Speak Up for Clean Transportation Legislation
Transportation pollution in Connecticut is a serious problem for public health, environmental justice and our climate. According to the latest greenhouse gas inventory from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the transportation sector accounts for 38% of greenhouse gas emissions in the state and is a major source of ground level air pollutants. A recent national report, Asthma Capitals 2019,1 ranked New Haven (#11) and Hartford (#13) among the 100 largest U.S. cities where it is most challenging to live with asthma.
By adopting policies that increase deployment of clean, pollution-free vehicles and making our communities more walkable, bikeable, and transit-friendly, Connecticut can simultaneously improve air quality and public health, and address environmental justice and the climate crisis.
Senate Bill 931 will allow Connecticut to reduce truck pollution by adopting California’s Clean Truck Rule which requires that sales of medium and heavy duty vehicles be between 30 and 50 percent zero-emission by 2030, 40 to 75 percent by 2035, and 100 percent by 2045.
Worldwide since 2010, 82% of the approximately 760,000 cumulative zero-emission medium and heavy duty vehicles sold through 2019 have been buses and shuttles, with trucks representing the remaining 18%. California’s California Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project has an online database of zero emission medium and heavy duty vehicles.2 95% of the 100,000 zero-emission medium and heavy duty vehicles sold worldwide in 2019, were delivered in China by Chinese manufacturers.
Trucks and buses are one of the major sources of air pollution and disproportionately contribute to NOx (Nitrogen Oxides), CO2, and PM 2.5 (fine particulate matter). Data shows that there are significant differences in the way in which different racial groups are impacted by vehicular pollution. A Union of Concerned Scientists study showed that Asian-American, Black, and Latino communities are being disproportionately burdened with PM 2.5 air pollution from vehicles.3 Respectively, they face 73%, 61%, and 75%, higher average concentrations of exposures when compared with their white counterparts in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.
Connecticut recently joined with 14 other states and the District of Columbia committing to electrification and eliminating toxic air pollution from medium and heavy-duty trucks and buses by 2050 via a Multi-State Medium and Heavy Duty Action Plan.4 Senate Bill 931 is needed to meet the decarbonization requirements in Connecticut law as well as the electrification commitments of the Multi-State Medium and Heavy Duty MOU (memorandum of understanding) and to clean up our local air.
Senate Bill 127 will allow electric vehicle manufacturers that don't have a dealer network to open stores in Connecticut. Right now, consumers wishing to purchase some electric vehicles must travel out of state to purchase the electric vehicle of their choice.
To meet our state’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection has calculated that 500,000 electric vehicles will be needed to replace gas powered vehicles by 2030. We currently have only 13,800 electric vehicles registered in the state. This bill will make it easier to purchase an electric vehicle in our state, and can accelerate adoption of these zero-emission vehicles.
House Bill 5429 aims to improve safety and expand access for pedestrians and bikers by making changes to pedestrian right-of-way at crosswalks, fines for unsafe practices like distracted driving and “dooring,” and municipal speed limits, as well as increasing access to pedestrian and bike pathways.
Safety measures are essential for Connecticut residents who do not own vehicles and instead walk, bike, and use public transit to get around in their daily lives. Connecticut has four cities— Hartford, New Haven, Waterbury and Bridgeport—in the top 30 cities in the U.S. with over 100,000 in population with zero-car households. Pedestrian deaths have been increasing; despite a sharp decline in traffic, fatalities rose in 2020.
These measures are also critical to encourage more car-free transportation in order to tackle the climate crisis and improve air quality.
Senate Bill 576 and House Bill 5423 are bills to expand rail. Rail transportation is significantly more energy efficient (freight rail is two-thirds more efficient than trucks); reduces carbon and air pollution from automobiles and trucks, traffic congestion, and wear and tear on roads and bridges; and makes our neighborhoods safer for pedestrians and cyclists. This is all while creating jobs and helping to revitalize town centers and reduce poorly-planned sprawling development.
Speak up for clean transportation in Connecticut; urge your legislators to support these bills.
Samantha Dynowski is State Director of Sierra Club Connecticut.