PRESS RELEASE: Partisanship, Oil Interests Kill Life-Saving Clean Cars and Trucks Standards by Politicizing Bipartisan Regulatory Process

Connecticut is the only state to conclude the rulemaking process by failing to adopt new standards to limit toxic tailpipe pollution.

Hartford — Tomorrow, the Lamont administration is expected to announce that the proposed Advanced Clean Cars II (ACCII), Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT), and Heavy-Duty Omnibus (HDO) programs will be withdrawn from consideration by the state’s Regulation Review Committee.

By setting gradually increasing sales targets for low- and zero-emissions vehicles, and requiring heavy-duty vehicles to emit less toxic nitrous oxides (NOx), these regulations would have saved consumers money at the pump while protecting public health against the dangerous effects of air pollution. Rates of air pollution-linked death are higher in Connecticut than in any other New England state.

Fossil fuel interests targeted Connecticut and mounted a disinformation campaign in the state hoping to influence a previously little-known body, the bipartisan Legislative Regulation Review Committee (LRRC), whose mandate is exclusively to ensure all regulations are consistent with state and federal law. The state Attorney General and the Legislative Commissioner’s Office have both recommended approval of ACCII and ACT/HDO (the LCO recommends simple adjustments that are easily done and would not change the legality or efficacy of these programs). Despite guidance from these impartial experts, Republicans (along with one or more Democrats) on the committee signaled that they intend to operate outside their mandate and reject these programs on purely ideological grounds, prompting the Lamont consideration to withdraw them from the agenda of tomorrow’s LRRC meeting.

Identical regulations have been adopted or are being adopted by 14 states (and DC). Almost all of Connecticut’s closest neighbors have adopted the full regulatory package – including Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, and New Jersey (with Rhode Island expected to finalize by the end of the year).

When clean air advocates in Connecticut were informed that these regulations were being withdrawn by the Lamont administration, they released the following statements:

“Failure to advance these regulations aligns Connecticut’s environmental policy with that of Alabama, Mississippi, and West Virginia rather than Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and the dozen other states we’ve been proud to call our clean air partners,” said Charles Rothenberger, climate and energy attorney with Save the Sound. “Connecticut’s Attorney General and the legislature’s own non-partisan staff recommended adoption because these standards are in line with action already taken by the legislature. Delaying now means more children struggling with asthma, more of our elderly residents coping with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and less access for Connecticut consumers to cutting-edge, low-cost clean vehicles.”

“A decision to not join fellow states in adopting clean car regulations is a clear missed opportunity to improve the health of our citizens” said Dr. Sanjiv Godse, chair of the Connecticut Health Professionals for Climate Action. “Children are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of poor air quality. They deserve a better future.”

“Without the clean car and clean truck regulations passing this year, Connecticut will lose the climate, clean air, health, and economic benefits of these life-saving policies,” said Samantha Dynowski, Chapter Director of Sierra Club Connecticut. “Fossil fuel companies and their mouthpieces, like the Yankee Institute, have spent an enormous amount of money so that they can continue to pollute our air and profit from hard working families. The Governor and leaders in the legislature need to do what all of our neighboring states — and even oil and gas states like New Mexico and Colorado —  have done: deliver on clean cars and trucks quickly.”

“This irresponsible, short-sighted move will set us back years in reaching our climate goals,” said Shannon Laun, Vice President for Connecticut at Conservation Law Foundation. “Governor Lamont and state legislators have bowed to pressure from fossil fuel interests and Connecticut’s residents will pay the price with dirtier air and increased pollution.”

“In a state with immense vehicle miles traveled from passenger and heavy-duty vehicles, Connecticut now falls farther behind in its clean transportation goals without adopting the full suite of proposed vehicle emissions standards,” said Jayson Velazquez, Climate and Energy Justice Policy Associate at Acadia Center. “Connecticut should be the solidifying piece in the Tri-State Area critical to the regional auto market and transportation corridor. For existing and future generations of Connecticut residents, clean air, climate, health, and equity are deferred. Unfortunately, disinformation campaigns stifled opportunities for innovation, equitable outreach, engagement, workforce opportunities, education, and the economy. Connecticut now misses the mark in joining regional leaders and partners as the sole outlier in the clean vehicle transition that is underway.”

