Republicans EVs
Republican lawmakers discuss electric vehicles during an Aug 16, 2023 press conference Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Legislative Republicans called Wednesday for the reversal of proposed regulations that would require all new vehicles to be electric by 2035 as a result of a state law tying Connecticut’s emissions standards to those of California.

Members of the House and Senate Republican caucuses gathered outside the state Capitol building for a mid-day press conference in which they argued that electric vehicles were too expensive for many consumers and voiced concerns that Connecticut lacked the infrastructure and energy to support a mandated transition to electric vehicles.

“This is just saying, down the road, this is what we’re going to do without putting any of the building blocks in place to achieve that goal,” Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly said. “While we’d love nothing better than a greener environment and cleaner air, we’ve got to work on today’s problems, today’s solutions to make those ideas a reality.”

Connecticut’s light-duty vehicle emissions standards have been tied to California’s since 2004 when the legislature passed a bipartisan law linking the two.

Last month, Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration proposed new regulations based on those standards, which will require auto manufacturers to deliver exclusively electric vehicles to the state by 2035. The regulations follow similar actions by eight other states.

On Wednesday, the Republican lawmakers said the policy linking Connecticut to California had been intended to encourage efficiency standards in gas-powered vehicles not prohibit the sale of those vehicles in 12 years.

The legislators urged residents to submit testimony opposing the new regulations ahead of an Aug. 22 Department of Energy and Environmental Protection public hearing on the matter.

House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said many members of the public had reached out with concerns regarding the scheduled phase-out of new internal combustion engine vehicles.

“I have never been approached by more constituents, especially in a summertime period — people who now have great anxiety are grabbing me in the grocery store, at church, questioning how they’re going to be able to transition,” he said.

Candelora asked that Lamont suspend the regulatory process and provide a plan for implementing an exclusively electric vehicle system.

In a statement Wednesday, Lamont’s chief spokesman Adam Joseph said the bipartisan 2004 law required the state to adopt the California standards and recent events underscored the necessity of action on climate change.

“Last year, our families experienced the financial hardship of depending on foreign oil to get to work, school, and the grocery store,” Joseph said. “This summer, severe storms and deadly wildfires brought the growing dangers of global warming home to all of us. And day in and day out, Connecticut residents suffer some of the worst asthma rates in the nation. It’s unfortunate today’s Republican party, unlike their 2004 predecessors, no longer understands the importance of protecting the planet from carbon dioxide and our children’s lungs from other harmful pollutants.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Christine Cohen, a Guilford Democrat who co-chairs the legislature’s Transportation Committee, released a statement citing states that had already adopted the stringent standards and auto manufacturers that had pledged to discontinue the production of internal combustion engines.

“We’ve got young adults across America who are right now suing their states, and winning, because we’ve got a climate crisis on our hands that is ruining our planet for future generations. And we cannot do enough fast enough to halt and reverse that,” Cohen said. “Now is the time to come together to make these cars more affordable and easier to use for our constituents. The markets are shifting, and Connecticut needs to be prepared — partisanship will only slow progress.”

The public hearing on the proposed regulations is scheduled for the morning of Aug. 22. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection will continue to accept public comments on the issue until Aug. 23, according to a press release.

Prior to implementation, the policy will need to be approved by the legislature’s Regulations Review Committee, a nonpartisan panel made up of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.