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

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the proposed Advanced Clean Cars II (ACCII), Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT), and Heavy-Duty Omnibus (HDO) programs will be withdrawn from consideration by the state’s Regulation Review Committee.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.

“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.”

To read the full press release from Clean Car States, click here.

Dem governor withdraws electric vehicle mandate in stunning blow to environmentalists

Democratic Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont is withdrawing his plan to mandate future electric vehicle (EV) purchases after the proposal received bipartisan pushback from lawmakers on a key legislative panel.

Lamont ultimately pulled the proposal just four months after unveiling it and characterizing it as “decisive action to meet our climate pollution reduction targets.” In July, Lamont unveiled the proposal, tethering Connecticut’s emissions standards to those set in California, which mandates that every passenger vehicle sold is electric by 2035, the most aggressive target of its kind nationwide.

The Sierra Club Connecticut, Conservation Law Foundation, Acadia Center, Union of Concerned Scientists, Nature Conservancy, Environment Connecticut and Connecticut League of Conservation Voters also ripped Lamont’s action Tuesday.

To read the full article from Fox News, click here.

Climate advocates call on New Jersey leaders to pass legislation to deliver economic, health and climate benefits of clean energy

Trenton, NJ —- Today members of Clean Energy Action Now (CLEAN) came together to support legislation to increase affordability, deliver cleaner air, and accelerate the Garden State’s climate goals. The Clean Energy Act of 2023 (S2978), sponsored by Sen. Bob Smith, would accelerate New Jersey’s clean energy transition by ensuring New Jersey utilities deliver 100% clean electricity by 2035 with minimal impacts to New Jersey energy bills, further reducing the state’s reliance on fossil fuels in the next decade.

Ben Butterworth, Director: Climate, Energy & Equity Analysis, Acadia Center:

“New Jerseyans have already paid dearly for the cost of climate change, from hotter, more deadly summers to more frequent, more intense natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy that damaged hundreds of thousands of homes across the state. Today’s legislation to achieve 100% clean electricity by 2035 takes a massive step toward reducing New Jersey’s climate-warming emissions, but more must be done to ensure that residents can access the health, economic, and climate benefits of pollution-free homes.”

To read the full press release on Insider NJ, click here.

RIDOT presents revised Carbon Reduction Strategy plan

On Nov. 15, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation submitted a revised version of its Carbon Reduction Strategy to the Federal Highway Administration. If the plan is approved, RIDOT is eligible to receive an estimated $35.7 million from the federal government to spend on carbon reduction projects over four years.

While representatives from both the Acadia Center, a non-profit dedicated to climate solutions, and Grow Smart R.I., an organization focused on “neighborhood revitalization, environmental stewardship and economic opportunity,” believe the new plan is more effective, they still share concerns about its ability to help the state meet the goals outlined in the 2021 R.I. Act on Climate.

“Overall, I’m glad to see that RIDOT responded to the public’s demand for more investment in non-car infrastructure,” said Emily Koo ’13, senior policy advocate and R.I. program director of the Acadia Center. “But the core issues of not meeting the Act on Climate targets, nor measuring project level emissions reductions, remain.”

While Acadia was “glad to see that there’s significantly more funding for bike paths, it is still for resurfacing and preservation and maintenance of existing bike paths and not (establishing) new bike infrastructure,” Koo said.

For Koo, RIDOT is “putting the onus of the transportation sector planning and analysis on the state’s 2025 climate strategy.”

To read the entire article from the Brown Daily Herald, click here.

Building Power: Breaking down Rhode Island’s new community electricity programs

This summer, during the hottest July on record, over 1,000 Rhode Islanders had their electricity service shut off. These residents—unable to pay bills 25 percent higher than last summer—were left without AC or electricity for days of extreme heat, causing heat-related illnesses and exacerbating existing health conditions. Facing longer and hotter summers due to climate change, Rhode Islanders, especially those with underlying health conditions, have a dire need for air conditioning. But more AC usage alongside ongoing energy rate hikes means higher bills, and with higher bills comes the risk of shut-offs, leaving vulnerable Rhode Islanders without electricity when it is most critical.

