Republicans campaign against Lamont’s latest EV push

August 17, 2023

CT Post

Fueled by skepticism over Connecticut’s ability to make the switch to electric vehicles, Republican lawmakers on Wednesday launched an opposition campaign to Gov. New Lamont’s latest push to phase out the sale of gas-powered cars by 2035.

Their effort will focus on new regulations, announced by Lamont last month, that would have Connecticut join a coalition of more than a dozen states — led by California — seeking to expedite the transition to electric.

The decision to follow the vehicle emission standards set by California’s Air Resources Board dates back nearly 20 years to the administration of a Republican governor, John Rowland. Since then, CARB’s regulators have increasingly shifted their focus from fighting smog to tackling global climate change, and Republicans have grown weary of their mandates.

“The wholesale elimination of gas-powered vehicles by 2035 is a policy decision that a majority of Americans don’t agree with, yet Democrats here, using scary words such as ‘survival,’ aggressively insist on forcing Connecticut down California’s ideological regulatory rabbit hole no matter the financial cost to our state or the people who live here,” House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R- North Branford, said in statement announcing opposition to the regulations.

Later Wednesday, Candelora stood flanked by other Republican leaders, and called on the Lamont administration to pause its planned rollout of the latest California regulations, which would also require dealers to sell a steadily increasing number of electric trucks, buses and RVs.

Among the concerns raised by Candelora and his Senate counterpart, Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, R- Stratford, were that Connecticut lagged in the development of public charging stations and other infrastructure needed to support a mass transition to electric vehicles — which currently account for just over 1 percent of cars in the state.

With the addition of tens of thousands of electric cars, they said, Connecticut will require vast new sums of electricity to keep batteries charged and people moving.

“What’s the plan?” Kelly chided. “Do we have one?”

In a statement Wednesday, Lamont spokesman Adam Joseph lamented that the Republicans had declined to stand behind the legislation that was initially passed on a heavily bipartisan basis in 2004.

“We are in the midst of a climate emergency and are living the effects of climate change,” Joseph said. “Last year, our families experienced the financial hardship of depending on foreign oil to get to work, school, and the grocery store. This summer, severe storms and deadly wildfires brought the growing dangers of global warming home to all of us.”

The proposed regulations will be the subject of a public hearing on Aug. 22 hosted by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The General Assembly’s Regulations Review Committee, made up of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, will also have to sign off on the proposed rules before they can take effect.

Any effort to block the proposed regulations could run into legal challenges however, if environmental groups seek to enforce state laws pledging to follow California’s emission standards.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, states may either choose to follow emissions standards set by California, or a looser set of regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Kelly, acknowledging Connecticut has long opted for the former, said that legislators would seek to repeal the law if they are successful in blocking Lamont’s proposed regulations.

Environmental groups on Wednesday warned that approach would mean dirtier air, higher rates of asthma and non-compliance with the state’s commitments to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades.

“The bottom line is, I think the momentum is very much going in the way of adopting these standards,” said Lori Brown, the executive director of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters. “Why get in the way?”

At the press conference Wednesday, John Blair, a lobbyist for the trucking industry, warned that residents should be as concerned about regulations on medium and heavy-duty vehicles as they are on cars.

The cost of an electric semi-truck, he said, can be up to $450,000 and several times the cost of a conventional diesel model.

“If you create a cost for our trucking and motor carrier association, we have to pass that cost on to consumers,” Blair said.

Manufacturers, meanwhile, have largely avoided pushing back on the proposed rules in California and other states.

Many major automakers have announced their own timelines for transiting to all-electric lineups that are just a few years beyond the deadlines proposed in those states.