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Connecticut House votes for carbon-free electricity by 2040

Hartford — After the state Senate passed it unanimously Tuesday, the House of Representatives then passed the bill Thursday requiring the state to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from electricity supplied to Connecticut customers by 2040.

By a vote of 113-35, with three House members absent or not voting, Senate Bill 10, An Act Concerning Climate Change Mitigation, now heads to the governor's desk for him to sign into law. 

Reps. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford; Greg Howard, R-Stonington; Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, and Devin Carney, R-Old Lyme, were four of the 18 Republicans who voted in favor of the bill. But some Republicans pushed back, arguing that the cost to consumers contained in the bill is too great.

Democrats including state Rep. Christine Palm, D-Chester, spoke of the “intergenerational responsibility to look these kids in the eye and say we did everything within our power when we had the chance.”

“Constituents recognize that if we don’t do something, Connecticut will still have environmental problems,” Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, said on the floor Thursday. “If we don’t get off our reliance on fossil fuels, this is on us. This is what our children will inherit because we hesitated.”

Save the Sound and other environmental advocacy organizations have been pushing SB 10, which would codify Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive order requiring 100% zero-carbon electricity supplied to electric customers in the state by 2040. The bill passed Thursday would move Connecticut from fossil fuel-generated power to green or renewable energies such as solar, wind and nuclear power.

Though McCarty and Cheeseman voted in favor of the bill, they echoed other Republicans' concerns in their remarks.

Cheeseman confirmed that the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection commissioner must consider ratepayer impact even when a purchase power agreement increases carbon-free emissions.

"Everyone agrees that we want a planet that is as pristine as possible," she said. "We also, I hope, agree that we live in a state with extraordinary high costs, particularly with regard to energy and electricity, and the last thing we want to do is unfairly burden our residents with even more costs." Cheeseman urged legislators to have an "open mind and having the willingness to admit that we might have to push this out a bit."

McCarty was pleased to hear that there are no penalties for failing to meet the state's goals in the bill, and that if a future legislature wanted, it could adjust the 2040 target year. She also emphasized the importance of Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Waterford and its role in meeting the state's energy goals.

The bill faced little opposition in the Energy and Technology Committee and was supported by DEEP 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.

“What are the costs of not accomplishing our clean energy goals? We undermine a growing green jobs industry in Connecticut,” Steinberg said. “There’s opportunity that’s out there that we’re not taking advantage of.”

Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex, the Senate Chair of the Energy and Technology Committee, in a statement after the bill passed out of his chamber Tuesday, said that it will speed up goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change.

"Our state has a standing goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from electricity supplied in the state by 80% by January 2050,” Needleman said in the statement. “Under this bill, we move that deadline to 2040, and expand our efforts to a full 100% reduction of emissions. Our state needs to respond to local, national and worldwide pollution and do our part to protect our environment, our air and our world. We need to act now to prepare for what the future will hold."

s.spinella@theday.com

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