Republicans offer alternative to Gov. Lamont’s EV sales mandate

Connecticut Republicans unveiled their own plan to curb climate change on Tuesday – an alternative to Gov. Ned Lamont’s controversial electric vehicle/plug-in hybrid sales mandate.
But environmental groups accused the GOP of “stalling.”
Lamont wants all new cars to be electric or plug-in hybrid by 2035, mirroring California’s strict emission standards. The phase-out of gas-only vehicles would begin in 2026. Used cars would not be impacted.
“It’s EV and hybrids,” Lamont told News 12 Connecticut on Jan. 8. “We’re not banning internal combustion. They're just a way you can a lot more mileage per gallon.”
But Lamont was forced to withdraw the plan from a state regulatory panel in November, amid concerns from fellow Democrats. Now, the full General Assembly will consider the proposal in the 2024 legislative session, which begins Feb. 7.
Some drivers worry about EVs' cost and limited range.
“I would be worried about having an electric car because, if you're driving cross-country, you don't know where to stop and charge it,” said Nancy Crossley, of Rehoboth Mass., on Nov. 28.
On Tuesday, state Senate Republicans unveiled their own proposal.
“In conjunction with the consumers, in conjunction with the residents, in conjunction with our constituents, as opposed to telling them what they need to do,” said state Sen. Stephen Harding (R-Brookfield).
“A Better Way to a Cleaner and Greener Connecticut” relies more on voluntary incentives than mandates. Under the proposal, Connecticut would adopt the Environmental Protection Agency’s looser rules – which could still require 67% of new cars be electric by 2032.
The GOP plan also calls for more tax credits for fuel-efficient vehicles. Cars getting more than 40 miles-per-gallon could even claim 1/3 of the rebate that EV buyers get.
Top Democrats called it a non-starter.
“Rather than look at what auto manufacturers are already doing to improve emissions and move toward alternative fuels and electric vehicles, Republicans want to roll back the clock on the substantial improvements and investments we have already made in Connecticut,” said state Representative Roland Lemar (D-New Haven), chair of the legislature’s Transportation Committee. “Instead of fearmongering and attempting to manipulate public opinion on this issue, Republicans should join us in ensuring our state meets the needs of our residents just like all of our neighboring states are doing.”
But Republicans have leverage on this issue. Some Democrats worry that an EV sales mandate – even if it’s only for new cars 11 years from now – could makes cars too expensive for low-income buyers.
As climate change intensifies, environmentalists said the GOP proposal doesn’t go nearly far enough to cut emissions.
“I don't think they actually have a plan,” said Samantha Dynowski, president of the Sierra Club Connecticut chapter. “The only way to reduce emissions from the transportation sector is to start to put emissions standards in place … The Republicans have been opposing that. They're really stalling any action on reducing pollution.”
State lawmakers are likely to vote on a compromise, where the electric/hybrid mandate could be revisited in three years.
Would the GOP support that?
“I’m not going to comment on a plan that doesn't exist,” state Sen. Kevin Kelly (R-Stratford), the Senate Minority Leader. “As we know in this building, that the devil is always in the details.”