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CT's latest big climate bill passes in the House, awaits Senate approval

PLEASANTON, CA - APRIL 16: Employees of SPG Solar mount a photovoltaic panel onto a steel rack on top of one of seven public school rooftops on April 16, 2008 in Pleasanton, California. The rooftop solar panel array is a 186 kw system. The Pleasanton school district decided in January, 2007 to initiate a "Go Green" campaign in attempting to cut electricity costs and use renewable energy with generous state and federal tax incentives and rebates for converting to solar power. Pleasanton signed a contract with the Honeywell Corporation to buy power from the company's installed and maintained panels on all seven of the district's schools. The plan would give the city a 20% reduction in electricity charges and lock them into a 20-year fixed rate power purchase agreement with Honeywell. Surplus power kicked back into the Pacific Gas & Electric electric grid would be credited to the school district. The solar panels produce electricity in DC current which is then converted to AC current utilized inside the building with an inverter.
Robert Nickelsberg
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Getty Images
Employees of SPG Solar mount a photovoltaic panel onto a steel rack on top of one of seven public school rooftops on April 16, 2008 in Pleasanton, California. The rooftop solar panel array is a 186 kw system. The Pleasanton school district decided in January, 2007 to initiate a "Go Green" campaign in attempting to cut electricity costs and use renewable energy with generous state and federal tax incentives and rebates for converting to solar power. Pleasanton signed a contract with the Honeywell Corporation to buy power from the company's installed and maintained panels on all seven of the district's schools.

Connecticut’s House of Representatives has advanced a comprehensive bill striving to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy efficiency and combat climate change locally with just one week left to pass legislation.

The proposal, which still needs to be taken up by the Senate, is House Democrats’ latest big push to address climate change on a state level, after the General Assembly failed to pass comprehensive climate legislation last session. It cleared the chamber Wednesday night in a 94 to 56 vote, with all Republicans in opposition.

The bill would declare a climate crisis in Connecticut, create business incentives for sustainability, promote installation of heat pumps, set emissions standards for state agencies and update the Global Warming Solutions Act to mirror nearby states.

In Wednesday’s floor discussion, some House Republicans shared a variety of concerns, including how it might impact electric affordability for residents. Other Republican lawmakers were concerned that the bill is moving the state towards a total electrification of energy.

“I want to emphasize this bill does not mandate that anybody stop using gas or oil. It simply adds and diversifies the options available to us,” Rep. Christine Palm, D-Chester and vice chair of the Environment Committee, said.

The potential impact on the electrical grid was also brought up.

“This bill is full of ideas and suggestions that are putting the cart before the technological horse,” Rep. Pat Callahan, R-Danbury, and a ranking member of the Environment Committee, said during floor debate.

Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport and co-chair of the Energy and Technology committee, said a large goal of the bill addresses the state’s energy future and said it aligns with other efforts of the state and region to meet demand going forward.

Some Republican lawmakers also said climate change is a natural phenomenon, and questioned if it should dictate policy locally — even though a large body of research shows global temperatures continue to increase from greenhouse gas emissions tied to human activities.

Just last week, a report from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection showed that Connecticut’s emissions are on the rise, and that the state is not on track to meet its 2030 pollution reduction goals. This comes after a year when Connecticut experienced major environmentaland health impacts tied to long-term warming trends.

Before the session Wednesday, House Speaker Matt Ritter told reporters that the state would use part of the remaining American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars to fund the proposal.

Legislators must adjourn by the end of next Wednesday.

As of Thursday midday, a bill to expand solar statewide also has the House chamber’s approval. Other climate proposals awaiting potential action would expand solar in schools, address local climate resiliency planning, and examine electric vehicle infrastructure in the state.

House Republicans proposed five amendments, three of which were called — and all failed to be adopted. In closing Wednesday’s nearly five-hour debate, Callahan again drove home again that the state needs natural gas, and that electrifying the grid will hurt ratepayers.

“It's just the steps that we take to achieve goals affect our constituents, and arbitrary goals for abstract results at the cost of our constituents — with massive energy increases — are not the answer,” he said.

Palm, who spearheaded the bill, pointed to the trillions of dollars spent on climate disaster relief nationwide and how action steps, like this bill, are necessary for the state.

“Why we do this at all, is that we are going to be impacted by climate change in Connecticut, and it will cost us money,” Rep. Mary Mushinsky D-Wallingford, and Deputy Speaker, said during the discussion. “Which is why we have to get back on track."

As Connecticut Public's state government reporter, Michayla focuses on how policy decisions directly impact the state’s communities and livelihoods. She has been with Connecticut Public since February 2022, and before that was a producer and host for audio news outlets around New York state. When not on deadline, Michayla is probably outside with her rescue dog, Elphie. Thoughts? Jokes? Tips? Email msavitt@ctpublic.org.