Democrats Push Business Tax Credits in Climate Change Omnibus

CT Examiner


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HARTFORD — A wide-ranging climate bill that has been dubbed the “Green Monster” includes a mix of incentives for businesses and directives to state agencies to transition to renewable sources of energy with the goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

At a press conference on Friday, State Rep. Christine Palm, D-Chester, the main author of the bill, said that climate change was an urgent problem and one that posed a particular “existential problem” for the younger generations.

“The monster of climate change, global warming, climate chaos, whatever you choose to call it, is very real,” said Palm. 

The bill requires the state to lower its greenhouse gas emissions to a level at least 65 percent below its 2001 emissions levels in 2040, and to a level at least 85 percent below 2001 emissions levels in 2050. It also requires state agencies to substantially lower their emissions, with the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. 

Katie Dykes, the Commissioner for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said in written testimony that she supported the bill overall, including the net-zero targets for state agencies. 

“Overall, DEEP believes that this bill is necessary for Connecticut because we are not on track to meet our 2030 and 2050 emission reduction targets and our 2050 emissions target is no longer in line with current scientific recommendations,” Dykes said. “Intensifying extreme weather events pose to public safety and economic prosperity of our State.”

Dykes noted that the new greenhouse gas emissions goals would put the state in line with its neighboring states, including Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Maine and Vermont. 

Palm said that the bill included funds for consultants to help with measuring whether state agencies were meeting the net-zero goal. She said the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection would be tasked with overseeing that. 

“More carrot than stick”

The bill includes a heap of incentives for businesses and state buildings to transition to net-zero emissions, including preferences through the JobCT Tax Credit for businesses that use zero-energy or energy efficient methods. It increases the reimbursement rate for any school construction projects that also include a renewable energy project. It considers the option of waiving fees for certified environmentally sustainable farms and certified corporations that have a social impact — known as “B Corporations.” 

It also creates a pilot program for a business incubator for start-ups that are zero-carbon, and particularly those that develop alternatives to plastic as a way of reducing waste. The companies would use an unused state facility and pay no rent for up to three years. 

“There are incentives for the business community in this bill that are unprecedented in the state, and so if it is true that we care about supporting our business community, and we fear that going green is going to harm them, 85 percent of CEOs now recognize that it’s good for the bottom line, and so I am certainly hoping that they will join us,” said Palm. 

She also pointed out that some businesses were flooded out last year, and that farmers had lost crops to an unseasonable freeze in mid-May of last year.

Palm said it wasn’t yet clear how much it would cost to implement the bill’s provisions, but she said they hoped to use funds from the federal Inflation Reduction Act, as well as bonding money.  

State Rep. Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, the majority leader, praised the bill’s approach of incentivizing rather than penalizing. 

“It’s an ambitious bill that is full of incentives and has more ‘carrot than stick,’ so to speak,” said Ritter. 

The bill calls not only for a reduction of fossil fuel use, but mitigation through “carbon sequestration” – or the practice of using soils, forests and wetlands to capture and store carbon dioxide. It asks Dykes to propose a plan for how the state can mitigate climate change through things like reforestation, protecting forests and wetlands, controlling invasive species and restoring habitats along the coastline. 

Palm said that people across the legislature understood the urgency of the bill, although she wasn’t sure how many people would vote in favor or against. She said they hoped to receive more Republican support.

Contacted by CT Examiner, House Republicans declined to comment. Senate Republicans did not respond to a request for comment. 

In support

About 300 people submitted testimony in favor of the bill, including students, members of the business community, farmers, environmental groups and physicians. 

Allison Sloane, who owns the Pandemonium Rainforest Project in Deep River — a cafe and thrift store where she rescues exotic animals — and Ashleigh’s Garden Flower Shop, said during the press conference that having support from the state would make it easier for her to run her business in an environmentally conscious way. 

“It’s very hard to be a sustainable and environmentally conscientious flower shop. We’ve done this. And through incentives from the state, it would make being a business owner and being an environmentalist a lot easier for us,” said Sloane. 

The bill begins with a declaration of a “climate crisis” that threatens all residents of the state regardless of zip code. Several people underscored how they were already seeing the results of changes in climate in their daily lives and in their work. 

