Connecticut Governor Halts Plan to Phase out New Gas Car Sales by 2035

Facing bipartisan skepticism, the plan to move Connecticut towards California’s model has fallen apart.
Connecticut Governor Halts Plan to Phase out New Gas Car Sales by 2035
Nissan and Volkswagen electric cars sit parked at a Charge Point EV charging station in Corte Madera, Calif., on July 28, 2023. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Bill Pan

Facing bipartisan opposition, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont’s plan to require all new cars sold in his state to be “zero-emission” electric vehicles by 2035 has fallen apart.

The governor’s office conceded on Monday that it lacked the votes to advance the proposed EV mandate through the state Legislature’s Regulations Review Committee, which consists of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats.

Since Republican lawmakers have promised to strike down the governor’s plan, the lack of supporting votes means that at least one of their Democrat colleagues shared their concern about the price tag of the plan, which would involve spending billions of taxpayers’ dollars to upgrade the state’s electric grid and install charging stations across the state.

In fact, according to Jonathan Dach, the governor’s chief of staff, the administration had to withdraw the regulatory push after it was warned that opponents on the bipartisan committee had garnered enough votes to not just send the proposal back to the legislature for further discussion, but kill it.

“The choice open to us is let them be killed or pull them,” Mr. Dach said, reported by Connecticut Mirror. “We will pull them.”

The Republican minority in the state legislature welcomed the Democrat governor’s decision. Ever since the plan was unveiled in July, they have been mounting an effort to block the proposed regulations, which would align Connecticut’s vehicle emissions policies with those set in California.

Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency restored California’s authority under the federal Clean Air Act to enforce its own greenhouse gas emission standards and “zero-emission vehicle” (ZEV) sales mandate. This opened the door for other states to model after California’s rules, including one requiring that, by 2035, all new cars and passenger trucks sold in the state be ZEVs.

Instead of joining other 10 mostly Democrat-led states that have adopted the California model, Republican lawmakers want Connecticut to stick with federal standards, which stop short of mandating the phase-out of gas-powered vehicles in favor of electric ones.

“Common sense has prevailed,” Connecticut Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly said in a statement. “The Governor’s decision to withdraw the regulations is a reasoned approach to address the growing concerns raised by working and middle-class families. Adopting California emission standards which ban the sale of gas-powered cars is a substantial policy shift which must be decided by the General Assembly.”

“There are too many questions regarding the capacity of our electric grid, the cost and location of grid improvements, and the negative impact on urban, rural and working poor families,” he added.

State Sen. John Kissel, the top Republican on the Regulations Review Committee, said “life-changing” decisions, such as limiting people’s choices when they buy cars, should be decided by elected lawmakers in the full state legislature.

“Ask anyone on a Main Street anywhere in Connecticut those questions,” Mr. Kissel said. “They will tell you that they–the people–should get to decide. It should be the people’s choice. The people of Connecticut deserve credit for speaking out. I thank my colleagues on the committee and the governor for withdrawing these regulations.”

Meanwhile, Democrats who dominate the state legislature are eyeing finding a new path to move Connecticut towards zero vehicle emissions. Speaking on Tuesday afternoon at a press conference, Connecticut Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff described the move as “merely a speed bump on our way to more electric vehicles.”

Connecticut House Speaker Matt Ritter, however, admitted that there are still issues that pro-EV activists and policymakers cannot simply ignore, such as how poor people might be able to afford to switch to an EV.

“These are real concerns that can’t be shooed away, they can’t be wished away,” the Democrat said at the press conference. “They have to be worked on. You have to show people and demonstrate with actual science and showing dollars and cents how cars are becoming cheaper and where they’re going to be.”