Republican lawmakers pumping the brakes on CT electric vehicle regulations

August 17, 2023

NBC Connecticut

House and Senate Republicans joined together Wednesday in opposition of the announcement at the end of July that Connecticut would be joining onto California’s clean car standards.

The regulations require a phase out of gas powered vehicles sold in state. By 2035, all new vehicles sold in state are required to be electric.

“What they see as an alternative, an electric vehicle, is something that is unaffordable to most working and middle class families,” Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, of Stratford, said.

His concerns included the cost of current new electric vehicles, the lack of charging infrastructure in Connecticut, the lack of plan to build out charging infrastructure and the impacts a policy of this magnitude could have without first debating it in the legislature.

“I don’t think this is the type of policy that we put in place and hope like in the field of dreams, if we build it they will come,” Kelly said.

Back in 2004, Connecticut lawmakers decided to attach our state emissions goals to the state to the California regulations.

That decision had full support from republicans except for one.

But Kelly said at the time, the goals were different.

“Now what we are looking at are EV’s which weren’t really in existence back then to the extent that they are today,” Kelly said. “And so while this deals with the same subject matter, it goes beyond what was contemplated in the initial statute.”

He thinks the policy should be rehashed in the legislature before Connecticut residents are stuck with it.

But Democrats say instead of reworking the policy, the focus should be on meeting the target.

“We are all totally focused on making sure this goes off smoothly,” Democrat Christine Cohen, of Guilford, said.

She hopes Republicans and Democrats can work together to focus on the transition instead of the target – a target experts say is attainable.

“With some planning I think it’s possible, and I do think people are beginning to plan for it,” Kenneth Gillingham, a professor with the Yale School for the Environment, said.

Gillingham admits we do need more charging infrastructure in state, but doesn’t expect, even with all electric vehicle options by 2035, that gas powered cars will be wiped from the road.

“A very high percentage of the used vehicles will be gasoline powered,” Gillingham said. “No one is going to take away your gas powered vehicle.”

He believes the pressure applied from 17 states adopting these regulations, including Connecticut, will force manufacturers to accelerate their development and roll out more affordable electric vehicles.

Gilingham adds that the majority of electric vehicles we have seen already have been luxury oriented, but manufacturers have announced plans to bring more accessible electric vehicles to the market place.

“People are quite optimisitic we will be hitting price parody in the next few years potentially,” Gillingham said.

Transportation is responsible for about 40% of Connecticut’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

The department issued a statement Wednesday saying in part:

“If Connecticut does not adopt these standards, Connecticut residents will have fewer clean vehicle options to choose from as these vehicles will flow first to states that require they be offered for sale. The standards also include compliance flexibilities for vehicle manufacturers and stronger warranty provisions to protect Connecticut consumers.”