Special session possible for controversial electric vehicle sales plan

A vote could now happen at the end of this month – without public hearings.

John Craven

Jan 19, 2024, 10:22 PM

Updated 122 days ago


A controversial proposal to transition all new car sales to electric or plug-in hybrid is back, two months after Gov. Ned Lamont withdrew it due to opposition from his own party.
A vote could now happen at the end of this month – without public hearings.
Drivers like Willem Houck are already sold on electric cars. He loves Teslas so much, he even took one on a road trip in the snow.
“I think it drives fantastic,” he said. “And I think it’s good for the environment.”
Lamont is a fan too. To address climate change, the governor wants to ban new gas-powered cars by 2035. Sales would start phasing out in just two years. Used cars would not be impacted, only new vehicle sales.
The plan would align Connecticut with California’s strict emissions standards, instead of more lenient federal rules. States can only pick one of the two options.
“Two years ago, two-thirds of the Legislature supported this,” Lamont said. “Had a lot of hearings and the such. This is just seeing if they want to reconfirm what they did two years ago.”
But in November, Lamont was forced to abandon a vote at the last minute after two fellow Democrats on the Legislature’s Regulation Review Committee raised concerns about the cost to low-income drivers.
Now, Lamont and top Democrats may try again – this time before the full General Assembly. State lawmakers have been told to keep their calendars open for a special session on Jan. 30 and 31, according to a Connecticut House Democrats spokesman.
But the public might get shut out of the process. A special session would mean a fast-tracked vote – with no public hearings.
“It absolutely feels like a rush,” said Chris Herb, president of the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association, which opposes EV sales requirements. “They’re taking away the process for the public to be involved, so that their concerns can be heard. Special session completely removes the voters.”
Hundreds of drivers previously did get to weigh in last August during a Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection public hearing.
Many raised concerns.
“If EVs are so good, then the people will buy them on their own, they'll want them,” said Alan Shaw, of Stamford. “If they’re bad, they have to be forced and coerced into buying them.”
Environmental groups said the cost of inaction is even higher.
“The opponents who argue that strong standards to reach our emissions targets are too soon, too costly, unrealistic, or not desired by the public, are really being blind to the urgency of our climate crisis,” said Lori Brown, with the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters.
Advocates also sought to clear up a common misconception. Under the new rules, residents could still drive gas-powered vehicles – and buy them used.
“These regulations do not act as a ban on gasoline vehicles,” said Charles Rotherberger, an attorney with Save the Sound. “What they do is they require increasing percentages of so-called zero-emission vehicles to be sold into the Connecticut marketplace, including hybrid electric vehicles.”
Lawmakers are likely to vote on a modified version of Lamont’s proposal – where they would adopt California’s EV standards, but revisit them in a few years.
“Eleven years is a long way off,” Lamont said last week. “In 11 years, we defeated the Nazis, rebuilt Europe, and built a national highway system. I think we can get there.”
EV drivers admit there are problems, like a higher cost for vehicles, limited range and not enough charging stations. But Connecticut is getting hundreds of millions of dollars from Washington to build infrastructure – including a network of new superchargers along major highways and dozens of new fast chargers in Stamford, Bridgeport and New Haven.
Houck thinks the technology will catch up.
“By the year 2035, it’s going to be fine,” he said.
A special session is not set in stone. If it doesn’t happen, lawmakers will deal with EV sales in the regular session, which starts Feb. 7.

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