Earlier this year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission set the national conversation ablaze, receiving immediate backlash for stating that a ban on natural gas stoves was “on the table,” according to its commissioner.
Despite the criticism and subsequent backtracking, Connecticut lawmakers have proposed a similar concept to “establish emission standards for gas-powered home appliances,” which would include gas stoves. The bill is one of several pieces of legislation pursuing a climate change agenda.
Lawmakers also aim to establish a “climate-friendly food purchasing plan,” requiring state departments and agencies to buy “sustainable foods with a low carbon footprint”; set “noise limits for offshore wind facilities”; and grant the Department of Transportation commissioner to use eminent domain — the taking of private property — to create bike paths.
More than that, Connecticut legislators are proposing new “inherent, inalienable, and indefeasible” rights to the state constitution — an environmental rights amendment. The proposed amendment states that each Connecticut resident shall have the “individual right to clean and healthy air, water, soil and environment; a stable climate; and self-sustaining ecosystems,” with the justification the ‘rights’ are for the safety and general welfare of the public.
A new set of created ‘rights’ or the restricting of gas stoves and a climate-friendly food plan will not solve the real environmental/energy-related issues plaguing state residents, but, more than likely, compound the rising electricity and heating costs. Connecticut cannot import enough natural gas from the rest of the country thanks, in part, to New York’s resistance to natural gas pipelines.
Lawmakers need real solutions (such as the ones presented in Yankee Institute’s Charter for Change):
- Repeal the Jones Act: The federal Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act, blocks foreign-flagged ships from moving goods between United States ports. Shielded from competition, the aging fleet of Jones Act-compliant ships has shrunk to below 100 and effectively eliminated maritime shipping as an option for people looking to move goods between Connecticut and other U.S. ports. What’s more, at present, there are no U.S. flagged, U.S.-built liquified natural gas (LNG) ships. The effects range from higher gasoline prices and higher winter electricity costs to a greater volume of heavy traffic on Connecticut highways and difficulty replacing cross-sound ferries. The law has left New England relying on Russian liquified natural gas during cold snaps. Although this isn’t a state policy matter, Connecticut state officials haven’t shied away from weighing in on federal decisions that have even marginal ramifications for the state. One of the most immediate benefits from repealing the Jones Act would be that foreign-flagged ships could move LNG from Texas to New England, rather than making the region dependent on more distant foreign sources. Repealing the Jones Act would also benefit Connecticut ports by expanding the number of ships eligible to use them. Bridgeport area officials have long touted the potential value of the city’s harbor as an economic engine, especially as an alternative to the busier ports of New York and New Jersey.
- Allow for Small Nuclear Reactors: Advances in nuclear technology will soon allow for the widespread production of small modular reactors (SMRs), which require less capital investment and are easier to site. Saskatchewan Power Corporation, the Canadian province’s main electric utility, has taken steps to build a distributed network of SMRs over the next 15 years, going so far as to select a provider. This year, the General Assembly opened the door to building an SMR at Millstone Nuclear Plant in Waterford by adding an exemption to the state’s 1979 restriction on new reactors. With small reactor technology advancing rapidly, the General Assembly should eliminate the ban altogether to avoid giving a single business a leg-up. Given the state’s push for greater electrification in transportation and home heating, it’s more important than ever that the state eliminate obstacles to emerging technologies. Welcoming SMRs and other emerging generation technologies will give Connecticut a better chance to reverse its unfortunate distinction of having some of the country’s highest electricity costs.
- Allow Utilities to Show State Compliance Costs on Bills: Connecticut’s high electricity prices stem directly from policy decisions in Hartford. These include mandatory support for the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant, mandatory renewable energy purchases and a range of state taxes and surcharges. Although utilities are authorized to show some of these, other parts are baked into their overall transmission costs. The state’s electrical utilities operate under strict rules about how their bills can be printed. Easing those rules to allow greater cost transparency will help the public understand — and make more judgments — about state energy policies. The utilities should be authorized to show the cost of RECs, the state’s power purchase agreement with Millstone, and any other compulsory spending.
If progressive lawmakers are truly concerned about advancing the climate-change agenda, they need to embrace more free-market solutions — not more restrictive policies.