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Backers of CT environment bills in Connecticut show both hope and caution on Earth Day

Backers of CT environment bills in Connecticut show both hope and caution on Earth Day

Friday morning was a busy day at the state Department of Transportation. The governor, two commissioners and three state senators were all there. A large employer with a fleet of trucks was also present, as well a Republican state representative.

It was Earth Day, and this group is committed to making progress every day of the year. However, even in liberal Connecticut advancements have been slow, with backlash from both parties.

The question is: Will this year be different? Will key environmental legislation, including a pair that aims to encourage electric vehicle sales, actually make its way to the desk of Gov. Ned Lamont

Even after the collapse of the Transportation and Climate Initiative last year, there is reason to be optimistic. It offered hope for a multi-state effort.

The May 4 deadline is approaching for legislation, with some important environment bills still in the queue.

The electric vehicle measures would increase and enlarge subsidies to EV cars, trucks, and e-bikes; bring Calfornia emissions standards into Connecticut, assuring a dramatic switch from EVs within the next decade; establish a carbon budget to state agencies; and match federal funds for such enhancements like vehicle charging stations and ultra efficient traffic signals.

I think it will pass. Lamont said that he believes we have bipartisan support after the speeches. They know it is the right thing to do. Truckers are supporting me on this. It doesn’t take much opposition ….to derail an Idea I don’t hear that this time, but I feel I have good support.

Lamont reminded the audience that Richard Nixon, the man who created Earth Day and the Environmental Protection Agency was the first president of the United States to utter the words Happy Earth Day.

No one is currently planning a zero carbon parade.

The first Earth Day was in 1970. Yet, I feel as though we are going backwards,” state Sen. Christine Cohen, D. Guilford, cochair of the Environment Committee, said at a gathering at the DOT in front a low-emissions bus.

Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport) spoke about what this generation can say to high school students demanding progress in climate change.

Let’s just tell them that we made those large and small investments, Haskell stated. There is no such thing as Republican or Democratic air. There is only clean and dirty air.

Haskell, who is himself at the border of millennial and generation Z, completed his fourth legislative session at the age of 25, and explained why this year might bring the big bills home.

Haskell stated that the spending side of these EV measures is far less controversial than TCI’s revenue side.

Remember, the Transportation and Climate Initiative bill (or TCI bill) is still known. However, its dormant would have established target limits for motor fuel consumption and required producers and distributors pay for credits.

It could have increased the price of gasoline by a fraction of a cent per gallon, thereby threatening American freedoms and democracy in a manner that spikes in, for example, child care or health care cannot. Republicans rallied loudly and some Democrats quietly around the TCI gas tax hike label. There was no vote in either chamber.

Haskell and others explained that the $5,000 subsidy for an electrified vehicle with a vehicle price threshold of $50,000 would be paid from existing fees, such as the greenhouse gas tax we pay when we register cars. The benefits are clearly stated, which is in contrast to the poorly-spelled goodies such as urban environmental justice efforts that the $90-million a year TCI would have purchased.

Haskell said that they were trying to be both specific and tangible.

Supporters say that the TCI fiasco could fuel this year’s bills. According to Lori Brown, executive director of Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, there is a lot of momentum due to how bad things went last year.

Other environment bills were alive and well into the last week of the General Assembly session. One measure calls for zero carbon emissions in the state’s electric grid by 2040. This is part Lamonts policy, but it is not stated in statutes. Another bill would reduce cap and other barriers to small-scale, solar generation, such as rooftops, and other solar energy enhancements.

While these bills are not free, it is inertia that is the biggest hurdle. They are designed to stimulate a market that is already moving in the right direction but is moving too slowly. Lamont stated that consumers lead by example.

Hartford Distributors Inc., a major wholesaler of beer in the state, is one potential buyer. The company is based in Manchester. Friday’s HDI executives spoke out in support of a switch to electric delivery trucks.

This is a market-based move and will require some assistance from the government. In this age of climate-based destruction, there is no free market.

dhaar@hearstmediact.com

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