HARTFORD — At a press conference on Wednesday, Republicans blasted Lamont’s proposed requirement that 100% of vehicles sold in Connecticut by 2035 will be electric-powered as a bureaucratic move that would crush middle class budgets and overwhelm the state’s electric infrastructure.
“This is not a sound environmental policy that has been well thought out and deliberated. Instead [it’s] an aggressive extreme agenda that is created by unelected bureaucrats to radically change, substantially change, the way people are going to move around our state. basically change the face of transportation without the legislature even sounding in,” said State Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford.
Kelly said the rule, proposed by the Lamont administration and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, will crush the working and middle class budgets of families across the state because electric vehicles are too expensive compared to gas-powered cars.
“The median cost of an EV is $53,000. Yet the median income in Connecticut is only $40,000,” he said. “[If] the majority wants this to happen, then let’s get better jobs. Let’s create more opportunity. Let’s get Connecticut working. But instead what we’re going to do is foist a burden that’s going to be more than an annual salary on the average family.”
Kelly said that the recent decision by state regulators to reject a requested rate hike by United Illuminating would leave the company unable to invest in needed infrastructure, ultimately straining the already overloaded capacity of the grid statewide.
“For instance, a 10 truck fleet uses the same amount of electricity as 1000 homes. So what’s the plan? Do we have one? If we do, I’d like to see it, I’d like to hear it. What’s the governor and his administration going to do and how is this going to be a part of it?” Kelly said.
Kelly said that while electric vehicles may reduce emissions, residents in environmental justice communities will not be able to afford the cost, and that the initiative will also kill jobs in the state – from car dealerships to the gasoline industry to auto parts stores.
He said that a national policy was needed rather than a state-by-state policy to protect states like Connecticut from pollution blowing from the rust belt states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Kelly also said that the Transportation Climate Initiative legislation proposed in 2021, which would have added to the cost of gasoline, would have been a sacrifice asked of Connecticut families “almost for naught.”
Kelly also questioned the California model for the state of Connecticut.
“And lastly, the notion that we’re going to be dictated to by California and their laws runs totally contrary to the long history of constitutional government that was christened right here in this city. It’s the people’s Government, not the bureaucrats’ … and we’re their elected representatives. The legislature is the body that needs to be vested with this decision, not California, not bureaucrats,” Kelly said. “The legislature needs to weigh in on something that’s substantial and significant that’s going to change the way we move around our state and the face of our transportation system moving forward.”
Kelly said the state takes its environmental stewardship very seriously, but “it’s not just about setting a policy.” He said building blocks needed to be put in place to achieve the goal first.
“While we love nothing better than a greener environment and cleaner air, we’ve got to work on today’s problems and today’s solutions to make those ideas a reality and that’s not present in the regulation that’s before us,” he said.
State Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said the Republicans were asking Lamont and Katie Dykes, commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, to suspend “this regulatory process” and provide a plan of how to implement an all-electric vehicle system in the state.”
Candelora said that while residents have expressed “great anxiety” at the prospect of transitioning to EV’s from gas-powered vehicles, a bigger concern is the approach that the state is now taking “by making our electric companies the biggest adversary in the state of Connecticut.”
“We saw that through the recent public hearings that PURA has begun embarking on a systemic attack on our electric grid through the state of Connecticut through its regulatory process,” Candelora said.
He said that it was estimated that the electric supply would need to increase by 60% to accommodate the requirements in the regulations.
“Right now we are ranked 53 out of 58 for our regulatory environment by UBS global research and it’s forecasted the path that we’re going on that the state of Connecticut is only going to have $20 million to invest in green energy over the next five years, comparing that to Massachusetts, who is investing over $6 billion in the same industry.”
He said it made no sense to make policy about the electric vehicles but not lead with the energy source to power them.
State Sen. Ryan Fazio, R-Greenwich, said the “extreme” policy had been copied and pasted from California and “will only make Connecticut much more unaffordable and increase the risk of rolling blackouts.”
“Say that this regulation increases the amount of electric vehicles that are sold 10–15 years out by about 70,000 per year. That means that we are going to need to generate about 700 megawatts of new electricity just for the state of Connecticut every single year in order to meet the increased demand,” Fazio said, and that 700 megawatts was about the electrical capacity of new wind farms like Revolution Wind and Park City Wind.
“We’re gonna have to build a new one of those every single year just to meet the demand from this regulation in Connecticut. Now, extrapolate that across five states in New England, which are also adopting this regulation. It’s mind boggling how much new electricity we’re going to have to generate in order to meet this demand,” he said.
