The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) announced its intent to adopt California’s regulation prohibiting the sale of new gas cars by 2035. According to a letter sent Tuesday (Oct. 3) to the Legislative Regulation Review Committee (LRRC), the agency received feedback that “overwhelmingly favored adoption” with strong support from both the regulated community and environmental and public health advocacy groups.
Using the term “overwhelming” is a bold statement to make as DEEP said they received thousands of comments, however, they neglected to provide a breakdown indicating support and opposition. In an email request to supply this information, the department’s response was: “DEEP reviewed all comments for both PR2023-020 and PR2023-023, as more than 4,000 comments were received, many of which applied to both rulemakings. All comments were considered in making the decision to move forward with the rulemaking.”
During the regulation adoption procedure, DEEP conducted a four-hour public hearing on Aug. 22. The hearing featured input from special interests and profiteers in favor of the mandate, as well as members of the general public who expressed concerns about potential negative outcomes. More than 30 individuals, a staggering five times the number of supporters, expressed discontent with the proposed regulation.
After the hearing, DEEP published the written comments. Unfortunately, the feedback was not presented in a user-friendly format, making it challenging for decision-makers to efficiently sort through and confirm the “overwhelming” support. Additionally, DEEP failed to remove duplicate submissions, with numerous individuals submitting identical testimonies multiple times.
Adding to the confusion, the agency subsequently released a list containing 3,739 names of commenters, meaning they received fewer comments than they reported to the LRRC.
As required by law, DEEP also issued a report outlining the mandate, detailing the key arguments for and against it. The report also summarizes and addresses all comments made regarding the proposal.
Those in support cited public health benefits, air quality and the need to meet federal and state laws.
Vehicle manufacturers including Alliance for Automotive Innovation (Alliance), Tesla and Rivian expressed their support for the proposal. However, their endorsement was contingent on Connecticut’s ability to back the regulations with policies and programs that will increase their profits. They want the state to continue expanding the electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, continued vehicle incentive programs and support for grid upgrades to accommodate widespread vehicle electrification — all funded with taxpayer dollars.
Some commenters believed Connecticut should not be governed by California as the two states are distinct in terms of economy, geography and environment. In response, the department acknowledged the unique attributes of each state but emphasized their primary focus is to “adopt the best policies available to meet the public health needs of Connecticut.”
Despite concerns voiced about the high cost associated with purchasing an EV, DEEP seemed unmoved. They highlighted a decade-long savings of $8,835 along with taxpayer-funded rebate programs. However, these savings don’t negate the challenge faced by middle and low-income individuals who might struggle to finance the remaining purchase amount, especially if they have poor credit ratings.
DEEP also emphasized car prices may decline over time as the number of available EV models increases. But since consumers will be limited to only purchasing zero-carbon automobiles there is no guarantee prices will be the same as gas cars. Coupled with the government subsidies, car companies may feel they don’t need to lower their prices.
In the recent United Auto Workers strike against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, the union’s latest wage offers include substantial raises and cost-of-living adjustments. Workers could potentially see 30% increases in their pay. If the strike leads to excessively high wage concessions it could pose challenges for these manufacturers in reducing their prices.
In response to those who believed the regulation should be decided by the Connecticut General Assembly, DEEP pointed out it was approved in 2004 almost unanimously by the House and Senate. But as previously reported, lawmakers were led to believe by then-Atty. Gen. Richard Blumenthal that the state is not “committed to follow California provision by provision” and that “we would not be bound by every change made by California.
DEEP also recognized concerns raised about battery performance in cold weather, charging times and instances of stranded vehicles during extreme weather events. The department recommended in its report that owners use strategies to mitigate temperature extremes such as keeping an EV plugged in or stored in a temperature-controlled garage during these events. Additionally, DEEP predicts, albeit without a guarantee, that EV battery performance is anticipated to improve in the coming years.
The Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) opposed the regulation expressing concerns about the potential impact on consumer choice, business costs, electric grid reliability and the aggressive phase-in schedule for electric vehicles. The association emphasized the financial burden on small businesses, the responsibilities and costs associated with electric charging infrastructure.
Although DEEP “values the CBIA’s feedback” and understands their economic concerns, the department ensures that the total cost of ownership will be lower with EVs and that the state will use tax dollars to help curb upfront costs.
Lawmakers have also joined the discussion on the issue. More than 50 members of the House Republican caucus submitted a letter voicing their opposition. They emphasized that California’s approach might not be suitable for Connecticut raising concerns about the state’s electricity infrastructure, challenges in charging infrastructure, increased costs for EV drivers and environmental issues related to EV production and use.
In a show of support, 21 state legislators from both chambers submitted a letter endorsing the proposed regulation. They emphasized that the regulation’s timeline, beginning in 2027 and finalizing in 2035, allows ample opportunity for the legislature to address any concerns that may arise, particularly in terms of the adequacy of the state’s grid infrastructure.
The pro-or opposition is, unsurprisingly, split on party lines. Sen. Jan Hochadel (D-13th) strongly supports the regulation noting that “forest fires and other dangers relating to climate change have been on the rise.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Lisa Seminara (R-8th) opposes the ban, citing concerns about potential restrictions on consumer freedom and the unforeseen consequences of the regulation. These concerns include the capability of Connecticut’s electric grid and the state’s already high electrical rates, potential fire hazards, affordability issues and the viability and sufficiency of charging stations. Additionally, Sen. Seminara is apprehensive about the environmental impact of discarded lithium-ion batteries and expresses concern about the negative economic implications for lower-income communities in the state.
The regulation is now subject to review by the LRRC — a joint bipartisan committee made up of 14 members: six senators and eight representatives divided equally by party.
The committee can veto the regulation 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.
This Week on Yankee’s Podcast Y CT Matters
John Grande, a physical education teacher in Hartford, was reprimanded for his actions during a mandatory training on “privilege.” After filing a grievance with the local board of education, Grande reached out to the Hartford Federation of Teachers Local 1018 to take the matter to arbitration — but they wouldn’t because he was not “a paying member.” Grande took legal action, as unions must represent all Connecticut government employees equally, regardless of their membership status. He fought the union on the matter. And the Connecticut State Board of Labor Relations agreed with him. Grande shares his story.
Read Connecticut Inside Investigator’s report on Grande’s case here.
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