Sen. Kissel: “Complicated questions” to be raised about gas-powered car ban

October 27, 2023

CT lawmakers grill DEEP staff ahead of looming showdown over plan to phase out gas-powered cars

A regulatory battle over Gov. Ned Lamont’s plans to begin phasing out sales of gasoline-powered cars ramped up quietly at the State Capitol this week, as lawmakers vented frustrations with the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

For more than an hour on Tuesday, members of the legislature’s Regulations Review Committee grilled DEEP staff over a proposal to add dozens of towns to an area of the state subject to stricter permitting and emissions rules, which result from a failure to meet federal air quality rules.

Members of both parties questioned if the agency had taken adequate steps to inform local businesses and communities that will fall under the expanded non-attainment zone, as well as what resources were being put in place to help them comply with any additional regulations. After a lengthy pause in which members deliberated in party caucuses, the rule was approved over a handful of “no” votes from Republicans.

The debate foreshadowed a looming fight over the proposal to phase-out sales of new, gas-powered cars by 2035. The proposal has infuriated Republicans and business leaders.

One co-chairman of the committee, state Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, specifically referenced that proposal, which he said would come before the committee in November.

“I think there’s going to be other stuff coming down the road in November before this Regulations Review Committee pertaining to air quality,” Kissel said. “I just think we have to bring everyone around the table and inform them of the pros and cons regarding regulating my constituents and businesses here in the state of Connecticut.”

Kissel also advised DEEP staff — who appeared virtually before the committee on Tuesday — to show up in person for next month’s meeting, prepared to answer “deep and interesting and complicated questions” from lawmakers.

At least one Democrat on the committee, state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, said this week that she harbored concerns about the proposed phase-out, noting the higher cost of electric vehicles and their potential to strain the regional electric grid.

“I’m still reviewing all the data,” Osten said this week. “I’ve met with DEEP, and I still have more questions.”