Fazio asked where the increased electrical capacity will come from and how the people of Connecticut will afford it considering that wind contracts cost “double or triple” market rate, for residents “who are already paying among the most expensive electricity bills in the entire country.”
“When we know we’re having so much difficulty with supply, why would we be stressing demand in an artificial way like this simply by copying and pasting the regulations that are set 3000 miles away? We should be going through the normal legislative process for a regulation like this. We should be doing public hearings. We should be vetting the actual costs and benefits of the regulation,” he said.
He said it is a top priority of the House and Senate Republican caucuses to have a cleaner energy portfolio and that legislators added hydropower and new nuclear, which are both zero carbon, to the state’s renewable portfolio standard.
“We can create a cleaner grid, we can make Connecticut more affordable and we can increase the proliferation of electric vehicles in our state, but we have to do it prudently. We have to do it through the democratic process and we have to be smart about this in order to protect the middle class families in Connecticut who are paying too much already.”
State Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, questioned whether there would be “fuel deserts,” both of gas stations and charging stations, in areas of subsidized housing. She also questioned whether it was unaffordable for businesses to add numerous charging stations to their parking lots.
Cheeseman said that with the advent of electric vehicles, the special transportation fund would not receive nearly the funding as it had from the gasoline tax, and that House Republicans suggested adding a $300 fee for electric vehicles to pay for using the roads.
“Everyone has indicated our commitment, our passion, our desire to have a clean environment, clean air for everyone to breathe, but we need a Connecticut solution, not a California solution. We need a solution that recognizes you can’t reinvent the laws of physics and create unlimited electricity for free,” she said.
John Blair, president of the Motor Transportation Association of Connecticut, said that the issue for trucking companies was cost — $150,000 for a diesel truck compared to $450,000 for an electric truck.
“The thing is 80% of the goods that get to your homes come by freight. So if you create a cost for a trucking or motor carrier association, we have to pass that cost on to consumers. You should be as concerned about the car regs as you are about the truck regs,” he said.
Responding to media questions, Candelora agreed that his party should work with the Democrats, but added, “Don’t lead with a mandate. Don’t say an absolute ban by 2035 and leave everybody to scramble. Let’s start with a plan and let’s follow through with that plan.”
Reached by phone on Wednesday afternoon, State Sen. Christine Cohen, D-Guilford, chair of the Transportation Committee and former chair of the Environment Committee, told CT Examiner that she was frustrated that the two parties are ”not going to be walking hand in and hand on this,” especially given that in 2004 the General Assembly had passed with “overwhelming bipartisan support” legislation adopting California standards for light-duty vehicles.
“We need to come together more than ever,” she said. “We’re not meeting our goals for gas emissions… we need to take a bipartisan approach to make sure we have clean air to breathe,” she said.
Cohen said that New York and Massachusetts have already adopted more stringent emissions regulations than California
“Most major automobile manufacturers have also made a commitment to clean air by discontinuing the production of internal combustion engines – many prior to when our regulations will take effect. Ford, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Jaguar/Land Rover, and Uber have all pledged to end the manufacture or use of internal combustion engines by 2040, with some making promises for 2025 and 2030,” Cohen said in a statement.
“Now is the time to come together to make these cars more affordable and easier to use for our constituents. The markets are shifting, and Connecticut needs to be prepared — partisanship will only slow progress,” she said.
State Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex, told CT Examiner on Wednesday that the infrastructure for electric vehicles “has to be built out” and that every major carmaker was phasing out internal combustion engines on a similar timeline.
“For 75% of the population, most driving allows you to go to and from home on a charge on your vehicle, for most people it will be relatively seamless, but it will be less seamless when traveling,” he said.
Needleman said electric vehicles are a necessity for the future generations as a step toward slowing down the effects of climate change.
“The more I read, the more I believe climate change is the existential change that humanity is facing along with nuclear weapons,” he said. “From seeing the people in Lahaina, now we see that no one is immune… Everybody is going to be subject to all this and we need to do whatever we can.”
Needleman said the science on climate change was settled, and that while not everyone agreed, the downside of inaction was too great to ignore.
“I think that if I’m wrong and the science isn’t settled — and 95% of the scientific community feels we need to be firing on all cylinders for mitigation at this point — but if I’m wrong, we will have spent money we wouldn’t have spent otherwise,” Needleman said. “But if the other side is wrong, we are doomed, generations of people, hundreds of millions, will see insecurity on all levels – water, food, where they live might not be habitable. So, I’m all in on this, we need to do this.”