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    Monday, December 04, 2023

    Environmental advocates warn against legislative inaction

    Hartford — Legislators and environmental advocates on Tuesday called for a slate of climate-conscious bills to be passed by the General Assembly.

    During a news conference at the Capitol Building and through several news releases, legislators, environmentalists and others declared support for “bills requiring 100% clean electricity by 2040, raising solar program caps, and reducing emissions from medium and heavy-duty vehicles,” according to Save the Sound.

    “We have not taken the climate crisis seriously enough the last couple of sessions, in terms of what we’ve gotten over the finish line,” state Rep. Anne Hughes, D-Easton, said during Tuesday’s news conference.

    Hughes, who is the co-chair of the progressive caucus, and other speakers referenced a new United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report finding that, unless drastically reduced, the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, among other factors, is expected to cause global warming at unmanageable levels.

    An IPCC report from last year, which warned of wildfires, droughts, rising sea levels, heat waves and more frequent severe weather events, distinguished itself from previous reports in terming the human influence of climate change as “unequivocal.” Connecticut also can expect rising air temperatures, less snow falling in the winter, more precipitation in certain areas, a longer growing season and rising sea levels in the coming years.

    “We need to take action to clean our energy grid and prepare it for the future,” Energy and Technology Committee Co-Chairs state Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex, and Rep. David Arconti, D-Danbury, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Getting to a net-zero energy grid by 2040 is vitally important for our environment, for energy reliability and for the people of Connecticut. I pledge to continue working with my colleagues to fight for the future of clean energy in our state.”

    While the following three bills made it out of committee, supporters warned against a lack of will that they said prevailed during the last legislative session, when the Transportation Climate Initiative, a plan supported by Gov. Ned Lamont, ultimately was not passed by the state legislature.

    “We have several important pieces of legislation to champion during this short legislative session, this short window of opportunity to make significant, intersectional policy change,” Hughes said during Tuesday’s news conference. “We are rallying our legislative leaders with the public, to collaborate on the local and state level to demonstrate to the country what climate-smart, strategic investment to shift our economy from carbon-reliant to a carbon zero economic future looks like.”

    Senate Bill 10

    SB 10, An Act Concerning Climate Mitigation, would codify the state’s ambitious energy goals, putting into statute that the state intends to reach 100% zero carbon for electricity supplied by 2040.

    “The state shall reduce the level of emissions of greenhouse gas ... not later than January 1, 2040, to a level of zero per cent from electricity supplied to electric customers in the state,” the bill reads.

    The bill faced little opposition in the Energy and Technology Committee and was supported by state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes, who pointed out “that this bill will further the development of the clean energy sector, which contributed $6.6 billion and 41,000 jobs to the state's economy in 2020,” according to the joint favorable report.

    House Bill 5039

    HB 5039, An Act Concerning Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicle Emission Standards, aims to limit pollution from the state’s biggest vehicle polluters, such as buses and diesel trucks. According to Save the Sound, though comprising only 6% of on-road vehicles in Connecticut, these vehicles cause 53% of harmful polluting emissions.

    The bill would institute stricter emissions rules by adopting California standards. Advocates such as Lori Brown, executive director of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, and doctors such as Seth Lotterman, president of the CT College of Emergency Physicians, have noted this pollution's adverse effects on human health.

    “Connecticut’s poor air quality actually worsens acute and chronic respiratory problems like asthma, COPD, and other lung diseases and in some cases leads to premature death,” Lotterman said during Tuesday’s news conference. “When you look at ways we can make a difference, you have to look at transportation — a leading cause of our air quality problems.”

    The bill received pushback from business interests, including the National Waste and Recycling Association, the Connecticut Farm Bureau, the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the American Petroleum Institute and the Lumber Dealers Association of Connecticut, among others, due to cost concerns.

    "Medium- and heavy-duty trucks are used in a wide variety of applications with a diverse set of equipment specifications and performance requirements," API wrote in its testimony. "A policy centered on a 'one-technology-fits-all approach' could result in stranded investments and lost opportunities to reduce emissions on a faster timeline."

    The MTAC said California's emissions requirements would result in an overwhelming cost for trucking companies. "CA standards also contain a phased-in electric truck sales mandate. A medium duty electric truck will cost 2.5 times more than its diesel counterpart (about $130,000 difference), and a heavy-duty will cost 3 times more than its diesel counterpart (about $276,000 difference)," MTAC wrote in its testimony. "At the end of the phase-in period, a rough estimate shows $951 million in total incremental costs will be incurred."

    Only handful of individuals opposed the legislation.

    Senate Bill 4

    SB 4, the Connecticut Clean Air Act, also is focused on air quality. According to the joint favorable report, the bill is meant to “continue the development of Connecticut’s drive for clean air through three actions: setting dates at which Connecticut’s fleet of cars and light duty trucks must be made up of 50%, 75%, and 100% battery electric vehicles, the creation of a rebate program for electric bicycles, and the creation of a fund, under the supervision of the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection, for improving air quality and reducing carbon emissions.”

    DEEP, as well as the state departments of Transportation and Administrative Services, expressed concerns with the bill because it wouldn't be in line with the governor’s proposed budget. The Propane Gas Association of New England also opposed the bill, “stating that it excludes other clean fuels that could assist Connecticut in meeting its climate goals” and hoping for an amendment to include propane-powered vehicles, according to the joint favorable report.


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