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Environmentalists Reveal “Green Monster” Bill for the 2024 Session

Environmentalists have been working behind the scenes with lawmakers to get a large omnibus bill introduced in the Environment Committee at the start of the 2024 Legislative session, Feb. 7.  

Omnibus bills are lengthy pieces of legislation that combine various topics into a single bill. They are intended to streamline the legislative process but are often used to sneak in controversial or unrelated provisions, making it challenging for the public and lawmakers to thoroughly review and debate. 

The 12-point proposal — posted on Sunrise Movement Connecticut’s Facebook page — advocates for initiatives such as preserving wetlands and forests, tree planting to enhance stormwater runoff and flooding, among others. The group also suggests utilizing funds from the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act to support energy efficiency programs for lower-income communities. 

Taken at face value, the initiatives seem universally appealing. However, there is a catch: for every positive feature in the bill, there is a corresponding negative aspect. One major issue within the proposal involves imposing an all-electric mandate on new construction and major renovations. In other words, natural gas, propane and oil will be prohibited. Additionally, the proposal requires the adoption of pollution-free HVAC and water heating equipment by 2030. 

It will be interesting to see whether lawmakers emphasizing affordable housing as a top priority this session will endorse this proposal, given that the state must add an estimated 80,000 homes and apartments to address a housing crisis. 

Facing comparable housing supply shortages and estimating a demand for 250,000 new housing units, Washington State took the lead in implementing the all-electric rule. However, according to a study by the Pacific Northwest National Lab, homebuyers are expected to see rising prices as heat and water pumps will add nearly $7,500 to the cost.  

If adopted, Connecticut should expect similar results rendering homes, already considered unaffordable, even more expensive.  

These costs go beyond impacting home prices. When the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) conducted a public hearing on Aug. 22 regarding the proposed regulation to ban the sale of new gas cars by 2035, Dr. Digaunto Chatterjee, Eversource’s Vice President of System Planning, cautioned that the state of the current electric grid could not handle this increase in electrical demand. 

Dr. Chatterjee explained that Connecticut relies on approximately 8,000 megawatts of electricity from Eversource alone. The mandate to increase the number of EVs on the road would result in an additional demand of 4,000 megawatts.  

To meet the demand, Eversource would need to update eight and build 14 new electrical substations with an estimated cost of $1.5 billion to $2.4 billion. Notably, Dr. Chatterjee’s figures do not account for the extent and cost of transitioning to 100% electric in the building sector. 

The proposed bill also seeks to revise the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) by excluding biogas and nuclear as energy sources from Class I. RPS mandates that a specific percentage of electricity sold by utilities must come from renewable sources which currently includes nuclear, biogas, wind, solar among others. Excluding nuclear power would essentially result in the Watertown Millstone nuclear plant closure. This loss poses a significant threat to the state’s electrical grid. 

DEEP Commissioner, Katie Dykes, has been a champion for nuclear power — putting herself at odds with environmentalists — and has called the source critical to the state’s efforts to phase out carbon emissions from its electric grid. Gov. Ned Lamont has also expressed similar support. 

In 2019, when the threat of Millstone’s shutdown emerged, Gov. Lamont emphasized the potential catastrophic consequences, stating, “The shutdown of the plant would have exposed the New England region to a nearly 25 percent increase in carbon emissions, increased risk of rolling blackouts, billions of dollars in power replacement costs and the loss of more than 1,500 well-paying jobs.” 

The proposed legislation also included two declarations. The first calls for a Climate Crisis Declaration, intended to raise awareness of the urgency for meaningful climate legislation. It emphasizes the worsening impacts on the state’s environment, economy and quality of life for younger generations, highlighting the need for disaster risk management from climate extremes. 

The second advocates for state support for the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives. The act is similar to the failed Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) — gas tax — but on a more supercharged federal level. The legislation levies a tax on the carbon contents of fuels like crude oil, natural gas, coal or any other product derived from those fuels that result in the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. 

Although both declarations currently lack enforcement mechanisms, there is an anticipation of additional language being discreetly inserted into this expansive bill that could address this gap. 

After its failure last year — with the help of Yankee Institute — one of the prominent bills championed by environmentalists is being revived as it never progressed beyond the committee stage. This legislation aimed to empower DEEP to set greenhouse gas emission targets for specific sectors of the economy and impose fines for non-compliance. 

Commissioner Dykes expressed support for the resurrected “TCI on Steroids” bill last year, highlighting the section that would grant her the authority to implement regulations for reducing both direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions. 

While the proposed bill’s exact language is still unknown, anticipate another power grab by DEEP as Dykes emphasized during a press conference in July addressing the gas car ban, that she requires more “regulatory authority” to “reduce emissions and provide cleaner options for customers.” 

Should this unelected bureaucrat be granted such authority, it would provide her with a pathway to enforce the gas car ban in case the legislature neglects to address this regulation in the upcoming session. 

Furthermore, there appears to be no obstacle impeding her resolve to effectively implement TCI. 

No official bill has been released to the public but, with the information available, this “Green Monster” bill’s wide-ranging proposals, raises concerns about the potential harm and economic burdens it may inflict on residents of the state. This gargantuan piece of legislation has the chance to expand even further, incorporating additional provisions that may carry unintended consequences for the public. Let’s hope the Environment Committee members choose not to go along with this proposal and introduce — or hopefully not — each item in separate legislation. 

🚨This Week a Very Special Episode of Yankee’s podcast Y CT Matters 

The CT Mirror released a three-part series examining the effectiveness and viability of the 2017 bipartisan fiscal guardrails. Some state leaders believe they’re needed, others argue for reforms, and another contingent suggests eliminating the guardrails entirely.  

But Suzanne Bates — a former Yankee Institute Policy Director who sat on the Spending Cap Commission that presented the guardrails — notes how quickly state lawmakers have forgotten the financial mess that befell Connecticut from the government’s loose spending. She explains why the guardrails were established, and why they still matter. 

Click HERE for Yankee Institute’s statement on why lawmakers should protect the guardrails 

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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