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Don’t outsource trucking decisions to California

By: Joseph R. Sculley

There is a bill currently pending in the legislature that would have Connecticut legislators delegate their governing authority to a bureaucracy based in California, called the California Air Resources Board (CARB). HB 5039 would allow Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to “implement the medium and heavy-duty motor vehicle standards of the state of California, and shall amend such regulations from time to time, in accordance with changes to such standards.” Rather than having the trucking industry – which operates in interstate commerce – follow federal emissions regulations set by US EPA, proponents of this would have truck sales in Connecticut be subject to more stringent emissions standards set by California, which currently include a phased-in electric truck sales mandate. Out-of-state trucks coming to or through Connecticut will not be required to meet this standard. 

There are many problems with this, not the least of which is Connecticut permanently ceding its governing authority on this issue to a bureaucracy in a state located thousands of miles away. Connecticut has already done this once before for light-duty vehicle emissions standards, when the legislature passed a law in 2004 to tie ourselves to California. Then in 2020, California announced that they would issue regulations to ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars in 2035. Connecticut must do so as well, since our law says Connecticut must do whatever California does on that issue. I suspect that legislators who voted for California car emissions standards in 2004 did not think they would be voting to ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars.  

Connecticut should not make the same mistake again. A friend once quipped that “the only thing Connecticut and California have in common is they both begin with C.” Connecticut’s truck fleet is a small fraction of the size of California’s truck fleet, and Connecticut’s annual ozone non-attainment days are a fraction of California’s ozone non-attainment days. California has the two largest ports in the U.S. (which is one of the reasons California is allowed to set their own standards) right next to each other in Los Angeles and Long Beach. Connecticut has minor port activity. The list of non-similarities between the two states are endless, but anyone reading this would get bored of reading such a list. 

If HB 5039 were to be passed into law this session, the legislature would quite literally be mandating something – the sale of medium and heavy-duty electric trucks – without knowing if their mandate is truly feasible or not. 

A document provided to me by DEEP states that “The percentage of new vehicles that must be ZEV varies by vehicle type, but for all vehicle types the required ZEV percentage increases each model year between 2025 and 2035 and will reach 30%.”  Interestingly, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), which is a part of DEEP, has a docket open titled “Investigation into Medium and Heavy-Duty Electric Vehicle Charging.” PURA is “investigating methods for incorporating MHD vehicle charging into the electric grid, ….and identifying strategies to minimize distribution system impacts through utility coordination and planning.” 

Connecticut does not currently know what is required in order to provide the electricity to charge these medium and heavy-duty trucks. The state doesn’t know if doing so might compromise the electric grid. One part of the Connecticut government does not currently know how to implement something that another part of the Connecticut government is trying to mandate. PURA needs to figure out what is required to charge the electric vehicles. The short answer is, A LOT of energy, given that charging one truck uses about as much electricity as 100 houses. A more specific answer from PURA won’t be available until July at the earliest, according to their own timeline.  

At the bare minimum, this bill should not move forward until the results of this investigation are completed. But even if PURA’s consultant comes up with a plan on how to bring in the necessary power to charge these electric vehicles, there is the issue of the cost of these electric trucks. One dealer quoted me more than $410,000 for a heavy-duty electric truck compared to $135,000 for a comparable diesel, and $215,000 for a medium-duty electric truck, compared to $85,000 for a comparable diesel. By the state’s own admission in a previous “EV roadmap,” Connecticut does not have enough money to fund the vouchers that would be required to help businesses purchase these trucks. DEEP wrote, “Scarce funding resources limit the potential development of an in-state truck voucher program.”

Rather than relinquish our governing ability to another state and put Connecticut businesses at a competitive disadvantage in the process, Connecticut should acknowledge that US EPA has just released new low-NOx emissions standards that will reduce NOx emissions by 90% per truck. Let’s keep Connecticut businesses on a level playing field with their competitors in other states. 

Joseph R. Sculley is the President of the Motor Transport Association of CT

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of Connecticut Inside Investigator.

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