CT has been a leader in the fight against climate change. Now the United States is also taking a big step forward

If you did, the tremor emanated from Washington DC.

Against all additions — and outright Republican opposition — Democrats in the U.S. Senate passed a nearly $370 billion climate change bill, part of the 430 Cut Inflation Act. billions of dollars.

This is, by far, the largest amount the US government has allocated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This is the biggest climate change bill ever passed,” said Katie Dykes, commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “It made history.”

Mitch Wagener, a biology professor at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, said last week that he hadn’t read the fine print of the complex legislative package. But he likes the summaries he reads.

“It feels like a step forward,” he said.

This step is long overdue. Wagener said.

“Not individually, but collectively, we’ve been so timid in taking action on climate change,” he said. “The problem is clearly so big and the time is so short.”

The bill’s goal is to reduce 2005 greenhouse gas levels by 40% by 2030.

It does not include any attempt to impose taxes or penalties to achieve its objectives. Instead, it uses grants and tax breaks to encourage individuals and industries to change things for the better.

Dykes of the DEEP said much of the bill aligns with Connecticut’s decades of work to clean up its environment.

“We have been leading the fight against climate change for a long time,” she said.

The 10-year program includes $30 billion in tax credits for companies to develop wind and solar power and an additional $27 billion in grants for clean technology research and development.

There is $60 billion allocated to help disadvantaged communities which are most often the worst places to live in terms of air and water pollution and $27 billion to create a national “green bank” to lend money for clean energy projects.

Dykes said the federal government is following Connecticut’s lead on this.

In 2011, he created his own green bank – the first in the country – and other states followed. Now, Dykes said, there will also be a national bank to lend money to energy efficiency and climate change programs.

Dykes said conventional lenders often shun such projects, viewing them as unproven and therefore risky. Money from green banks can prove that such projects are safe investments, making other banks more willing to lend.

There is also a $7,500 tax break for consumers who want to buy a new electric vehicle and a $4,000 tax deduction for anyone buying a used electric vehicle. These apply to any electric vehicle costing less than $55,000 and any electric SUV costing $80,000 or less.

Individuals must earn less than $150,000 per year to qualify for rebates. The discounts will remain in place until 2033.

Dykes said these rebates can work in tandem with the Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate (CHEAPR) program, which subsidizes the purchase of electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen vehicles.

For most drivers, the state program can reduce the cost of a new electric car by up to $2,500 and a plug-in hybrid by $750. If the buyer meets the income guidelines, that can go up to $4,250 for an EV and $2,250 for a plug-in.

Dykes said the state will also use $55 million of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed in 2021 to install electric vehicle charging stations along state highways. This will give EV drivers confidence that they will have the power to get where they are going.

“Range anxiety is one of the biggest concerns for people considering an electric vehicle,” she said.

Dykes also said the Senate bill provides funding to help people make energy-efficient repairs to their homes, replacing old oil furnaces with electric heat, solar water heaters and heat pumps.

This money will be particularly valuable in struggling neighborhoods.

“These homes may have code violations, asbestos, lead issues that may prevent energy retrofits,” she said.

Western’s Wagener spends a lot of time outside of the university classroom, speaking to the community about climate change. Legislation like the Senate bill is important, he said. The same goes for candidates who will support new climate initiatives in the future.

“I have a 4-year-old grandson,” Wagener said. “We have to do what is right for our grandchildren. Doing the right thing for them is doing the right thing for us. By definition.”

Contact Robert Miller at [email protected]

Comments are closed.