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Most efforts to address climate change died in CT legislature this year

Rep Christine Palm at her chair on the House floor at the Connecticut State Capitol on Wednesday, May 8, 2024 in Hartford. Lawmakers work late into the night as the legislative session comes to a close. (Joe Buglewicz/Connecticut Public)
Joe Buglewicz
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Connecticut Public
Rep Christine Palm, who led House effort for a wide-ranging climate bill expressed "profound disappointment" that the bill did not get taken up in the Senate.

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Connecticut ended its 2024 legislative session Wednesday without passing various key bills to address climate change in the state.

Senate lawmakers didn’t make enough time to take up the House-approved bill by the legislature’s midnight deadline after Republicans debated other bills that ran out the clock.

The wide-ranging climate bill would have set emissions standards for state agencies, and updated the Global Warming Solutions Act. The bill outlined incentives for businesses to take up sustainable practices and promote the installation of hundreds of thousands of home heat pumps. It would have also declared a climate crisis in Connecticut in a largely symbolic move.

This effort comes on the heels of state legislators failing to pass comprehensive climate legislation in 2023, as Connecticut has seen its own share of impacts tied to long-term warming.

State Rep. Christine Palm, D-Chester, spearheaded the bill and expressed “profound disappointment” that the bill did not get taken up — and that the Senate majority did not motion to “call the question,” a rare move that would have stopped debate to vote on the measure.

“The ones who suffer are the people of Connecticut,” Palm said after the House adjourned. “The environment of Connecticut suffers, not the people in this building. And that to me is unforgivable.”

Republicans did not support the omnibus bill in the House vote, with some questioning that the state is experiencing climate change — despite overwhelming evidence that human activities have caused global warming. Many also cited concern about Connecticut’s electrical grid capacity and the potential impact on ratepayers.

Senate Minority Leader Stephen Harding said the result was a “big victory.”

“Senate Republicans are willing to go the distance in order to defend taxpayers’ wallets and consumer choice.” Harding said in a statement. “That clear message resulted in other Democrat-supported legislation not being taken up for debate.”

State Rep. Joe Gresko, D-Stratford, and Environment Committee chair, also shared his disappointment that it didn’t pass the Senate.

“When it's made a leadership priority, I was hopeful that things could have worked out better,” Gresko said on the House floor. “The silver lining in this is that we have a bill that is pretty much ready to go for next year.”

A smokey haze surrounds the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge in New Haven as smoke from Canadian wildfires moves over the state on June 8, 2023. Air quality levels were at unhealthy levels, with officials advising residents to stay inside and keep their windows shut.
Ryan Caron King
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Connecticut Public
FILE, 2023: The hotter, dryer conditions of climate change have increased the likelihood of expansive wildfires such as those seen last summer when a smokey haze moved over the northeast including New Haven and the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge (above). Air quality levels were at unhealthy levels, with officials advising residents to stay inside and keep their windows shut.

Not all bills to address climate change failed this session: an effort to expand solar energy in Connecticut did make it across the finish line Wednesday. Proponents of the bill said diversifying the region’s electrical network will also help the state’s grid handle more demand in the long-term.

Neither chamber called a bill that would have taken a step towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector, which is Connecticut’s largest source of carbon emissions contributing to climate change. A 40-person commission would have reported on strategies to roll out infrastructure for more electric vehicles.

The measure was proposed in response to concerns about Connecticut’s ability to handle more electric vehicles, if it adopted California-led emission standards. Those phase out the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035.

“Probably people just think it's not a good issue to talk about in an election year,” House Speaker Matt Ritter said Friday. “So maybe people want to talk about next year, but I'm a little disappointed.”

By not adopting the regulations Connecticut defaulted to less strict federal standards.

Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposal to expand solar in schools did not pass in full, and a Senate bill to address local climate resiliency planning also did not get taken up in either chamber this session.

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.