The state Transportation Committee meets remotely on April 25, 2022

The legislature’s Transportation Committee voted Monday to advance a proposal to adopt California’s emissions standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks in an effort to reduce Connecticut’s transportation sector pollution.

If approved by the legislature and signed by the governor, the bill would give the state environmental protection commissioner the authority to mirror California’s more-stringent emissions standards on larger trucks, joining nearby Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

a green button that says support and red button that says oppose

The panel signed off on the bill during a remote meeting Monday morning, keeping it in play for the remaining nine days of the legislative session. Rep. Roland Lemar, a New Haven Democrat who co-chairs the committee, said the state’s transportation sector had a role to play in curbing pollution.

“How do we improve the air quality in the state of Connecticut? How do we improve the environmental future for so many of our residents?” Lemar said. “How do we address comprehensive climate change action with the, really, public health reality that in many of our cities particularly Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, beyond, suffer some of the worst asthma rates in the entire country.”

Some Republicans joined Democrats for a 21 to 11 vote to pass the bill out of committee, but several lawmakers voiced concerns about the impact tighter emissions standards may have on businesses. Some lawmakers worried the new restrictions may be detrimental to Connecticut’s agricultural industry.

“We tend to rush into this kind of legislation and then try to exempt certain industries because, in fact, the cost can be quite impactful,” Rep. Laura Devlin, R-Fairfield, said. “While this is a concept I think everybody supports, I do have questions about what its impact would be to businesses across the state of Connecticut.”

The Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, meanwhile, released a statement Monday suggesting the state lacked adequate electric vehicle charging capabilities for businesses to comply with a provision of California’s regulation, which requires truck manufacturers to sell a certain percentage of zero emission vehicles. 

Joe Scully, president of the association, pointed to Eversource testimony to state regulators from energy supplier Eversource, which indicated it may be constrained in its ability to support large new electric loads. 

“This is the strongest reason yet for Connecticut to abandon the push to adopt California truck emissions standards,” Sculley said. “The state has been warned. It would be incredibly irresponsible to now impose electric truck requirements that potentially cannot be met.”

Connecticut has already entered into a memorandum of understanding with 14 other states, which sets a goal of transitioning 30% of all medium and heavy-duty trucks to zero-emissions models by 2030.

During Monday’s meeting, proponents said it was important for the state to commit itself to improving its air quality. 

“It’s such a crucial time. I think this step is necessary to commit to effective change,” Michel said. 

The bill is one of several proposals making its way through the legislative process with a goal of reducing vehicle emissions in the wake of the Transportation and Climate Initiative, a multi-state agreement on emissions, which fell apart last year

In March, the Transportation Committee approved a separate bill to make electric vehicles more affordable through rebates and reduced fees and expand the number of charging stations in Connecticut. That bill is currently awaiting action in the state Senate. 

A recent report from the American Lung Association ranked the air quality in Fairfield County among the worst in the country.

Katie Cerulle contributed to this report.