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Officials: Connecticut positioned for federal climate funds

July 6, 2021 GMT

The state’s newest climate change legislation should put Connecticut in a good position to receive millions of dollars in anticipated federal funds to help foot the bill for expensive resiliency projects needed across the state, Gov. Ned Lamont and other state officials said Tuesday.

Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes said the $30 million in bonding included in the new state budget to help municipalities identify and plan for such projects, including green infrastructure, will also give Connecticut a leg up on other states.

“We’ll be shovel ready. We’ll be at the front of the line,” said Dykes, during a bill-signing event held at a beach in Guilford. “It’s going to take a lot of dollars to help protect our communities from the impacts of climate change. And the best way to do that, dollars we really want to put to work, are federal dollars.”

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Curt Johnson, president of the environmental group Save the Sound, predicted Connecticut will receive $3 or $4 in federal funds for every $1 the state spends on these resiliency efforts.

“If we didn’t have that, the federal funds would fly over us up to Massachusetts or New Hampshire, down to Georgia or somewhere else,” he said. “It’s the only way we can capture those dollars.”

The new law gives all cities and towns, not just certain ones, the ability to establish stormwater authorities. Those entities would then have the power to assess fees - funds needed to trigger federal matching dollars. The legislation also expands the authority of municipal flood and erosion control boards to include flood prevention and climate resilience.

Additionally, the new state law expands the duties of the 10-year-old Connecticut Green Bank, a first-in-the-nation entity that has successfully developed programs to finance and support investment in green energy for residential, municipal, small business and large commercial projects. Under the new law, the organization will now be tasked with also finding innovative ways to finance climate resilience projects.

A tentative bipartisan infrastructure reached deal in Washington includes $47 billion for resiliency efforts needed to tackle climate change. Democratic President Joe Biden is also supportive of the concept of green banks like Connecticut’s.

“All of these things together are going to position Connecticut to receive federal funds through President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure framework and the proposed $27 billion Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator within the American Jobs Plan, modeled after the Connecticut Green Bank,” Dykes said.

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It remains unclear, however, whether the federal green bank money and the pared-down infrastructure plan, which has a price tag at $973 billion over five years, will ultimately pass a closely divided Congress. A framework announced June 24 by Biden and a bipartisan group of senators does not include legislative provisions and many details need to be worked out.

Meanwhile, climate activists and their Democratic allies in Congress have been pressing for huge investments to slow global warming after the bipartisan plan cut out some of Biden’s key climate initiatives.

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This story corrects when bill was signed into law. It was signed into law Tuesday.