90% of the statewide greenhouse gas emission levels that existed in 2005.
To help achieve this, the Travel Reduction Program has been put in place.
These are 10 pages of regulations that would impact large companies, defined as 100 or more employees, in the area labeled “8 hour ozone control zone” which includes counties: Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Douglas and Jefferson. It also includes the city and county of Denver, of course, with Broomfield and parts of Weld and Larimer counties.
The regulations describe an employee not only as an employee, or as a salary, but also as “any person in the service of an employer, within the framework of a rental contract”. Each of these employees or contractors should be asked about how they get to work, the type of vehicle they drive, the distance to travel from their home.
Then, in an effort to reduce “single occupancy vehicle” trips during peak hours, the employer needs to offer things like shuttles for employees, flexible hours for those who drive electric vehicles, options for driving. carpooling and carpooling, passes for subsidized public transport, bicycle parking and showers, among others.
Cost estimates vary widely depending on the size of the business and the travel reduction efforts implemented, from $ 7,200 to $ 800,000. But state officials dispute the cost “exaggerations” and say the programs could save employers and employees money in the long run.
“A lot of these things will be net savings in the end,” said Clay Clarke, supervisor of the air pollution control division’s climate unit, saying the report’s estimate of $ 800,000 “assumed to unrealistically that an employer would use more expensive options such as providing transit passes at a daily rate rather than monthly.
“What we’ll hear from transportation managers who have seen these programs in place is that the actual cost information is much lower than these high-end estimates.”
He also took issue with “misinformation” that the transportation coordinator needs a full-time position or a new hire.
“It’s not a full-time employee worth the work,” he said. “Many companies already have an employee who probably does. “
The Division documented its outreach efforts: 3,686 letters mailed; five large listing sessions with nearly 800 participants, seven listening sessions specifically for the ETRP with nearly 500 registrants, 25 stakeholder meetings and 90 written comments.
“The idea is to provide (employees) with incentives and flexible options for industry or businesses,” Clark said.
The cost of the travel reduction program is only one of the concerns of business groups regarding the proposed regulation.
“This is a real legal question,” said Laura Giocomo Rizzo, senior vice president of external affairs for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. “How can an employer be responsible for an employee’s behavior outside of working hours? You could buy each employee a bike, charge $ 1,000 for parking, but at the end of the day we live in a country where people work as they want or can. It punishes employers and puts them in a strange position. “
While the proposed regulation excludes employees who use the car “as part of their professional responsibility for emergency response”, it does not exclude single mothers who have childcare responsibilities or employees who care for them. sick or elderly parents, said Giocomo Rizzo.
“This is another example of a legislature passing vague laws, but the details are where the rubber really hits the road,” she said, highlighting the other example of the equal pay law recently. implementation that causes some companies to exclude Colorado residents as candidates. .
The Colorado Business Roundtable, a public policy organization with “executives from some of the state’s largest employers,” sent a notice to all members opposing the program.
“We share a common goal of getting clean air and a healthy environment, but incentives and education are much better tools than regulations and penalties,” the statement sent by email said. “With the Commission estimating that the cost of implementing the program could reach up to $ 800,000 per year for large employers, the economic impact would be devastating and likely result in job losses and higher prices for consumers. . After the global pandemic and witnessing the economic upheaval of a lifetime, the Coloradans should remain focused on economic recovery, not new regulations. “
Brook said Denver South, which represents some 250,000 employees and is “one of the largest employment regions in the state,” hopes the regulations will be made voluntary or come with no penalties.
The organization has raised similar concerns about whether employers “have the right or the legal authority to regulate an employee’s behavior” when they are off the clock.
“We also don’t think it takes into account companies’ access to public transportation or the level of it,” Brook said. “There are very disparate levels of access to public transit. “
The regulations could also disproportionately affect “blue collar” employers such as those in the service or manufacturing sectors.
“A lot of these white collar jobs, like customer service hotline, can potentially be done from home,” said Brook, which means these employers can get credit for these single occupant vehicle travel reductions. , but employers like a grocery store or restaurant whose employees who must be physically at work will be penalized.
There is also the problem of companies with less than 100 employees who would be hesitant to expand here if it imposed all ETRP regulations on them, he said.
“We know the health department is in a tough spot here and the Air Quality (Control) Commission is facing a serious problem,” with dangerous ozone levels, Brook said. “We want to work together to find a solution that will solve the problem while allowing employers to continue to recover from the Covid-19 crisis. “