2023 Connecticut Legislative Session Recap
THANK YOU for your advocacy with state legislators over the last 6 months for good environmental legislation. Over 1,200 Sierra Club members and supporters sent messages to legislators urging action. Our Legislative Committee worked tirelessly – meeting weekly; writing testimony; alerting members about key moments to act and providing tools to send messages; communicating with the press; and being at the Capitol to connect with legislators. I can’t thank you enough for your efforts to make this world a better place. As noted in the recap below, the legislature did not make the progress we need, but we will continue to fight to make meaningful laws to protect our climate and the environment.
Despite continual news about the looming climate catastrophe and real solutions to the environmental issues we face – and in a cloud of toxic wildfire smoke – the Connecticut legislature did very little on climate and environment this session. And, they actually did some harm.
There were a few standout legislators who fought for stronger policies - Senator Christine Cohen, Representative Geraldo Reyes, Representative Christine Palm, and Representative David Michel. But, they were up against leadership unmoved to make major progress. Housing co-chairs Senator Marilyn Moore and Representative Geoff Luxenberg were able to establish some very important housing and energy justice measures.
Here’s the good bills that passed:
A stronger environmental justice law – SB 1147 strengthens the CT Environmental Justice statute by providing DEEP and the Connecticut Siting Council with the ability to deny permits for facilities that would worsen pollution in already-overburdened areas.
Housing and energy justice – Sections 90 and 91 of HB 6942 create a $125 million low-interest “Housing Environmental Improvement Revolving Loan Fund” to provide funding for multi-family, tenant occupied housing in Environmental Justice communities for retrofitting projects 1) that improve energy efficiency including heat pumps, solar power generating systems, and insulation, 2) remediate health and safety concerns like mold and asbestos, and 3) provide assistance to access other state and federal energy efficiency programs. SB 998 establishes limits on late and application fees, creates a model rental agreement, increases incentives for more affordable housing, and strikes some eviction records along with other measures to help tenants.
Transportation carbon budget – Section 32 of SB 904 requires DOT, in consultation with DEEP, to establish a transportation carbon dioxide reduction target that sets the maximum amount of carbon dioxide emissions allowed from the transportation sector starting on Oct. 1, 2030 and revisited biannually.
Wildlife protections – SB 6813 protecting shorebirds, SB 6607 protecting migratory birds from nighttime lighting, SB 6484 protecting horseshoe crabs.
But the bad policies are significant setbacks:
New incinerators instead of food waste diversion – SB 1143 requires DEEP to solicit information on gasification facilities in 2023 and SB 6664 allows DEEP to solicit proposals for chemical recycling/gasification facilities, and allows the Greenbank to fund such facilities.
New nuclear power instead of renewables – SB 7 changes the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, a mechanism designed to promote solar power and other renewable energy sources, to include new nuclear power plants built in our state (new nuclear reactors on the Millstone site were authorized in legislation in 2022).
Notable bills that died:
HB 6397 would have required DEEP to create a decarbonization roadmap to meet the greenhouse gas reduction targets mandated under the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act. It passed the House but was not acted upon in the Senate.
SB 961 would have created a fund for carbon-free school construction. It passed the Senate but was not acted upon in the House.
SB 1145 would have updated the Global Warming Solutions Act to create sub-sector targets, give DEEP authority to adopt regulations to meet those targets, require municipal utilities to reduce emissions, and require zero-emission alternatives to energy projects. It was approved by the Environment Committee, but was sent to the Appropriations Committee where it died without a vote.
SB 962 would have prohibited some uses of second-generation rodenticides in order to protect hawks and raptors, and SB 963 would have prohibited the nonagricultural use of neonicotinoids which are devastating to ecosystems and harmful to many different life forms, most notably pollinators.
Ann Gadwah is Advocacy & Outreach Organizer with a focus on our legislative work at the State Capitol.