Emily Koo, who was Providence’s Director of Sustainability during much of the development of the PCE program, pointed to the importance of taking control back from the utility:

“Communities are in the driver’s seat here and will continue to pursue the dual goal of lower cost, higher renewables for its customers in its electricity procurement,” she said. “This separation of supply is a great example of removing a responsibility from the utility so that it better aligns with state and community goals to address climate pollution and lower consumer costs.”

Many residents are concerned by the dissonance between the dirty tricks and the purported clean energy goals of the biggest renewable supplier in the country, their potential future supplier. So how and why was such a company chosen? And should it change how we understand municipal aggregation in Rhode Island?

The first question is simpler to answer. Koo put it bluntly: there wasn’t much of a choice. The buying group of municipalities put out a Request for Proposal (RFP), inviting any energy suppliers licensed to work in the region to bid to procure energy for the program; after initial vetting by Good Energy on the financial viability of the proposed suppliers, they were left with bids from two companies. One was NextEra; the other remains confidential.

Ultimately, Jamie Rhodes explains, it came down to a decision between two fundamentally different pricing models. Given the needs of the program—the necessary balance of lower prices and renewable options—Koo told the Indy that the buying group of municipalities decided that, of the two, NextEra best balanced these factors.

Municipal aggregation in Rhode Island is a truly important shift, a step toward enabling Rhode Islanders to have more agency over their energy system, toward acknowledging the power in collectivity. With NextEra in the mix, this program is far from ideal. But it’s what we have, and it’s better than what we had before. The development of local renewables is real and important; the costs of energy remain lower than RI Energy and will hopefully continue to drop.

And as Emily Koo said, these large energy companies, even involved as they are in dirty nationwide politics, “can also be driven to serve the needs of certain communities.”

To read the full article from the Indy, click here.

Boston no longer pursuing inclusion in program to ban fossil fuels in new construction

The city of Boston will no longer be pursuing inclusion in a program that would allow it to ban fossil fuels from new construction.

The program was open to 10 Massachusetts municipalities, and nine of those spots have already been taken. Mayor Michelle Wu told The Boston Globe last week that she had received “clear indications that Boston would not be chosen for the one available spot,” and that it “breaks [her] heart.”

Boston was unlikely to be accepted because it is “electrically similar” to a few other communities that have already been selected, such as Cambridge, Brookline, and Arlington, a spokesperson for the state Department of Energy Resources told the Globe. This means that their infrastructures are of a similar age and face similar demands. The pilot program was designed to collect data from a diverse group of municipalities.

Kyle Murray, Massachusetts program director at the clean energy advocacy group Acadia Center, told the Globe that Boston’s new building code already does a lot to prevent fossil fuel usage in new buildings.

“[The code is] strong and will really help drive down emissions,” he told the paper. “So I still think Boston is going to do some amazing things, but still — I’m a little disappointed.”

To read the full article from, click here.

Boston’s plan to ban fossil fuels in new buildings goes up in smoke

More than three years after introducing her Green New Deal plan for Boston as a mayoral candidate, Mayor Michelle Wu said in an interview last week that the city will not be participating in a state program that will allow 10 communities to ban developers from including fossil fuels in new buildings. The pilot program is the only way for Massachusetts communities to take this step without violating state regulations.

Wu’s decision not to apply for the program came as a surprise to environmental advocates and legislators who have been trying to move the state away from heating and cooling new structures with fossil fuels. Constructing buildings that are only powered by electricity is considered among the low-hanging fruit of plans to decarbonize. Buildings account for roughly 70 percent of Boston’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The adoption of Boston’s new building code already goes a long way toward getting fossil fuels out of new buildings, said Kyle Murray, Massachusetts program director at the clean energy advocacy group Acadia Center.