Howard Yoder, the co-chair of the Health and Public Policy Committee for the CT Chapter of the American College of Physicians, and Kirsten Ek, a member of the committee, said in testimony that lowering air pollution was critical for the protection of public health.

“Every day we treat patients with asthma and serious respiratory diseases that are exacerbated by the effects of climate change. Exposure to infectious disease from vectors such as ticks and mosquitoes has and will continue to escalate and is impacted by climate. Increasing ozone levels and higher concentrations of particulate matter have a challenging effect on patients of all ages with lung disease,” they said. 

And Maggie Favretti, the founding director of the Alliance for the Mystic River Watershed, which represents Stonington, Groton, Ledyard, North Stonington and the Eastern and Mashantucket Pequot Nations, recounted the changes the communities were seeing in their local ecosystems. 

“Because of our stormwater pollution, commercial oyster beds have to close for a week or until the oysters are safe to eat any time there is a rain event over an inch and a half. Last year, they lost nearly half of their sales,” Favretti wrote in testimony. “New invasive species coming north with warmer winters like hydrilla threaten to collapse our ecosystems. Life-threatening mosquito and tick-borne diseases once only seen down south, as well as southern forest pests and diseases killing ash, beech, and maple trees remind us to save all the trees we can. Repeated cyanobacteria blooms and fecal coliform bacteria after increasingly heavy rainstorms make the lakes at the headwaters unswimmable and water in the nearby dug wells unpotable.”


About 60 people did submit testimony in opposition to the bill, several were the owners of small local fuel companies. John Allen, Vice President of Operations for the Marandola Fuel Company in New Milford, said in testimony that his company was already transitioning to the use of biofuels made from cooking oil, plant oil and animal fats, which he said would reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent and not put large costs on the shoulders of ratepayers. 

Jeff Jennings, owner of Jennings Oil Company in Danbury, said the bill would cause serious problems for his business. 

“This is a veiled attempt to eliminate the product we sell, and will ultimately eliminate hundreds of companies, and put tens of thousands of Connecticut residents out of a job,” said Jennings, who argued that generating electricity for electric heating also produced carbon emissions, since 50 percent of the state’s electricity came from natural gas power plants. 

Several of the fuel company owners mentioned that the transition to an electrified economy would place too heavy a burden on Connecticut’s aged electric grid. Palm said that they were aware of the limitations of the grid, and pointed out that there was a section in the bill focused on increasing battery storage capacity.

“I reject, absolutely wholesale, that there is no way we can increase the grid. We can get more capacity. We can figure out the technical problems,” said Palm. 

Others criticized a portion of the bill that supports an investment in 310,000 heat pumps for residents across the state, saying that it overlooked potential inefficiencies of using heat pumps. 

“[The bill] is requiring the installation of not less than 310,000 heat pumps, but ignores the cost to install and operate them, the ability of an already strained grid to handle the electric demand, costs to ratepayers to accommodate them, fossil fuel generated electricity to power them and the lack of efficiency during cold weather,” John Daniels, owner of Daniels Propane in Old Saybrook and Portland, wrote in testimony to the committee. 

But State Rep. Brandon Chafee, D-Middletown, praised that section of the bill. 

“They are highly efficient, they reduce energy costs substantially, and they’re clean,” Chafee said at the press conference, adding that heat pumps were particularly popular in Norway, which is known for harsh winters. 

“The number one issue”

High school and college students who spoke at the press conference and public hearing urged lawmakers to think seriously about climate change. Brett Hurley, a UConn student writing his senior thesis on Connecticut’s decarbonization policy and comparing it to other states in the region, noted how far behind Connecticut fell in addressing climate change. 

“As a young person, climate change is the number one issue that influences how I vote in all elections, including those that send people to this very building,” said Hurley. “I refuse to vote for those who do not take climate change or climate action seriously.” 

Palm pointed out that the state had only met its carbon emissions benchmarks once, and that was during the pandemic when fewer people were driving.

“When you take all the cars off the road and the particulate matter count goes down precipitously, the only conclusion you can come to is that it’s people driving cars that put it there,” said Palm. “So this will update our goals and seek to enforce them and move toward them in a more meaningful way.”

Emilia Otte

Emilia Otte covers health and education for the Connecticut Examiner. In 2022 Otte was awarded "Rookie of the Year," by the New England Newspaper & Press Association.