The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) is a fantastic organization that we are proud to have as a member at Denver Metro Clean Cities (DMCC). CDPHE is dedicated to improving the lives of Coloradans by providing public health and environmental protection services and promoting equity across the state. Their mission is to advance Colorado’s public health and protect the places we live, learn, work and play and they envision a healthy, sustainable state where current and future generations thrive. CDPHE’s work with clean transportation has been extremely beneficial to our goals at DMCC. Steve McCannon, Mobile Sources Program Director for the Air Pollution Control Division of CDPHE and president of DMCC’s Board, spoke with us about what CDPHE is doing to advance clean transportation and how that plays into their mission. Keep reading to learn about CDPHE’s five-year plan, what projects Steve is working on and what his biggest takeaway is as a DMCC stakeholder.
Organization: Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE)
Location: Denver, CO
*Note: The following answers are summarized from an interview with Steve McCannon from CDPHE
How is CDPHE’s work helping to advance clean transportation in Colorado?
I have an amazing team dedicated to clean air, customer convenience, and customer service – none of what we do would be possible without them out in the field interacting with motorists and other stakeholders. I also have a great leadership team that allows me to innovate and create new things as we move into this bold new future of electrification. Much of our work with clean transportation is pushing policy and programs. Right now, we are focusing on low-emission vehicles (LEV) and zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) and there is a lot of work being done with those in both the regulatory and voluntary space. We are also digging into medium and heavy-duty (MD and HD) electrification, and one of my key programs in this space requires understanding that gas and diesel vehicles aren’t going away any time soon, so we need to stay focused on keeping those parts of the fleets clean while we advance other clean transportation technologies.
We are doing emissions work with our inspection maintenance program and the High Altitude Test Facility in Aurora, which is part of the Aurora Emissions Technical Center and is doing some great work with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Part of the inspection maintenance program is remote sensing work, which collects data on vehicle emissions using sensors at highway on-ramps. We use this technique to look at the light-duty (LD) fleets right now but are working to advance that technology to include MD and HD vehicles.
The other big project we’re working on is the transportation bill. This piece of legislation is really going to change the dynamics in Colorado, and we are looking at how to set up many of the things it outlines. For us, working on the bill means creating guidance documents, forming a board structure and implementation of projects outlined in the bill. CDPHE hasn’t been playing in this space to the same degree as the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), so it’ll be a big shift, but it’s important work that we are glad to be a part of.
What does CDPHE’s five-year plan look like? How can DMCC help support that?
As I mentioned, the transportation bill is going to be changing the dynamics in Colorado and we will be knee deep in that project for a while. The High Altitude Test Facility is also doing lots of fuel work that will continue over the next few years. There is an aftermarket catalytic converter tampering and theft issue is looming large, so we are looking at putting together an outreach campaign soon to educate motorists and fleets about the problem. Prius is a big target right now because their catalysts are lightly used since the cars have an electric motor that cycles on and off. Our hope is to get the word out about these kinds of projects and campaigns with DMCC’s help. The organization has a deep network and an incredible outreach skillset – I see a lot of partnership opportunities with DMCC moving forward.
Are there any projects you are currently working on that you would like to share?
Diesel work is going to be critical for moving forward with Colorado’s ozone situation. Diesel is a large contributor to nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and the solutions out there are limited. CDPHE is working with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and EPA to do onboard diagnostic work with diesel fleets. The first piece of this is reaching out to fleets and plugging in units to find their real-time operating characteristics – the second piece is remote sensing. Remote sensing technology is designed for gasoline vehicles, but our contractor, Opus, is looking into adding channels that will work for diesel vehicles and we are discussing a new diesel inspection maintenance program. Our main goal with remote sensing is to identify clean and dirty vehicles. In the past (using some federal and state money), we identified high-emissions gas vehicles on the road, notified the motorist that their vehicle was probably broken and had them bring it into one of our Emissions Technical Centers. Once they brought it in, we would test the vehicle and if we could repair it, we would get it out to a shop and have it fixed. If we couldn’t repair it, we would scrap the vehicle and pay the owner a certain dollar amount to help get them into a cleaner one. If we could do that on the diesel side as well, it would open a lot of possibilities for clean transportation.
As the longest standing board member at DMCC, you have a lot of experience and understanding of the coalition. Over the years, what has been the most important takeaway from your involvement with us?
The most important takeaway for me has been the depth of the outreach that DMCC can provide. Over the years, that’s the thing I’ve been most impressed with. The coalition has deep contacts, extensive knowledge, and the ability to move things forward and get the word out. Without your ReCharge work I don’t think CDPHE would have as much of an impact in this area. I’ve been involved with DMCC since the early days, and everyone who has come through has had a little bit different flair, but the dedication to the cause is always prominent and that’s why I’ve stuck around so long. You can feel the dedication and it’s refreshing to see in an organization. Working with fleets is difficult – if they make one mistake and invest in a technology that doesn’t work, they might not be around for long. Helping fleets navigate the transportation market and giving them solid support and knowledge in alternative fuel vehicles before they take the plunge is crucial and exactly what DMCC is great at.
What specific DMCC projects or events are you looking forward to partnering on or attending this year?
Though it often depends on my schedule, I am going to try to attend as many DMCC events as I can. The Connected & Autonomous Vehicles Mobility & Improvements Webinar is something I am certainly interested in watching – vehicle autonomy is going to be critical as we move forward with transportation. Vehicle miles traveled are increasing and more people are moving to the state, so if we keep doing the same old thing and continue to clog the roads, we aren’t going to improve anything. Ozone doesn’t go away – it impacts people’s health, especially sensitive populations, and is an economic liability. I hope CDPHE and DMCC can collaborate in some way to help mitigate this problem and push for necessary changes. I really appreciate the DMCC team for sticking through this tough last year and am thankful for everyone’s hard work. You’ve kept the outreach going and kept positive vibes and I admire everything you guys are doing.