CT is falling behind on climate change targets. What do we do ?

As this summer’s global heat, drought and extreme storms punctuate the reality of climate change, Connecticut continues to grapple with its reality that it is falling behind on its goals to reduce carbon emissions responsible for global warming. .

The state has also long been in non-compliance with national ambient air quality standards for pollutants that drive the high ozone levels we regularly experience here.

After several high-profile failures, state lawmakers in the last session took some of their most important actions in years to change Connecticut’s course on its climate change goals.

The most comprehensive piece of legislation was called the Connecticut Clean Air Act, a huge bill that focused primarily on clean transportation as a way to fight climate change. It included more robust programs to accelerate the use of electric vehicles with investments and faster and stricter electrification of public transport and school bus fleets in particular.

The measure passed with only the tiniest amount of bipartisan support.

Here are some details about what’s about to change as a result of Connecticut’s latest climate change policies:

The Connecticut Clean Air Act contains a mix of mandates and incentives to establish or strengthen clean transportation programs and provides funding mechanisms for many of them.

The legislation came after the 2021 General Assembly refused to even consider a bill authorizing the development of a state plan for the Transportation and Climate Initiative, a proposed multi-state concept. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles and provide funding for transportation projects. Republicans called the prospect that gas prices could rise accordingly a tax, and the label stuck.

The Connecticut Clean Air Act puts in place many of the same programs that TCI would have – but was lucky, to some extent, on the funding side. The bipartisan Federal Infrastructure Act will provide nearly $5.4 billion to launch most initiatives — so no pressure on gas prices, which most people think are high enough at the moment.

The main goal is to provide electric vehicles to more people across a wider socio-economic spectrum and achieve better value for money by integrating electric vehicles into public and commercial fleets.

In addition to the obvious – expanding the existing electric vehicle program known as CHEAPR in a number of ways, including adding e-bikes – it also tackles home charging barriers, establishing a component ” right to recharge”. Under it, landlords, condo associations and others must allow electric charging stations to be installed when other stipulations are met, although tenants or unit owners would have to pay for them.

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The law requires half of the state-owned or leased fleet to be zero-emissions by early 2026, 75 percent by early 2028, and 100 percent by early 2030. The state must stop buying or leasing diesel buses by January 1, 2024. The current fleet of electric buses was recently taken out of service after a fire in one of the buses.

The law sets deadlines to move school systems away from diesel-powered school buses with a particular focus on environmental justice communities. They must have zero-emission buses by 2030. By 2035, other districts must have at least alternative fuel vehicles. By 2040, every school bus must be zero-emission. The first tranche of EPA funding for this is open for applications now.

  • Allows DEEP to adopt the more stringent California emissions standards for medium and heavy-duty engine vehicles. And it allows DEEP to establish a voucher program that supports zero-emission medium and heavy-duty vehicles.
  • Defines requirements for electric vehicle charging infrastructure in new construction.
  • Establish standards for “smart traffic lights” to reduce unnecessary idling at red lights and provide subsidies for such programs.
  • Includes a non-transportation component that prevents planned communities from banning homeowners from installing solar panels.

Almost all GOP lawmakers voted against, citing among other things the cost of electric school buses and what renters in particular might have to pay for home chargers. They also cited their longstanding arguments that Connecticut as a single state would not have much of an impact on climate change and that market forces, not state mandates, should drive the transition to cleaner technologies.

Climate Change Mitigation (Senate Bill 10) enshrines in law a 2040 zero carbon goal for all electricity supplied to Connecticut customers. It had been put in place by executive order after the legislature failed to approve it in 2021.

The Clean Energy Pricing Programs (Senate Bill 176) expands some existing solar programs by raising caps that have inhibited adoption and allows full use of commercial rooftops for solar generation beyond what the structure itself needs to function.

The Hydrogen Task Force (House Bill 5200) is creating a group that will study the use of hydrogen – specifically green hydrogen, made without the use of natural gas as it is now – as a medium to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Jan Ellen is CT Mirror’s regular freelance environment and energy reporter. The Connecticut Mirror (https://ctmirror.org/ ). Copyright 2022 © The Connecticut Mirror.

Teresa H. Sadler