Gov. Lamont vows to press ahead with electric vehicle mandate – with changes
Saying Connecticut must address the climate crisis now, Gov. Ned Lamont is vowing to push forward with a controversial plan to phase out gas-powered cars – despite being forced to withdraw his proposal from a regulatory panel on Tuesday.
Now, Lamont and top Democrats will try again with the full General Assembly.
“Reach across the aisle,” he told reporters. “See if we can satisfy some of the naysayers, get them on board.”
EV SALES MANDATE
The proposed rules required all new cars to be electric – or plug-in hybrid – by 2035. But the mandate would begin phasing-in by 2026.
Used cars would not be impacted.
The move would mirror California’s vehicle regulations, which Connecticut lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to follow in 2004. States cannot set their own car emissions standards; they must either follow federal guidelines or California’s stricter rules. New York and a dozen other states have already agreed to the EV mandate.
VOTE PULLED AT LAST MINUTE
The Lamont administration planned to pass the mandate in the Legislature’s little-known Regulation Review Committee, which typically considers mundane technical changes.
Instead, the governor withdrew the item at the last minute, after fellow Democrats raised concerns about the cost of EVs and the lack of charging options.
Republicans applauded the delay.
“We do need a plan, just not the one they've put forth,” said state Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford), the GOP leader in the Connecticut House. “It was good to hear that they’re now going to start taking into consideration the affordability, the impact that this is actually going to have on Connecticut residents.”
Top Democrats insisted the move is just a detour and not a dead end. But House Speaker Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) said any new proposal must address drivers’ concerns.
“Our party sometimes has a ‘wag our finger’ approach to individuals who may not always see it the same way,” he said. “Affordability is real. Technology is real.”
Calling the issue a “high priority,” Ritter said Democrats will discuss their next steps in a closed-door caucus on Monday. He did not rule out a special legislative session, which would by-pass the usual public hearing process.
Plan B might look similar to Colorado, which will go 82% electric by 2032. But after that, the Centennial State may revert to the looser federal standards.
“We’ll maybe follow what they're doing in Colorado and New Mexico,” said Lamont. “And maybe every two or three years, the legislature wants to take a second look.”
At the I-95 service plaza in Darien, some drivers said the transition is too fast.
“I would be worried about having an electric car because, if you're driving cross-country, you don't know where to stop and charge it,” said Nancy Crossley, of Rehoboth, Mass.
Alex Taylor, who grew up in Stamford, said his parents own an electric vehicle. But Taylor said it’s not practical for him yet.
“If I want to do a long trip – say, go to Vermont, tow my boat somewhere – I don't think the electric car will be able to do that,” he said. “And even by 2035, I might be a little skeptical.
Connecticut is moving aggressively to reduce “range anxiety.” A new network of 12 fast-chargers is planned along major highways, thanks to $52 million in federal grants.
A state program also offers up to $250,000 for businesses and homeowners to install charging stations.
But reliability is an issue. Many non-Tesla public chargers are plagued with connectivity and speed issues.
Electric cars are also more expensive, but prices are dropping and help is available. Connecticut's CHEAPR program offers up to $9,500 in rebates. Democratic lawmakers said they may also look at bigger incentives for low-income drivers, but Lamont was non-committal on Tuesday.
Environmentalists said a rapidly warming planet requires rapid solutions.
“If we truly care about providing affordable, clean vehicles to consumers, these regulations are the pathway,” said Charles Rothenberger, with the conservation group Save the Sound.