A special legislative session is more than likely to happen, according to Speaker of the House Matt Ritter (D-Hartford).
Speaking to the WTIC-AM 1080 Brian and Company show on Jan. 23, Ritter was asked whether there will be a special session to adopt California’s Advance Clean Cars II (ACC II) regulations that ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles. His reply was, “pretty likely we’ll go in next week.” This precedes the 2024 session by one week (Feb. 7).
ACC II is a set of regulations adopted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in August 2022, aimed at reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from light-duty vehicles. The regulations mandate that no new gas-powered vehicles can be purchased by the year 2035, with targeted annual mandates of electric vehicle (EV) sales beginning with 2027 model year cars.
As of today, Connecticut is legally obligated to implement ACC II after voting to adopt California’s emissions standards in 2004. States are granted the option by the federal government to decide whether to adhere to the regulations set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or those of California. In 1970, California was granted permission to establish its own emissions standards for vehicles, due to the severe air quality issues it faced compared to the rest of the country.
Speaker Ritter, acknowledging that “nobody really can say with certainty what will happen in 2035,” stated that committing to a decision for 12 years proved “problematic” for many members of his caucus. Instead, he hinted at the possibility of a compromise by proposing the creation of a commission comprised of relevant stakeholders (who were not specified) that will be tasked with studying the issue. Once completed, a vote on the ban might be considered in three years.
Declaring that “people believe strongly that global warming is a problem,” he raised concerns regarding the reliability and cost of EVs, as well as the uncertainty of continued federal government incentives. He envisions this proposed commission conducting public hearings and delving into the technical intricacies of implementing a “system like this.”
Additionally, Speaker Ritter emphasized that the regulation is not a requirement of 100% all-electric cars, suggesting that hybrid vehicles will still be an option.
While Speaker Ritter is correct in saying that hybrid cars would still be available under (ACC II), the situation is not as straightforward as it may seem.
The regulations specify that plug-in hybrid, full battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles comply with the rule. However, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles must have an all-electric range of at least 50 miles under real-world driving conditions. The caveat is that ACC II will only allow automakers to sell up to 20% of plug-in hybrids, which have gas engines, by 2035.
Speaker Ritter predicts most individuals will be driving hybrids within the “next five to ten years” and asserts that Connecticut is committed to allowing the sale of hybrids. It is important to point out that hydrogen fuel cell hybrids not only come with a higher cost compared to gas engine hybrids and EVs, but also face challenges due to the limited availability of hydrogen fueling stations.
The state is already grappling with developing infrastructure to accommodate EVs, so establishing an entirely new fueling network seems nearly impossible. This combined with the limited supply of gas battery hybrids that will be available, fails to address the existing concerns regarding the mandate to ban gas cars.
Calling in a special session just a week before the regular session commences and proposing the establishment of a commission seems like an election-year gimmick. The intention appears to be creating an illusion that the legislature is listening to public sentiment of the widespread opposition to the ban. In reality, it appears that lawmakers are nervous about potential consequences if they were to pass a bill this year. So, in General Assembly fashion they kick the can down the road and deal with it by delaying a vote for three years.