Legislators and Environmental Advocates Come Together in Support of Connecticut Clean Air Act


NEW HAVEN – Today, key legislators including Senate President Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven), Transportation Committee Senate Chair State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport), Environment Committee Senate Chair State Senator Christine Cohen (D-Guilford) and Transportation Committee House Chair State Representative Roland Lemar (D-New Haven) joined New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker, Connecticut League of Conservation Voters Executive Director Lori Brown, Transport Hartford Academy At Center For Latino Progress Coordinator Thomas Regan-Lefebvre, Shannon Laun of the Conservation Law Foundation, Charles Rothenberg of Save The Sound and Nathan Frohling of The Nature Conservancy on New Haven's Chapel Street to discuss the benefits of the Connecticut Clean Air Act, Senate Bill 4.

The legislators and advocates gathered in support of Senate Bill 4, also known as the Connecticut Clean Air Act, which seeks to reduce emissions in the transportation industry, the state's industry producing the most carbon emissions. Emission reductions would come via an expansion of the CHEAPR electric vehicle rebate program to make the technology more accessible to the public; work to upgrade and modernize traffic signals around the state to improve local travel time and reduce pollutive idling; supporting the installation of more electric vehicle charging stations across the state; aiding the acquisition of electric school buses; and a "create-a-voucher" program to transition medium- and heavy-duty trucks to cleaner electric models.

"This is an extremely important initiative for the General Assembly in 2022," said Sen. Looney. "It reaffirms and extends our commitment to clean air in Connecticut and dealing with our environmental challenges moving forward. We all know urban communities like New Haven have increased levels of pollution which can harm the health of everyone, especially children, and those problems show up early in life and can plague them forever. Senate Bill 4 will achieve transformative effects in our CHEAPR program; our goal is to eventually convert fleet vehicles to electric statewide. SB4 focuses on making sure CHEAPR will be equitable and accessible for communities of color and communities most directly impacted by pollution, among other advantages."

"We've got to be honest – this fight has only become more urgent in the face of rising gas prices," said Sen. Haskell. "As our constituents struggle to afford to fill up their internal combustion engines, it's time to help them afford cleaner transportation options. Let's make electric vehicles affordable for every family in Connecticut. Let's help folks transition to e-bikes if they're able. Let's to electrify our buses so students and commuters don't breathe in diesel exhaust every day. Let's modernize traffic signals to reduce congestion, alleviate headaches and cut idling in our urban communities. Let's demand parity in public transit investments, supporting greenways and bike paths and pedestrian walkways. This legislation is about setting ambitious goals and giving state and town government the tools they need to realize those goals."

"We're standing in a really important place to talk about SB4," said Rep. Lemar. "Behind us is the convergence of Interstates 95 and 91, which come together in New Haven. Behind those highways is a public school with children riding the bus to and from school every day, and every day they breathe in diesel fumes. The asthma rates in New Haven, as well as many municipalities in our state, are three times the state average, which itself is higher than the national average. The public health impacts of not addressing diesel fumes and transportation-related emissions is hospitalizations, long-term health consequences and a diminished quality of life for our residents. SB4 tackles two things: how we make smart investments about how we go and putting resources away from fossil fuels. It tackles what we build and for who we build. It's going to take a lot of investment and technology to get there, but it is imperative for the future of our children and communities."

"We need to meet the moment," said Sen. Cohen. "There is a silent killer among us, our air quality. Connecticut is one of the worst states when it comes to ground-level ozone. We are not meeting our goals and we need to do something about it so everyone in the state of Connecticut has the tools in their toolbox to take climate action. SB4 is about giving people the rebates they need to change our greenhouse gas emissions, but it's about more. It's about creating charging infrastructure across the state, ensuring we have traffic flow, making sure we are leveraging unprecedented federal funds to make sure we are putting our money where our mouth is. It is too important to risk health outcomes like rising asthma rates and lung-related illnesses. We have the power to act and the time is now."

β€œIt is critical that we invest in a greener and cleaner transportation infrastructure that provides Connecticut families and commuters with more expansive and equitable options to travel to school and work," said Mayor Elicker. "S.B. 4 would be a huge step forward for our state, and I want to thank our partners is state government for championing this legislation.”

"When the League of Conservation Voters worked three years ago with DATTCO to secure the first electric bus in Middletown, this is what we were hoping for," said Brown. "This legislation is a forward-thinking effort with achievable goals and essential matching grants to make it affordable, and it will help reach the state's climate goals in a way that centers the needs of underserved communities."

"One thing that is really important to remember: in crafting our state's clean transportation policies, we must keep equity at the forefront, and SB4 does a good job of that," said Laun. "Folks living in environmental justice communities around the state often have a low carbon footprint but are exposed to the worst of transportation pollution and climate change. It's really critical we address these inequities while addressing the issue of transportation pollution."