West Hartford Town Council urges state to adopt climate change initiative

View of West Hartford Town Hall in West Hartford, Conn., on Thursday Jan. 7, 2020.

WEST HARTFORD — The town council is urging the Connecticut General Assembly to adopt legislation that would implement the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program.

The program, which was not included in Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget proposal earlier this year, is intended to cap and reduce transportation-created carbon emissions. In turn, funds generated from the program would then be used to create a more equitable, cleaner and resilient transportation program, Town Manager Matthew Hart said.

Town council members voted 6-2 on a resolution supporting the program. The hope is that it will appear during an upcoming special session. West Hartford will join a letter urging the state to adopt the program into legislation that is already signed by mayors in Hartford, Middletown, Bridgeport and Groton, as well as leaders in other communities.

Council member Carol Blanks, who voted in favor of the resolution, said the time is now to take action on climate change.

“At some point in time, we have got to see what’s in front of us, and say you know what, the time for later is now here and we’ve got to do something about this right now and quickly as possible,” Blanks said. “We have to look out for our future. We have children...coming up behind us. We have to take care of this planet. This problem is ours to address.”

Hart said in a letter to the town council that if adopted by the General Assembly, the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program would guarantee at least a 26 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions created by transportation from 2023 through 2032 by placing a declining cap on carbon pollution from gasoline and on-road diesel fuel. The program is also projected to generate $89 million in 2023. That could increase to $117 million by 2032. That money would then be invested by the state in clean transportation.

The funding comes from the program’s requirement for fuel providers to pay fees to cover the carbon content of their fuel, Hart said in his letter. If fuel providers pass down 100 percent of this cost to customers, gas prices could increase by five cents per gallon in 2023. Hart added that safeguards are in place to protect consumers, including a cost containment reserve.

Council member Mary Fay, who voted against the resolution, noted that while she is in favor of doing something to address climate change, she doesn’t support this plan.

“Who is going to say they don’t want to protect our environment and make sure it’s clean and address health issues? Of course we do. It all sounds good,” Fay said. “Doing something is right. That’s the right attitude and right motivation. But doing something doesn’t mean doing anything.”

Fay said she’s worried the cost of increased gas could trickle down to the population they’re trying to help.

“We need to be sensitive to the costs to the consumer and the impacts that are going to be negative,” Fay said. “I don’t like the five cents a gallon impact to the under-served communities. I don’t like it for the middle class.”

Mayor Shari Cantor, who voted in favor of the resolution, said doing nothing would create a bigger cost than the program would.

“There is a huge cost to doing nothing,” Cantor said. “These truly are investments.By doing nothing, we are building in significant costs.”

Cantor added that West Hartford has already been addressing climate change and aspires for its entire community to use clean energy by 2050.

“We all have become, unfortunately, very aware of the impact of climate change and how disruptive and destructive it can be to our health and wellbeing,” Cantor said. “It’s important that we address this. We have been addressing it over time in West Hartford. But we have to do this regionally, we have to do this as a state, we have to do this as a country.”

Council member Lee Gold, who voted in support of the resolution, said this presents West Hartford an opportunity to become leaders on the matter.

“I appreciate the costs inherent...but we have to truly protect what’s important to all of us, which is where we live,” Gold said. “West Hartford is important, but this is beyond West Hartford. This is beyond our state. It’s everywhere. We’re all on this planet together and we have to survive together. We have to be the leaders, starting here now, and pushing it out from West Hartford.”

Hart said it’s important for West Hartford to not only encourage others to take action, but to take its own action.

“We see climate as one of the most important issues of the day and our time. We understand the need to act in an urgent manner,” Hart said. “Local government has a role to play as well. We’re encouraging the state to act, but we’re also trying to address the issue of climate change and are working to reduce our carbon footprint as a municipality as well.”

Connecticut Media Group