DENVER --- Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter has signed into law three transportation bills aimed at reducing vehicle emissions, increasing fuel economy, and boosting energy independence.

"These three transportation bills mark another important step for the New Energy Economy," Gov. Ritter said. "They help Colorado put cleaner-burning and more fuel-efficient vehicles on the road, reducing harmful emissions, creating economic opportunities and enhancing our energy security."

House Bill 1331, "The Innovative Auto Act," extends tax credits to those who convert their vehicles to run on cleaner-burning compressed natural gas. The bill also adds incentives for the purchase of or conversion to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Further, it updates tax credits and incentives targeting the most fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles and phases out tax credits for those hybrids with lower fuel economy. 

"Ten years ago, we had one goal with this law: to reduce the amount of health-damaging and smog-forming air pollution," said Rep. Sara Gagliardi, a sponsor of the bill. "But now the existing incentive is outdated. Today, we are concerned not only about air pollution, but also about fuel economy and carbon footprint. By recalculating the credit, we can foster new technologies and help bring important innovations to market sooner." 

HB 1298, sponsored by Rep. Buffie McFadyen and Sen. Shawn Mitchell, is aimed at putting cleaner and more fuel efficient long haul trucks on the state highways. It also makes it easier to install devices that allow drivers to stay warm in their vehicles during rest periods without idling their engines. 

HB 1298 gradually changes how state sales tax is applied on trucking fleets. The tax process is modified so that state sales tax for tractors and trailers is based upon the percentage of a fleet's mileage within Colorado. Also, the law modifies existing state law relating to enterprise zones, allowing rolling stock based in those areas to qualify for the 3 percent equipment tax credit. Like the sales tax provision, this portion of the law will be phased in over five years. 

The law also creates a "Green Truck Fund," which will provide grants and funding to help fleets acquire EPA SmartWay technologies to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. The Green Truck Fund will be funded through grants, donations and private support.

The implementation and phasing in of the sales tax change and enterprise tax credit provisions will not begin until January 1, 2011.

Senate Bill 75, sponsored by Sen. Gail Schwartz and Rep. Don Marostica, allows drivers to operate low-speed electric vehicles on more roads.

"Colorado has been and will continue to be a leader in the New Energy Economy," Sen. Schwartz said. "I sponsored SB 75 to promote low-speed neighborhood electric vehicles as one aspect of our larger energy goals this session. This bill will help Colorado move toward a local sustainable electric transportation system, reduce carbon emissions and support communities throughout the state."