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Gas Car Showdown: The People vs Special Interest Groups

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) held a public hearing on Tuesday (Aug. 22) about Gov. Ned Lamont’s announcement: that Connecticut will join fifteen other states that conform to California’s emission standards rather than federal emission standards set by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). 

Last year, California unveiled plans to discontinue the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, after which all new vehicle sales will be zero-emission vehicles, with a focus on electric vehicles (EV). According to a Connecticut law passed in 2004, DEEP’s commissioner shall adopt and amend emission regulations implemented by the Golden State. 

During the four-hour meeting, DEEP heard from various special interest groups — including those that will profit from the ban — argue that these regulations are needed to save the planet. 

Beau Whitman a public policy manager at Rivian — an EV truck manufacturer — said his organization “strongly supports” the ban and that this rule will “cement the state’s role as a committed leader in addressing climate change, reducing air pollution and growing the EV market.  

Zach Kahn, Senior Policy Manager with Tesla, also supports the regulation. In his presentation, he argued how Tesla “designs, develops, manufactures and sells high performance fully electric vehicles,” and noted that the brand ranks as “the top American made vehicles on the road,” according to sites like cars.com. 

Kahn also stressed an urgency that “planning to reduce transportation emission electrification now is critical.”  

In other words, he supports the mandate because his company wants the state to be an unpaid salesperson to help them sell more cars.  

Advocates from environmental groups such as the Acadia Center, Citizens Climate Lobby and Save the Sound spoke in support promising a cleaner atmosphere, lower asthma rates and job creation. 

Director of Sierra Club’s Connecticut chapter Samantha Dynowsky testified in support while at the same time proving the regulation is not needed, saying, “Consumers want them and the demand for electric vehicles in Connecticut is growing rapidly.” She goes on to say that the state —  in 2023 — has increased the number of cars registered by 42% more than in 2022. 

Representing the opposite side of the argument were less special interest and profiteers but rather a larger representation of the general public who believe that the mandate could bring about adverse consequences. More than 30 individuals — five times the number of proponents — voiced their dissatisfaction with the proposed regulation. 

Critics contended that the ban will strip Connecticut consumers of their freedom to choose, place excessive strain on the electrical grid beyond its capacity, lead to extended waiting periods at recharge points and ultimately contribute to an increase in pollution in regions such as Africa and China, where the minerals for batteries are extracted and processed. 

Donald Dube, PhD and retired nuclear engineer from Farmington, questioned the department as to why “this mandated law excludes hybrid vehicles,” which — according to him — emit the same amount of emissions as EVs “when you take into account the source of electricity.”  

Stamford resident John Testin presented several arguments against the mandate, which encompassed concerns over expenses related to vehicles and electricity. He highlighted, “Electricity is susceptible to increases to additional demand” and further pointed out that these increases will lead to higher electric bills.” 

Testin also asked, “What happens if there’s a large storm and power’s out for days?” His concern is that residents will be held hostage in their homes with no way to get to a grocery store. 

Meanwhile, Yankee Institute’s Director of External Affairs Bryce Chinault testified, “The adoption of these California regulations will only export Connecticut’s transportation emissions, increase the cost of car ownership and infrastructure and fails to recognize the reality of electricity generation and costs in our state and region.” 

The most concerning testimony came from Dr. Digaunto Chatterjee, vice president of system planning for Eversource, who explained that during periods of high demand, Connecticut relies on approximately 8,000 megawatts of electricity supplied by Eversource alone. Increasing the amount of EV’s on the road through this mandate will add an additional 4,000 megawatts. 

Chatterjee estimates “about eight substations would require upgrades on our system and we would need to build about 14 new electrical substations.” He also concludes this will cost about $1.5 billion to $2.4 billion of “additional grid investments.” 

There is still time to submit written testimony. DEEP has extended the comment period extended through Wednesday (Aug. 30) at 5 P.M. After the deadline, DEEP plans to provide a written report responding to comments they receive, and then prepare a final proposal and submit to the states Attorney’s General office for approval. 

The regulation is then subject to review by the Legislative Regulation Review Committee — a joint bipartisan committee made up of 14 members: six senators and eight representatives divided equally by party.  

The committee can veto the regulations and allow the General Assembly to either uphold or reverse the committee’s veto. However, if the committee takes no action the regulations will be deemed approved. 

Written comments can be emailed to [email protected] 

In the subject reference # PR2023-023 

This is What Happens When You Create Regulations Without a Plan 

Apartment dwellers in Cambridge, Mass., owning an EV but lack driveways have been struggling with where and how to charge their vehicles. 

Cambridge City Councilor Patty Nolan — lucky enough to have off-street parking to charge her Chevy Volt — came up with a solution. Run a charging cord across the sidewalk as long as a permit is obtained through the city. 

For an annual fee of $200 residents will receive a parking sticker that allows them to extend a cord over the sidewalk covered by an ADA-approved cover. 

Applicants will first need a certified letter from an electrician and the charger must be installed outside and only use 120V. If approved, the cable may remain exposed for up to 12 hours a day and must be removed when not in use. 

This Week on Yankee’s Podcast Y CT Matters 

Ben Weingarten, editor-at-large for RealClear Investigations, discusses how public sector employees enjoy “release time” provisions — which enable employees to engage in union-related activities full- or part-time during their working hours. This means taxpayers are paying these employees to not do their job, while possibly supporting political activities with which they disagree. 

Click HERE to listen 

Meghan Portfolio

Meghan worked in the private sector for two decades in various roles in management, sales, and project management. She was an intern on a presidential campaign and field organizer in a governor’s race. Meghan, a Connecticut native, joined Yankee Institute in 2019 as the Development Manager. After two years with Yankee, she has moved into the policy space as Yankee’s Manager of Research and Analysis. When she isn’t keeping up with local and current news, she enjoys running–having completed seven marathons–and reading her way through Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels.

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