Environmental advocates came to the defense of contested new emissions regulations during a Tuesday public hearing on a Connecticut proposal that would phase out the sale of new internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035.

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection held a virtual hearing for public input on proposed regulations.

This would align Connecticut’s emission standards with those of California and several other states. Connecticut emission standards have been tied to California’s by law since 2004, when the legislature passed a bipartisan bill linking the two.

Amid several hours of public testimony Tuesday, the regulation’s supporters and state environmental groups pushed back on discourse that has recently been dominated by opponents led by Republican legislators, who oppose a transition to the sale of exclusively electric new vehicle sales.

Christine O’Neil, an environmental planner from Wolcott, pointed to concerning reports on Connecticut’s air quality and the impact of the state’s transportation sector on greenhouse gas emissions.

“These scary statistics are billowing from the tailpipes of our gas-powered cars and we have an opportunity to push back,” O’Neil said.

Kevin Chen, a policy analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the proposed regulation was a valuable emissions reduction tool and urged state policymakers to avoid delaying its implementation.

“Decarbonizing the transportation sector is critical for achieving economy-wide emissions reductions in alignment with the Global Warming Solutions Act,” Chen said. “A near full transformation of light-duty vehicle stock away from petroleum-derived fuels is needed to achieve statewide emissions reductions.”

Meanwhile, opponents of the proposed regulation cited a variety of reasons why Connecticut should rethink its longstanding link to California’s emissions policies and their eventual switch to electric vehicles.

They included the relative expense of electric vehicles, increased road degradation caused by their additional weight, and the environmental impact of mining the lithium required for the batteries used in EVs.

“If EVs are so good, then the people will buy them on their own — they’ll want them,” Stamford resident Alan Shaw said. “If they’re bad, they have to be forced and coerced into buying them.”

The department also heard concerns over whether Connecticut’s grid could support the additional strain of more consumers charging their vehicles. Digaunto Chatterjee, vice president of system planning at Eversource, said the utility would need to build around 14 new electric substations and upgrade about eight of its existing substations to meet the expected additional needs.

“Without having done any detailed design and engineering and development firm cost estimates, at a high ballpark estimate, that’s about $1.5 billion to $2.4 billion of additional grid investments,” he said.

Chatterjee, who said he personally transitioned to an electric vehicle because it was the “right thing to do by the environment,” said additional upgrades would be required at transformers, supply lines and other infrastructure as more consumers began charging vehicles at their homes.

Supporters argue the transition to electric vehicles was already well underway as EVs make up an increasingly large share of the new vehicles produced by auto manufacturers around the world.

Susan Eastwood, an Ashford resident and Connecticut chair of the Sierra Club, urged policymakers to approve the regulations and improve the state’s air quality for people like her daughter, who suffers from asthma.

“This change is already happening. It’s happening now and as a mom I would have done anything to prevent my daughter from getting asthma, but I couldn’t control the air,” Eastwood said. “Here, we have the opportunity to support stronger standards for vehicle emissions that will reduce air pollution in Connecticut.”

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection will continue to accept written testimony until 5 pm Wednesday.

Before it can be implemented, the policy will need to be approved by the legislature’s Regulations Review Committee, a nonpartisan panel made up of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.

Original article found at CT News Junkie.