“I am deeply saddened that Connecticut is missing this critical opportunity to significantly reduce its high and disproportionate rates of air pollution-induced asthma, especially in urban communities and in people of color,” said Dr. Mark Mitchell, co-chair of the Connecticut Equity and Environmental Justice Advisory Council. “I am particularly disappointed that low-wealth urban and rural communities are likely to be left behind again, as our state will have fewer affordable new models of electric vehicles than in other states that have passed clean cars regulations.”

“It is outrageous that members of the regulations review committee overstepped their bounds to roll back environmental progress and block important clean air regulations,” said Lori Brown, Executive Director of the CT League of Conservation Voters. “In 2022, an overwhelming majority of legislators voted in favor of the CT Clean Air Act to require our state to adopt stronger standards for vehicle emissions.  While every other state in our region has taken steps to adopt these standards, Connecticut is now the only outlier with a handful of politically-motivated legislators standing in the way.  If our state fails to move forward, it will be due to partisan politics and not what is best for the people of Connecticut.”

“Connecticut leaders have chosen to ignore the science that demonstrates strong public health, climate and economic benefits of these crucial transportation regulations,” said Paulina Muratore, Transportation Campaign Manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The state will stand alone, surrounded by neighbors who have already moved forward, and instead has aligned itself with fossil fuel interests. It is unconscionable to have moved away from sound policies that would have guaranteed access to cleaner vehicles, cleaner air, and a more livable future.”

“We are deeply disappointed that a handful of Connecticut legislators are inappropriately using the power they have on a review committee to oppose the Clean Car and Truck rules and in so doing, force the Governor to pull the plug.  These legislators are turning their back on votes of the full legislature and on the most pressing issue of our generation, the existential threat of climate change.  They are turning their back on isolating CT as these standards have been adopted by all of our neighboring states,” said Nathan Frohling, Director of External Affairs for The Nature Conservancy in CT.  “In addition to addressing the major climate challenge of transportation, these standards would do much good for our economy, significantly reduce air pollution, help EJ communities and boost consumer choice and affordability in vehicles of the future.  Instead we are left with short-term politics of a few legislators and intimidation by an opposition using false claims to maintain an unsustainable status quo.”  

“It is shocking that a Koch Brothers’ front group has gotten two legislative caucuses to run such a dishonest campaign against these regulations,” said Tom Swan, Executive Director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group. “The Regulation Review Committee should have fulfilled its duty and voted in support of clean cars and trucks standards. Connecticut’s elected officials must stop playing games with our health at the behest of the fossil fuel industry.  Governor Lamont and the legislature can remedy this – we look forward to working with them to do this starting on the first day of the 2024 legislative session.”

“The Interreligious Eco-Justice Network is deeply disappointed that legislators on the Regulation Review Committee chose to listen to the fossil fuel industry’s misinformation and ignore the strong economic, health, and climate benefits of these regulations,” said Terri Eickel, Executive Director of the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network. “As a result, Connecticut residents will continue to breathe unhealthy air and experience some of the highest asthma rates in the nation. In addition, CT consumers will miss out on the opportunity for low-cost clean cars and trucks and expanded warranties.  People of faith are called to care for each other and for the planet.  Today, Connecticut  legislators failed to do that.”

“Almost twenty years ago an overwhelming bipartisan majority of Connecticut’s legislature voted for, and a Republican governor signed the Clean Cars Law. For two decades, that law has required automakers to offer more cars for sale in our state that go farther on a gallon of gas, use zero-emission fuels and emit less pollution into the air we breathe,” said Chris Phelps, Environment Connecticut State Director. “Today, oil companies and their lobbying front groups have convinced a handful of legislators to ignore the law and stop Connecticut from joining states like California, New York, New Jersey, Colorado and more that are continuing to require car makers to offer more clean, zero-emission cars and trucks to consumers. For the sake of our environment and our economy Governor Lamont and legislative leaders need to step up and take action to ensure that Connecticut keeps its commitment to clean air and clean cars.”

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