The code is “strong and will really help drive down emissions,” he said. “So I still think Boston is going to do some amazing things, but still — I’m a little disappointed.”

To read the full article from the Boston Globe, click here.

What the Failed Pine Tree Power Proposal in Maine Could Have Accomplished

Maine voters had the chance to make history Tuesday, but instead rejected the contentious Pine Tree Power proposal which, advocates say, had big implications for the rates that Maine electric customers pay and how fast the state transitions to renewable energy sources.

If it had passed, the vote would have replaced the state’s investor-owned electric utilities, Central Maine Power and Versant Power, with a publicly owned alternative named Pine Tree Power, the first of its kind in the US. The move also could have set the stage for other states to follow suit.

The ballot question created a fiery debate, with even environmental nonprofits disagreeing on which option was better.

“The consumer-owned utility model has uncertainty and change attached to it,” said Peter LaFond, senior policy advocate and Maine program director for the nonpartisan Acadia Center.

LaFond, who did not endorse either side, believes the ballot initiative was more of “an indication that change is needed.”

The Pine Tree Power proposal surfaced after strong criticism of Central Maine Power, a corporate-owned utility that consumers say has a history of slow response time to outages and poor billing experiences.

Supporters of the Pine Tree Power initiative said CMP caused roadblocks to renewable power projects. “Things need to be governed differently to move forward into a green energy future that both reduces energy costs and reduces the carbon footprint,” LaFond said.

But the vote isn’t where this issue ends. Residents will still need to remain involved if they want their voice to be heard in the future of Maine’s energy decisions.

“Regardless of the outcome of the vote, things need to change,” LaFond said. “If we’re going to meet consumer, climate and energy goals, we have to move forward with a utility system that’s responsive to those.”

To read the full article from CNET, click here.

Will RIDOT Pay Any Attention to Public Comments About Its Carbon Reduction Strategy?

As transportation produces the most climate change emissions, there is now some federal transportation funding which, in order to obtain, requires the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to file a “carbon reduction strategy” (CRS). So RIDOT drafted a CRS that was open for public comment that had a Nov. 3 deadline for input.

One response was a sign-on letter organized by Acadia Center and a group of “transportation decarbonization” activists that generated 20 signatures from climate, environmental, bike, and transit groups asking for changes in the plan. The letter notes a need to improve its methodology, to better engage stakeholders, to give more priority to implementing the state’s officially adopted transit and bike plans, and, most importantly, to make it more likely to actually meet climate goals. RIDOT is to review the public comments, but it seems they need not make any changes in what they send to the Federal Highway Administration.

To read the full article from ecoRI, click here.

RGGI’s Third Program Review: Charting a Path Towards Zero?

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cap-and-invest program among Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states to reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector, is currently undergoing its third program review. This means the participating states, including Rhode Island and Massachusetts, are collectively examining the successes, impacts, and design of their CO2 budget trading programs, and considering updates to the program design. We see this third program review as a real opportunity to strengthen RGGI in a way that would significantly and equitably drive down power sector emissions and have been following the process closely. We have been told that the process will conclude by the end of the year. 

Speaking of Environmental Justice, in this third program review, RGGI has the opportunity to ensure equity is built into the model rule. Although they have not yet outlined their strategy for including equity, we, along with fellow advocates, have been advocating for RGGI states to incorporate air quality monitoring in their program review. We urge them to prioritize accelerating emission reductions at power plants that pose the most significant respiratory health risks to vulnerable communities. Specifically, we propose a reduction in the MW threshold capacity for power plants covered under RGGI, from 25MW to 15MW. According to the RGGI Report by Acadia Center, 91% of these smaller generating units are situated within a 3-mile radius of an EPA Environmental Justice Socioeconomic Indicators (EJSI) community or a community with a high asthma prevalence. Therefore, their inclusion in the program can contribute to addressing the health disparities caused by these power plants’ proximity to EJSI communities.

To read the full blog from Green Energy Consumers Alliance, click here.