CT enacts clean air law to shift state vehicles to electric


NEW HAVEN — State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe Giulietti celebrated his 70th birthday in his hometown, flanked by electric buses, celebrating the enactment of the Clean Air Act in Connecticut.

In an event on the New Haven Green, Giulietti, Gov. Ned Lamont and several state leaders discussed the enactment of the Clean Air Act, furthering efforts to reduce the state’s carbon footprint and shift toward more environmentally friendly transportation alternatives.

“Transportation remains the single-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state, which disproportionately impacts communities of color and those of low incomes,” Giulietti said. “In many communities, like here in New Haven, increased emissions from the vehicles and public transportation have led to increased air quality, greater likelihood of asthma and health problems.”


The Clean Air Act was first approved by the state General Assembly in April, and became Public Act 22-25.

Transportation accounts for 37 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the state and as 67 percent of the emissions of nitrogen oxides, a key component of smog, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

Under the Clean Air Act, DOT will shift hundreds of buses to electric vehicles and updating traffic signals across the state to a synchronized system, eliminating stalling time and traffic congestion, Giulietti said.

“We at the Department of Transportation are fully embracing changes in transportation to protect our environment. Parked behind me is two of the battery electric buses and one of the battery electric school buses,” Giulietti said. “It’s so nice to hear a bus that’s behind you that’s not making noise or emitting any propane or diesel fumes. There are approximately 800 buses that we are responsible for at the DOT that are being replaced with no-emissions electric models. They’re quieter, they emit no emissions and they last longer.”

In addition to the electric state-run buses, public school buses will also shift to electric models, according to the statement. The Clean Air Act will also prohibit the procurement of diesel-powered buses after 2023, according to the statement.

The bill allows for decade-long school transportation contracts, if the contract includes at least one zero-emission school bus, sets a target of 100 percent zero-emission school buses in certain communities by 2030, and for all school districts by 2040. also establishes a matching grant program of up to $20 million for the Environmental Protection Agency Clean School Bus program.

Along with the electric buses, DOT is increasing its use of electric trains. To date, electric trains run on Metro-North and Shore Line East, with plans to add electric service straight to Penn Station and Grand Central, Giulietti said.

Clear Air Act is a collaboration between DOT and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, where DEEP will enforce medium- and heavy-duty vehicle standards and offer truck vouchers to support the purchase of zero-emission vehicles, according to the statement.

“We are a small state and people ask me all the time, ‘What can a state of this size actually do to solve climate change?’ But what we do here when we lead in Connecticut, we demonstrate the possibility,” DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “We show how these technologies can be adopted. We develop the models. We spur the industry to be investing. We help create the market, the early adoption of these technologies, including electric school buses, electric transit buses, providing for equitable, affordable access for electric vehicles and bikes across the state.”

The bill included $15 million in vouchers to help businesses purchase more expensive trucks that comply with the new California standards, as well as $20 million in grants to help school districts purchase carbon-free school buses, which would be mandated statewide by 2035.

The act authorizes the DEEP commissioner to adopt regulations implementing California’s medium- and heavy-duty motor vehicle standards, ensuring manufacturers are producing cleaner vehicles and offering them for sale in Connecticut, giving consumers more options while reducing pollution, according to the statement.

Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles account for as much as 53 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions, despite being only 6 percent of vehicles on the road, according to the statement.

“We’ve seen a doubling in the number of electric vehicles registered and on the roads here in Connecticut in just the last two years as folks are struggling with high gas prices,” Dykes said. “We know driving electric vehicles can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars every year with lower fuel costs and lower maintenance costs.”

State Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, chair of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee, said other states need to follow suit in passing similar legislation.

“As the climate crisis worsens, as we are sitting here in exceptional heat, as asthma rates are highest in communities that are nearby, Interstate-95 or the Merritt Parkway, as kids breathe in exhaust diesel, we need every level of government engaged, Haskell said. “This should’ve been a bipartisan bill, and to some it was, but the fact of the matter, what’s going to become clear in years to come is there’s no such thing as Democratic air and Republican air. There’s clean air, which keeps us alive, and dirty air, which makes us sick.”

abigail.brone@hearstmediact.com

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