California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced an executive order that will phase out and ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles in California by 2035 and, according to state statute, Connecticut must follow California’s lead.
According to a September 23 press release issued by Newsom, “the California Air Resources Board will develop regulations to mandate that 100 percent of in-state sales of new passenger cars and trucks are zero-emission by 2035 – a target which would achieve more than a 35 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and an 80 percent improvement in oxides of nitrogen emissions from cars statewide.”
California is the only state in the country that can set its own emissions standards rather than following federal emissions standards, something that has caused friction between California and President Donald Trump’s administration, spurring a multi-state lawsuit against the administration.
California’s emissions standards are more strict than federal regulations, aimed at reducing the state’s notorious smog problem, particularly in the Los Angeles area.
However, in 2004 Connecticut joined eight other states by passing a law that coupled Connecticut’s vehicle emission standards with California’s, starting with vehicles built in 2008.
According to Connecticut statute, “On or before December 31, 2004, the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection shall adopt regulations, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54, to implement the light duty motor vehicle emission standards of the state of California, and shall amend such regulations from time to time, in accordance with changes in said standards.”
The law continues: “Nothing in this section shall prohibit the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection from establishing a program to require the sale, purchase and use of motor vehicles which comply with any regulations adopted by the commissioner which implement the California motor vehicle emissions standards.”
In 2004 Connecticut joined eight other states by passing a law that coupled Connecticut’s vehicle emission standards with California’s, starting with vehicles built in 2008.
However, the regulations are subject to review by the Legislative Regulation Review Committee, a 14-member committee that is divided equally between Democrats and Republicans.
Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, who previously served on the Legislative Regulation Review Committee says he warned colleagues about tying Connecticut’s regulations to California.
“Generally speaking, I don’t think it’s ever a good idea for Connecticut to give up its sovereign rights to another state and that’s effectively what we did on our emissions policies,” Candelora said.
“What we’re seeing is a very dramatic policy coming out of California that’s automatically going to implicate the state of Connecticut unless we’re able to get legislation that decouples us from decisions that are made by California,” Candelora said.
The California emissions standards only apply to passenger vehicles in Connecticut. However, before the abrupt end of Connecticut’s 2020 legislative session, the Energy and Technology Committee considered Senate Bill 10 – An Act Concerning Certain Recommendations Regarding Climate Change — that would have extended California’s standards to medium and heavy-duty trucks.
Section one of the bill would grant the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection would assess California’s emissions standards for medium and heavy-duty vehicles and adopt them if it was determined “necessary to meet Connecticut’s air quality and climate change goals,” according to testimony submitted by DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes.
Connecticut joined Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont in signing a statement of intent to adopt and implement the California Clean Trucks program on a regional basis.
Newsom’s executive order only applies to new vehicles sold in the state staring in 2035. Residents who already own gas-powered vehicles would not be affected and could still purchase used gas-powered vehicles or cars from other states.
California expects that electric vehicles will become cheaper, more readily available and that the state can develop the infrastructure to support wide use of zero-emission vehicles in the next fifteen years.
Connecticut, for several years, blocked efforts by Tesla to sell their electric vehicles in Connecticut.
Tesla does not use a car dealership model for selling their vehicles and pushed to change state law to allow them to sell directly to customers. Car dealers, however, pushed back saying it would undermine their industry and Tesla eventually gave up the fight and moved to direct online sales.
Connecticut under both Gov. Dannel Malloy and now Gov. Ned Lamont has been moving toward energy policies aimed at greatly reducing emissions from both electricity generation and vehicle travel.
Under Gov. Malloy, Connecticut joined the Transportation Climate Initiative, which would levy a tax on gasoline sales across 13 states in the Northeast and then use the funds to pay for green energy projects, public transportation and climate justice initiatives.
Although Gov. Lamont has not committed to the TCI plan – and at least one state has withdrawn from the coalition – Lamont has pushed for zero emission electricity production in Connecticut. Lamont has directed the DEEP to push Connecticut toward 100 percent renewable electricity energy by 2040.
On Monday, Lamont unveiled the first two battery-electric buses that will join the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s fleet, replacing two diesel powered buses.
“This program illustrates our commitment not only to public transportation and the thousands of Connecticut citizens who rely on it every day, but also to the environment,” Lamont said in a press release.
DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said, “Today we celebrate an important first in our drive toward a zero-carbon future – a local manifestation of our state and regional commitment toward a zero-emission vehicle.”