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Public hearing draws supporters, opponents of CT’s proposed stricter vehicle emissions rules

FILE, May, 2023. An electric vehicle charges at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.
Joe Amon
Connecticut Public
FILE, May, 2023. An electric vehicle charges at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

Connecticut is one step closer to tightening emissions requirements for future vehicle sales.

The state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) held a virtual public hearing Tuesday on a proposal from Gov. Ned Lamont and Commissioner Katie Dykes to tighten emissions standards in new vehicles sold in the state beginning in 2027, with a stated goal for sales to be all-electric by 2035.

“Connecticut and our neighboring states are taking decisive action to meet our climate pollution reduction targets,” Lamont said in July, announcing the policy. “Cars and trucks represent the largest air pollution sector in our state and these regulations are moving in coordination with commitments made by vehicle manufacturers to go all in on electrification.”

Many Republican state lawmakers have opposed the change on several grounds, from the high cost of electric vehicles for low-income consumers to interference with market choices by manufacturers.

“This is a huge mistake, and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection should not be allowed to do this without going through legislative process, and I stringently object to this decree from the governor,” said Rep. Patrick Callahan (R-New Fairfield) at Tuesday’s hearing.

Those testifying in support included public health and environmental advocates and representatives of electric car manufacturers.

“If adopted, studies show that the regulations would avoid more than 22,000 asthma attacks, 120,000 lost work days, and over 1,000 premature deaths in Connecticut, translating to 11.5 billion in public health benefits for our state,” said Ana McMonigle, staff attorney with the New England-based Conservation Law Foundation.

Adopting the regulations, said Sierra Club Connecticut Chapter Director Samantha Dynowski, “will cut pollution in front-line communities, a critical step towards achieving environmental justice.”

“Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven rank among the top 100 most challenging places to live with asthma in the United States,” Dynowski said.

The changes would bring Connecticut in alignment with emissions standards set by California, following in the footsteps of seven other states who’ve pledged to do the same including New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Jersey.

Chris Polansky joined Connecticut Public in March 2023 as a general assignment and breaking news reporter based in Hartford. Previously, he’s worked at Utah Public Radio in Logan, Utah, as a general assignment reporter; Lehigh Valley Public Media in Bethlehem, Pa., as an anchor and producer for All Things Considered; and at Public Radio Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla., where he both reported and hosted Morning Edition.