A compromise plan to eventually end the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles in Connecticut could be worked out as early as next year's legislative session, state lawmakers said Tuesday.
The move comes a day after Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont withdrew proposed regulations mirroring California's clean vehicle standards after it became apparent there wasn't enough support on a key legislative committee. Those standards would have halted sales of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035.
House Speaker Matt Ritter, a Democrat from Hartford, said that his members plan to meet on Monday to discuss possible legislation that addresses concerns about the regulations. Republicans and others say they're worried about the high cost of electric vehicles, the availability of charging stations and the ability of the state's electric grid to handle the anticipated changeover from gas-combustion engines to electric vehicles.
“We have to do more,” said Ritter. “We have to demonstrate to Connecticut residents that this switch will not only save the environment, save lives, and save our planet — but not leave you in a position where you can no longer afford a vehicle.”
Lamont's decision to withdraw the proposed regulations, a week after New Jersey became the latest state to announce plans to prohibit the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, was seen as a setback by some advocates. Members of the public booed when the withdrawal was announced during Tuesday's meeting of the General Assembly's Regulations Review Committee.
A growing number of states are committing to California's aggressive plan to move toward zero-emission vehicles, including Vermont, New York, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, Virginia, Rhode Island and Maryland, according to Coltura, a Seattle-based nonprofit advocating for an end to gasoline vehicle use.
“Unfortunately, a misinformation campaign fueled by the fossil fuel industry won and Connecticut residents will pay the price," said Ruth Canovi, director of advocacy with the American Lung Association in Connecticut, in a written statement. She said Connecticut “is now positioned to be the only clean car state from Virginia to Vermont to leave our residents out of these strong public health, climate change, and health equity policies this year.”
State Rep. Vincent Candelora, the Republican leader of the Connecticut House of Representatives, said he was pleased Lamont decided to withdraw the regulations.
“I’m hoping that this next look will take into consideration the affordability and the impact it’s going to have on residents, especially people that live in the cities,” he said. “So we really need a broader conversation, looking at the electric grid and the feasibility of being able to do something like this.”
The new legislative session begins Feb. 7.
“It seems that we do have an opportunity for a compromise on this and to keep moving in the right direction that we need to move on,” said House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, a Democrat. "So we need to hold on to that when we get to the next legislative session and, as expected, will take this up.”
Moving forward, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes said Connecticut will either “default to the EPA standard or we will move forward with the California program.”
Under the California program, the state must give auto manufacturers advance notice of when it plans to implement the tougher standards. In order to implement California's standards for the 2027 model year, Connecticut would have to adopt the regulations by the end of 2023. If regulations are adopted in 2024, they'd impact the 2028 model year.
In April, the Biden administration proposed new automobile pollution limits that would require up to two-thirds of new vehicles sold in the U.S. to be electric by 2032, a nearly tenfold increase over current electric vehicle sales.
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