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Connecticut Republicans Push Back on Gas-Powered Vehicle Ban

Republican lawmakers blasted Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposal to require new car sales in the state to be zero-emission electric by 2035. Opponents called the plan impractical, citing a lack of charging infrastructure.

A Kia Niro EX gets charged at the Electrify America charging station located at the Manchester Walmart’s parking lot on Wednesday. (Aaron Flaum/Hartford Courant)
Aaron Flaum/Hartford Courant/TNS
(TNS) — Republican legislators blasted Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposal Wednesday that calls for requiring new cars sold in Connecticut to be zero-emission electric by 2035.

Lawmakers said it was impractical to ban the sales of new gasoline-powered cars because the state does not have enough electric charging stations and the costs are too high. Upgrading the state’s electric grid to power the cars and installing numerous charging stations, they said, would cost billions.

Republicans want Connecticut to join 32 other states to adopt the federal standards that stop short of mandating electric vehicles. Lamont, however, favors pushing for the California model that has stricter standards.

House Republican leader Vincent Candelora of North Branford said the proposal is simply a bad idea.

“This is the most irresponsible, nonsensical thing that we are doing to the residents of Connecticut,” Candelora told reporters. “Let the market start working. They’re still trying to figure it out. Why the heck is government stepping in and imposing all these artificial mandates for very little return on emissions in the state of Connecticut? … This is crazy. This is a ban with absolutely no plan.”

The issue is timely because the legislature’s Regulations Review Committee is holding a meeting on Nov. 28 to vote on the regulations. If the committee accepts the regulations, they will become enacted and do not need further action by the full House of Representatives and Senate under the rules, officials said. If the regulations are rejected, they would be sent back to the legislature for further discussion.

While decried by Republicans, the regulations are embraced by Lamont to promote cleaner air.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Lamont said at a press conference earlier this year. “It’s the smart thing to do. It’s never been more affordable than it is today, and by the way, you’re also saving the world.”

Lamont has been pushing the idea for months, saying that the trend has already started around the state. The standard includes both hybrid electric and all-electric cars.

“The shift to zero-emission vehicles is already here,” Lamont said Wednesday in a statement. “Consumers and car companies are both embracing the change, with manufacturers significantly increasing electric vehicle sales and families choosing to purchase those vehicles in increasing numbers. Following the legislature’s direction and our neighboring states’ decision to adopt the latest California emissions standards will help ensure a predictable, orderly transition to a cleaner and healthier future.”

He added, “These common targets will help the state and its private sector partners deliver on Connecticut’s comprehensive electric vehicle roadmap and continue reducing the costs of zero-emission vehicles for working families, rolling out new charging options across the state, and preparing our electric grid for additional demand.”

Lamont noted that the issue dates back to 2004 when the legislature initially voted to follow the emissions standards for passenger cars in California. Since then, the standards have been updated through the years, and the next major step covers all new cars that are sold starting in 2035.

The measure passed by 36-0 in the state Senate in 2004, but the only three remaining senators from that vote are Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney of New Haven, John Fonfara of Hartford, and Joan Hartley of Waterbury.

Lamont noted that many of the major automobile manufacturers, including Ford, General Mothers, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, and Toyota have all publicly announced major plans for selling more electric vehicles. GM, for example, wants to sell only zero-emissions trucks and cars by 2035 — the same year as Connecticut’s guideline.

But Republicans still aren’t buying it.

“The notion that we must make a major policy shift because California decided to do it seems contrary to our long history of constitutional government, where the legislature makes important policy decisions, not bureaucrats,” said Senate Republican leader Kevin Kelly of Stratford. “We must work together to craft an environmental policy that is right for all people in our state, not just the wealthy, the privileged, and those who can afford a luxury electric vehicle.”

Advocates, however, say that the cost of some electric cars has dropped and has moved into the affordable range for many buyers. In addition, electric cars qualify for various tax credits that reduce the overall cost.

Dennis Lyons, vice president at New Britain-based DATTCO Coach & Tour, said that a new diesel-powered charter bus currently costs $600,000. But an electric charter bus costs $1.2 million to $1.3 million with six expensive battery packs to power such a large vehicle. The problem, he said, is that the buses can only travel an average of 170 miles before needing another charge for the battery that can take 4.5 hours to 6 hours to charge.

DATTCO operates 1,100 school buses in Connecticut and Rhode Island and has been moving toward cleaner alternatives through the years.

“We’re open to hydrogen. We’re open to electric if they come up with a better plan,” Lyons said. “But as it exists today, it just doesn’t work. Hydrogen at least gets us to a 500-mile range, which is about a typical day on one of our tours. This mandate, as it exists today, simply does not give us that.”

Republicans have created a website at

State environmental commissioner Katie Dykes strongly supports the plan for multiple reasons.

“Adopting these proposed emissions standards is the right decision for Connecticut from both a health and economic standpoint,” Dykes said. “Connecticut suffers from some of the worst air quality in the country, and emissions from the transportation sector are the biggest contributor of ozone forming air pollution in our state. These standards will give residents more low and zero-emission vehicle options to choose from, better air quality, and fewer healthcare costs due to respiratory and other illnesses. Fewer pollutants in the air will help Connecticut meet federal health-based standards for smog, which we currently fail to do, and will reduce the cost of that noncompliance on Connecticut businesses.”

Longtime Sen. John Kissel, an Enfield Republican who co-chairs the regulations review committee, said in an interview that he agrees with the Republican concerns about the proposed regulations. The committee can approve or reject the regulations but cannot add amendments that would lengthen or change the regulations, unlike other legislative committees.

“It’s not possible in regs,” Kissel said of wholesale rewriting of regulations. “You can’t add new notions in and that’s under the statute that creates us. We can strike certain things out of it and let the rest of it stand on its own.”


In 2021, officials announced that Connecticut would receive $53 million over the next five years from the federal government for electric-charging stations in an effort to cut air pollution by encouraging the use of electric cars.

The funding is part of the $1.25 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed both chambers of Congress. All seven members of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation voted in favor of the package, which President Joe Biden signed. Under an 80-20 matching grant, Connecticut will contribute $10.6 million to the federal funding for a total allocation of $63.6 million in a move that the state environmental commissioner described as “a game-changer” under a historic investment.

The federal money is designed for charging stations to be built within five miles of busy interstate highways, including Interstates 84, 95, 91, 395, and the Merritt Parkway, officials said. The federal money, for example, cannot be spent in rural towns in northern Litchfield County or eastern Connecticut that are not near any highways.

But Kelly said that he questions goals, plans and promises that he believes are not achievable.

“Ten years ago, they promised affordable health care,” Kelly told reporters. “Where are we today? Has anybody’s premium gone down? Has anybody’s health care gotten less expensive? Has access improved and quality enhanced? The answer is no, no, and no.”

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