Summer Legislative Update: Connecticut
Acadia Center’s high hopes for the 2021 legislative session continue, as we prepare for the two upcoming special legislative sessions in July and September that will decide the outcome of critical pieces of legislation. Our top priority continues to be the passage of legislation to implement the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), which will be discussed again in September. TCI failed to pass in the last weeks of the session that ended in early June, which was a surprise and a major disappointment.
The TCI bill (SB 884) would have been the most important climate legislation of the past decade. The TCI Program is projected to be a source of economic growth, new jobs, and cleaner air, and the extensive modeling of its impact predicts $360 million in annual health benefits regionally by 2032. A critical companion bill, SB 931, would have directed Connecticut to study the energy, environmental, and air quality impacts of adopting California’s medium and heavy- duty vehicle standards. Acadia Center has convened and developed the CT Transportation Climate Initiative Coalition over the last two years, which is made up of over 35 organizations and individuals. The coalition was especially successful at creating united messaging focused on equity, environmental justice, health, air pollution, economic development and jobs.
With a Democratic majority in the House and Senate and a Democratic governor, Acadia Center and all advocates had every reason to believe we were in a strong position to win. However, TCI was a victim of last-minute political horsetrading, as some senators made the passage of TCI conditional on supporting their other favored pieces of legislation, leading to a stalemate between Governor Lamont and the Senate leadership. However, Matt Ritter, Connecticut’s Speaker of the House, has promised to discuss TCI again in the special session.
Despite these setbacks, our other two priority bills did manage to pass in regular session. SB 356, establishes an energy efficiency retrofit grant program specifically for affordable housing, and the legislature has allocated seven million dollars to implementing the program over the first three years through the American Rescue Package Act. Acadia Center had been advocating for progress on these retrofits for years; an estimated 23% of housing had previously been ineligible for state efficiency programs because of issues such as lead and asbestos removal and remediation, which needed to be addressed before going forward with efficiency upgrades (these issues are collectively referred to as “health and safety barriers”). SB 952 stimulates the energy storage and clean tech industry, by establishing energy storage goals of 300 megawatts by 2024, 650 MW by 2027, and 1,000 MW by 2030, and directing CT Public Utilities Regulatory Authority and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to support energy storage through their efforts.
The move to pass TCI continues this summer with the coalition intact and the strategy to win evolving as the lessons learned take hold. The successful passage of energy efficiency in affordable housing and the storage bills will also install needed climate and energy policies.
The current strategy is to lobby the decision makers in July in person (now that pandemic restrictions are being lifted) to ramp up their understanding of TCI for the September session. All eyes are now on Connecticut!