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Lamont signs sweeping order on climate change, pollution

HARTFORD (AP) — Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed a sweeping executive order aimed at reducing pollution and addressing climate change Thursday, a month after pulling back his support of a regional climate initiative amid concerns it would further increase gas prices.

Under the order, the state will review all public buildings for energy efficiency, develop home appliance standards and building codes aimed at reducing energy costs, seek to make the state transit bus fleet all electric by 2035 and expand air quality monitoring statewide.

There will also be a new Connecticut Equity and Environmental Justice Advisory Council to address higher pollution levels and climate change mitigation, particularly in poorer and more racially diverse communities. The panel will advise the commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection on what steps the agency can take.

State officials will also assess whether California's stricter emissions standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles can be adopted in Connecticut. And the order directs state officials to work with cities and towns on projects to guard against the effects of climate change, including flooding.

"What we weren’t able to do through legislation here in Connecticut over the last year or two, we’re taking the lead right now with this executive order," Lamont said shortly before signing the order at a table outside the state Capitol. "And it’s really important that we lead by example, state government leads by example.”

Lamont, a Democrat, said the state will borrow some money to pay for the efforts, but didn't immediately say how much money. A state bond commission meeting is scheduled for next week. The state also will be using some of the hundreds of millions of dollars it is receiving from the federal infrastructure legislation for pollution-reducing and climate resiliency projects.

The proposed regional Transportation and Climate Initiative, aimed at dramatically reducing greenhouse gas pollution from transportation, lost support this fall, in part over worries that it amounted to a gas tax or a tax on carbon. Lamont and officials in Massachusetts and Rhode Island initially supported the plan, while leaders in the other New England states were skeptical.

It would have required large gasoline and diesel fuel suppliers to purchase “allowances” for the pollution caused by the use of the fuels they sell in the region. The number of emission allowances would have declined each year, according to the plan, generating billions for states to invest in carbon-reducing transportation options — like public transportation, zero-emission buses, cars, and trucks, and electric vehicle charging stations.

Lamont said Thursday he didn't think the regional proposal would return before the state legislature in next year's session, but remains hopeful it will resurface at some point in the future.

The governor's new executive order comes after a state report in September said Connecticut was not on track to meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45% over 2001 levels by 2030.

Katie Dykes, commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said the state will not be able to meet its pollution-reduction goals without legislative action, but executive branch agencies will be doing all they can under their existing authority.

“We know that this is the crisis of our time and it calls on all of us to get involved and get engaged,” Dykes said.

 

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