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As brakes pumped on plan to phase out sale of new gas-powered cars in CT, lawmakers respond

Speaker Matt Ritter at the State Capitol building in support of a proposal that would phase out new gas-only cars by 2035 in that Connecticut that Gov. Ned Lamont has delayed.
Ayannah Brown
/
Connecticut Public
Speaker Matt Ritter at the State Capitol building in support of a proposal that would phase out new gas-only cars by 2035 in that Connecticut that Gov. Ned Lamont has delayed.

Connecticut lawmakers have responded to plans to delay an update to state emission standards that would end the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035.

The bipartisan Regulation Review Committee was supposed to vote Tuesday on adopting California’s updated clean car standards. Connecticut has followed those stringent regulations for two decades, but lawmakers now say it will go before the full General Assembly next year.

Opponents of the measure pointed to a lack of charging infrastructure currently in the state and said they want more public input on phasing out the sale of new gas cars.

At a press conference Tuesday, Democratic lawmakers said it’s important the state has clear regulations in place now, so it can implement its clean transportation plans going forward.

“Connecticut, as 1% of America's population, will likely not dictate the market forces of electric vehicles. That will be dictated by others,” House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said. “But our inaction will cause us to fall behind in our state and what we do here in Connecticut, that's why the target is so important.”

Connecticut’s transportation sector accounts for nearly 40% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Many of Connecticut’s neighboring states, including New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, have all already signed onto the California-led emissions standards.

Ritter said lawmakers will caucus about future plans to adopt those standards on Monday.

Shortly after the Democrats' press conference, GOP leadership also gathered and said they are willing to work with Democrats about phasing out the sale of new gas-powered vehicles in Connecticut. But they raised concerns over the affordability of electric vehicles and said they want more input from electric utilities and the public about building out EV charging stations across the state.

“We need, in this building, the people’s voice,” Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, said. “We need the working-and-middle class families. We need Connecticut farmers. We need stakeholders. They need to be heard.”

Republicans have raised concerns about the relative lack of charging infrastructure that is currently available in rural areas and for people living in multi-family homes in cities.

Democrats acknowledged concerns about the cost of implementing EVs, but said they have the resources to properly do so over the next several years equitably across the state.

Environmental advocates said the decision to delay implementing the standards slows Connecticut’s progress in curbing climate change. Not adopting the California standards also impacts where manufacturers provide EVs, according to Charles Rothenberger, a climate and environment attorney with Save the Sound.

“We will likely feel it in terms of folks who are looking to purchase a clean electric vehicle or hybrid electric vehicle, having fewer options at their dealership from which to choose, because those vehicles are going to be prioritized to the states that have adopted more stringent standards,” Rothenberger said.

While a proposal that would phase out new gas-only cars by 2035 in Connecticut was delayed to 2024, Department of Energy and Environment Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Katie Dykes speaks on the importance of the proposal.
Ayannah Brown
/
Connecticut Public
While a proposal that would phase out new gas-only cars by 2035 in Connecticut was delayed to 2024, Department of Energy and Environment Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Katie Dykes speaks on the importance of the proposal.

Not adopting these standards also puts a pause on the momentum for reducing emissions, and improving air quality, said Katie Dykes, commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

“It will be nearly impossible for us to meet the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 45% by 2030 without vehicle emission standards in place,” she said.

The Hartford metropolitan area is among the most ozone-polluted cities on the east coast, and Fairfield County had the highest air ozone level in the eastern U.S., according to the annual air quality report from The American Lung Association.

Connecticut Public's Patrick Skahill contributed reporting.

As Connecticut Public's state government reporter, Michayla Savitt focuses on how policy decisions directly impact the state’s communities and livelihoods. Michayla has been with Connecticut Public since February 2022, and before that she was a producer and host for audio news outlets around New York state. When not on deadline, Michayla is probably outside with her rescue dog, Elphie. Thoughts? Jokes? Tips? Email msavitt@ctpublic.org.