January 17, 2019

Lamont: Clean energy and economic dev. policies can co-exist

Matt Pilon
Matt Pilon
Gov. Ned Lamont takes in a standing ovation that greeted him at the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters' environmental summit at Trinity College.

Gov. Ned Lamont told the state's League of Conservation Voters (CTLCV) on Thursday that he doesn't view their clean energy and environmental policy hopes, a number of which he supports, to be fundamentally at odds with his economic-development aspirations.

"It's a false choice if you say I have to choose between the environment and economic growth and jobs. That's just a phony," Lamont said during his address, drawing applause from the crowd at Trinity College.

The governor said Paul Mounds, the state's first chief operating officer (a position Lamont created in December), will help the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection coordinate with the Department of Economic and Community Development and other agencies.

Lamont said some of the biggest tasks ahead for his administration in terms of making an environmental impact are improving roadway congestion and public transportation such as rail, and continuing work accelerated during the Malloy administration to eliminate carbon emissions from the state's energy and transportation sectors over the coming decades.

"Everything I do for the next four years I'm going to do looking through an environmental lens," Lamont pledged.

Having governors looking through that lens will be important, said Lamont, who took aim at the federal government for not doing the same.

Agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could have a much bigger impact than any single state on mitigating climate change, should it choose to do so, he said.

"Truth be told, it'd be much better addressed with a strong EPA that's not in the back pocket of the polluters, but is there protecting the environment and looking long term," he said. "So, in the meantime, we step up."

Lamont wants his administration to work with Massachusetts, Rhode Island, California and other states to determine ways to advance environmental goals, building on Connecticut's multi-state partnerships in recent years that set electric vehicle sales targets and set up competitive bidding processes to develop new clean energy like wind and solar.

"If they don't want to create standards in Washington, D.C., we're going to create a collective of states that has our own standards," he said.

There was excitement among league members and legislators Thursday who attended the CTLCV's day-long environmental summit, which featured Lamont, newly named DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes and several expert panels.

CTLCV Deputy Director Amanda Schoen said many of the organization's endorsed candidates won their races in the November election, leading to greater policy hopes this year.

Rep. Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport), a member of the energy and technology and transportation committees, said many in the party are talking about a minimum wage hike and paid family leave, but he said environmental goals are just as progressive.

"We have a huge opportunity and an urgency," said Steinberg, who mentioned converting the state's vehicle fleet to electric cars as a priority.

Other environmental topics before the legislature this session are expected to include such policies as restricting plastic bags and straws, reforming the state's bottle bill and adding deposits to more types of containers in order to encourage more recycling, and making manufacturers responsible to a greater extent for what happens to their products (and packaging) after consumers buy them, among others.

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